Organizational Culture and Its Importance

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There is no single definition for organizational culture. The topic has been studied from a variety of perspectives ranging from disciplines such as anthropology and sociology, to the applied disciplines of organizational behaviour, management science, and organizational communication. Some of the definitions are listed below: A set of common understandings around which action is organized; finding expression in language whose nuances are peculiar to the group (Becker and Geer 1960). A set of understandings or meanings shared by a group of people that are largely tacit among members and are clearly relevant and distinctive to the particular group which are also passed on to new members (Louis 1980). A system of knowledge, of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting . . . that serve to relate human communities to their environmental settings (Allaire and Firsirotu 1984). The deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are: learned responses to the group's problems of survival in its external environment and its problems of internal integration; are shared by members of an organization; that operate unconsciously; and that define in a basic "taken -for-granted" fashion in an organization's view of itself and its environment (Schein 1988). Any social system arising from a network of shared ideologies consisting of two components: substance-the networks of meaning associated with ideologies, norms, and values; and forms-the practices whereby the meanings are expressed, affirmed, and communicated to members (Trice and Beyer 1984). This sampling of definitions represents the two major camps that exist in the study of organizational culture and its "application strategies." The first camp views culture as implicit in social life. Culture is what naturally emerges as individuals transform themselves into social groups as tribes, communities, and ultimately, nations. The second camp represents the view that culture is an explicit social product arising from social interaction either as an intentional or unintentional consequence of behaviour. In other words, culture is comprised of distinct observable forms (e.g., language, use of symbols, ceremonies, customs, methods of problem solving, use of tools or technology, and design of work settings) that groups of people create through social interaction and use to confront the broader social environment. This second view of culture is most relevant to the analysis and evaluation of organizational culture and to cultural change strategies that leaders can employ to improve organizational performance. BEHAVIOUR AND ARTIFACTS

We can also characterize culture as consisting of three levels. The most visible level is behaviour and artifacts. This is the observable level of culture, and consists of behaviour patterns and outward manifestations of culture: perquisites provided to executives, dress codes, level of technology utilized (and where it is utilized), and the physical layout of work spaces. All may be visible indicators of culture, but difficult to interpret. Artifacts and behaviour also may tell us what a group is doing, but not why. One cartoon which captures this aspect shows two executives sitting at their desks in an office. Both have large billed black and white checked hats. One is saying to the other, "I don't know how it started, either. All I know is that it's part of our corporate culture." VALUES

At the next level of culture are values. Values underlie and to a large extent determine behaviour, but they are not directly observable, as behaviours are. There may be a difference between stated and operating values. People will attribute their behaviour to stated values. ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS

To really understand culture, we have to get to the deepest level, the level of assumptions and beliefs. Experts contend that underlying assumptions grow out of values, until they become taken for granted and drop out of awareness. As the definition above...
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