Organizational Culture and Its Themes

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International Journal of Business and Management

December, 2008

Organizational Culture and Its Themes
Shili Sun School of Foreign Languages, Ludong University No.186 Hongqi Middle Road, Zhifu District, Yantai 264025, Shandong Province, China Tel: 86-535-668-1098 Abstract


As one of the key ‘stable factors’, culture within an organization is playing a critical role in the organization’s everyday operations. Although the culture literature has at times focused on the culture of an organization as shared basic assumptions (Schein, 1985), or as metaphors within organizations (Morgan, 1986, 1997), it is not sufficient to attempt to understand and measure them. This paper explores organizational culture in general, some definitions and implications of organizational culture are reviewed from different perspectives, and Cliffe’s cultural themes are addressed with the use of Scholes’ cultural web and Hofstede’s onion diagram model of organizational culture. Keywords: Culture, Organizational culture, Cultural themes 1. Organizational culture

Historically, there are numberless definitions about organizational culture, which is defined in many different ways in the literature. Perhaps the most commonly known definition is “the way we do things around here” (Lundy & Cowling, 1996). Organizational culture is manifested in the typical characteristics of the organization, in other words, organizational culture should be regarded as the right way in which things are done or problems should be understood in the organization. It is widely accepted that organizational culture is defined as the deeply rooted values and beliefs that are shared by personnel in an organization. Ogbonna (1992) declaring that organizational cultures are the outcomes of ‘… the interweaving of an individual into a community and the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes members … it is the values, norms, beliefs and customs that an individual holds in common with other members of a social unit or group …’. Another opinion from Bro Uttal (1983) who regarded organization culture as a system of shared values (what is important) and beliefs (how things work) that interact with a company’s people, organization structures, and control systems to produce behavioral norms (the way we do things around here). In another perspective, culture may be considered as ‘software’ within an organization, since it is ‘software’, so, managers are supposed to study carefully and try to find how does each element of ‘software’ works on the basis of ‘hardware’ (simply regarding an organization as an operating hardware). Generally speaking, organization culture is the “set theory” of important values, beliefs, and understandings that members share in common, culture provides better (or the best) ways of thinking, feeling and reacting that could help managers to make decision and arrange activities of organization. A successful organization should have strong cultures that can attract, hold, and reward people for performing roles and achieving goals, whereas strong cultures are usually characterized by dedication and co-operation in the service of common values. So, how much does an employee involve for an organization at their best should be recognized clearly. Andrew Brown (1995, 1998) stated the definition of organizational culture in his book Organizational Culture is as follows: “Organizational culture refers to the pattern of beliefs, values and learned ways of coping with experience that have developed during the course of an organization’s history, and which tend to be manifested in its material arrangements and in the behaviours of its members.” In contrast, other authors such as Schein (1985a) have suggested that culture is best thought of as a set of psychological predispositions (which he calls ‘basic assumptions’) that members of an organization possess, and which leads them to think and act in certain ways. So, Schein...
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