Organizational Structure and Culture

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All talk about organizations relies on abstract conceptions, using words and their meanings, to make sense systematically of our experience and observations of people do-ing things together. A great deal of organizational life can be described and, more impor-tantly, sometimes even understood, predicted, and influenced, with abstract ideas about structure and culture. While there is no universal agreement or consistency in definitions of structural and cultural aspects of community organizations, grassroots organizers have some com-mon usage and understandings. Structural features of organization are formal, inflexible (except under special conditions and procedures), created and maintained by documentation, and contingency-centered: they set responsibilities, formal rights, and rewards or punishments on which individual behavior or group action is contingent. The structure is adopted “officially,” by explicit decision, on the basis of known rules and procedures. It determines how the organization is supposed to operate and for what purposes. Usually we mean by organizational culture those features that are informal, flexi-ble (but often long-lived), created and maintained by word-of-mouth, and ideology-centered: they define good and bad, winning and losing, friends and enemies, etc. The cultural definitions of people, circumstances, events, objects, facts, processes, informa-tion, and so on, are essential for organizational decisions and movement. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CULTURE & STRUCTURE

Structural Features Cultural Features
Contingency-centered Ideology-centered
Formal Informal
Fixed Flexible
Documented Word-of-mouth
In practice, of course, it isn’t possible to separate structure and culture. So while we create organizational structure that spells out the positions to be filled by members of an organization, it’s mostly culture that defines the roles that go with those positions and the kinds of people who will fill them. Structure

The basic...
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