The Management of Organizational Culture

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THE MANAGEMENT OF ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE
Lesley Willcoxson & Bruce Millett ABSTRACT Culture is a term that is used regularly in workplace discussions. It is taken for granted that we understand what it means. The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss some of the significant issues relating to the management of an organisation’s culture. As organisational cultures are born within the context of broader cultural contexts such as national or ethic groupings, the paper will commence by defining ‘culture’ in the wider social context. This definition will subsequently form the basis for discussion of definitions of organisational culture and the paradigms and perspectives that underpin these. The paper will then discuss the issue of whether there is one dominant culture that typifies an organisation, or whether an organisation is really a collection or sub-set of loosely bound group identities. Finally, the paper identifies some implications for the management of culture management and change. KEYWORDS Organisational culture, management, organisational change INTRODUCTION Culture is a term that is used regularly in workplace discussions. It is taken for granted that we understand what it means. In their noted publication In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman (1982) drew a lot of attention to the importance of culture to achieving high levels of organisational effectiveness. This spawned many subsequent publications on how to manage organisational culture (eg. Deal & Kennedy 1982; Ott 1989; Bate 1994). If organisational culture is to be managed it helps first to be able to define it, for definitions of culture influence approaches to managing culture. Defining organisational culture is, however, not an easy task, for while there is general agreement about the components of culture as a broad construct, there is considerable disagreement about: ! ! ! !

what constitutes organisational culture, whether the culture of a given organisation can ever be adequately described, whether culture management can ever be truly effective and, if so, which management strategies are most likely to succeed.

Lesley Willcoxson (e-mail: willcoxson@usq.edu.au) is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland; Bruce Millett (e-mail: millet@usq.edu.au) is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland. Bruce lectures in organisational change and development, organisational behaviour, and strategic management.

Australian Journal of Management & Organisational Behaviour, 3(2), 91-99 © L. Willcoxson & B. Millett

Australian Journal of Management & Organisational Behaviour

Volume 3, No. 2 2000

Despite the claims of some authors, there are no simple or right answers to these questions and, as indicated previously, approaches to culture management are contingent upon the manager’s or change agent’s conception of organisational culture. The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss some of the significant issues relating to the management of an organisation's culture. As organisational cultures are born within the context of broader cultural contexts such as national or ethic groupings, the paper will commence by defining ‘culture’ in the wider social context. This definition will subsequently form the basis for discussion of definitions of organisational culture and the paradigms and perspectives that underpin these. The paper will then discuss the issue of whether there is one dominant culture that typifies an organisation, or whether an organisation is really a collection or sub-set of loosely bound group identities. Finally, the paper identifies some implications for the management of culture management and change. CULTURE IN A BROADER SOCIAL CONTEXT In its very broadest sense, culture serves to delineate different groupings of people on the basis of the extent to which each group is perceived and perceives itself to share similar ways of seeing and...
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