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Organisational Culture Cannot Be Managed

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Culture cannot be managed

Organisations do not form accidentally. It is the result of the belief that a group of individuals working together can accomplish the task that one individual cannot and the work can be done faster and more effectively. The process of organisational culture formation is first of all the process of creating a small group of individuals.

From the 1980s there was a great number of discussions of organisational culture as a "source of fresh air" and antidote to attributes of organisational life that merely focus on easily measurable variables. On symposium presented in 1988 at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim, California, culture was said to be 'an important concept that needs long-term attention as it is creates a frame for work being done within organisations'. Healthy organisational culture is vied as 'a key to improved morale, loyalty, harmony, productivity, and - ultimately - profitability.' (Bate 1994).

The main reason for such an interest to organizational culture, however, is the desire to understand how it impact organizational change. There is a great deal of discussion of this issue in literature in recent years. The example of British Airways that claimed to have changed its culture from an emphasis on flying routes to an emphasis on company servise suggests that it is possible to be successful in implementing changes and gain positive outcomes (Ackroyd, et al 1990). According to Johnson (1992), however, culture is more an obstacle to organizational changes rather than key to its success.

This paper attempts to critically analyse cultural phenomenon and answer the question whether it can be managed by using theoretical proof and examples from real life.

Different sources give different definition of what organizational culture really is. Organisational culture can be defined as a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organisation by defining appropriate behavior for various situations (Ravasi, et al 2006). As per Schein (1985) culture is a pattern of assumptions that a group that work together sufficiently has invented or developed during the process of coping with problems, and these assumptions can be used later to teach new members. According to Smircich (1983), "culture is not something that organization has but something that organization is". In other words, organization is both a product and producer of culture. Culture of any organisation is shaped by individual values and beliefs of its employees, subgroups values along with its leader influence, industry culture and its competition, overall company environment and its expectations (Linstead 1992).

It is essential to understand the different levels or elements of culture namely: values, rituals, heroes, symbols and practices. As per Bolman and Deal (2006), values are general broad beliefs of what is good and what is bad, rational and irrational, etc. Rituals are set of activities that are socially important to the group. Heroes are people, real or imaginary, who possess certain characteristics that are valuable to the culture of a particular organisation and thus serve as role models. Johnson (1992) argues that symbols carry particular important meaning within a culture (words, phrases, pictures, objects) and help to neglect differences between people and make them work together in an efficient way even without having to think about them. They play a role of umbrella of a national flag of a country.

In order to help analyse culture Schein (1985) has developed a tree model to combine all the elements of culture in three level where each level is a degree to which the observer see the cultural phenomenon. The first level of it is artefacts combined of organisational symbols, forms and practices by which an organisation can be identified. It is followed by beliefs and values of employees. The last level is the basic underlying assumptions of appropriate behavior that members of the organisation tend to make (Detert, Schroeder and Mauriel 2000:851). Schein further argues that real culture reveals when some problems exists rather that in routine everyday operations. Therefore, as an unconscious phenomena, it can not be easily articulated. So in order to understand it, one has to be there and not rely on merely theoretical analysis of what is going on.

The significance of the effects that culture gives to the overall organisation activities suggests that it is critical to be analysed. Organizational culture is the basis that drives strategy and policy of every kind of organisation and portray the image of the company to the employees and the rest of the world. It is a glue that stick people together because employees associate themselves with the company rather then official position that they take or function that they do.

Another important reason for the need to understand it is that while recruting new stuff HR managers try to find those people who would ideally "fit" the existing culture. Since every organisation has different goals, needs and values and circumstances are always different, there is no "one size fit all" solution. The organisation has to understand how culture is created, embedded, evolved and then try to manipulate it (Schein 1985).

From the employees point of view it is also vital: culture gives them a guide to the work ethics, work environment and corporation policy. It is important for employee to perceive himself as a part of organisation. Appropriately managed culture create the good spirit withing the workforce building the feeling of belonging and importance to the organisation, increase productivity, groupwork effectiveness and communication level within organizational sungroups. It aligns peoples individual values and beliefs with corporate goals and thus can be strong competitive advantage.

According to Fortune magazine annual list of the best companies to work for, in 2004 the number one employer on the list was J.M. Smucker and Co. Emploees said that the atmosphere in the company is like in the family and corporate culture is based on objectives namely "listen with full attention, look for the good in others, have a sense of humour, and say thank you for a job well done" (Solomon, et al 2006).

Strong organizational culture, however, does not necessarily mean a desired culture. It may lead to greater performance but if perceived negatively by employees it often does not work in favour of the organization. Attempts of the management to foster strong culture have been critisized a lot in literature. According to Bate (1994), the main reason for critisism is the fact that trying to control processes



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