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Ch.

5 Cultural Approaches

Organizations as Cultures
Symbol
s

Assumptions
Beliefs
Values

Culture
Definition underlying belief and value
structure that are collectively shared by the
members and symbolically expressed in a
variety of overt and subtle ways
Underlying belief: assumptions of the nature of
events and objects
Symbolically expressed: beliefs and values are
conveyed through tangible and observable
artifacts and behaviors

Culture is both a condition and a process


Status quo
Dynamic and ever changing

Prescriptive Approach of
Studying Organizational
Culture

Prescriptive approach (p.80):

A culture is what an organization has


Identify the elements in the organization
that reflect and represent the culture
Deal & Kennedys Corporate Cultures
Peters and Watermans In Search of
Excellent Cultures

Deal and Kennedys


Corporate Cultures
Developing a strong culture, an
organization needs to have (p.81):
Values: shared beliefs and visions
Heroes (and heroines): role models
Rites and rituals: events, ceremonies
and daily routines
Cultural network
Formal and informal channels to institute
and reinforce the cultural values

Peters and Watermans


In Search of Excellence
Data:
75 companies in various industries
Method: interviews, press coverage and
annual reports
Findings: 8 attributes

Peters and Watermans


In Search of Excellence

Eight cultural attributes of excellence


(p.82)
1. A bias for action

An operation towards innovation

2. Close to the customer

Customer needs are driving forces of organizational


decisions

3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship

Employees are encouraged to take risks with new


ideas

4. Productivity through people

Emphasize positive relationship between


management employees

Peters and Watermans


In Search of Excellence

5. Hands-on, value-driven

Firm belief system and stress on shared


values by both management and employees

6. Stick to the knitting

Stay focused on the expertise

7. Simple form, lean stuf

Avoid complex administrative structure

8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties

Tight: Centralized values; Loose: autonomy


on the shop floor

Critique of the prescriptive


approach to organizational culture
Important contribution to developing
core organizational values
Universal formula for all
organizations may not fit all
Objectifying and simplifying culture,
limiting understanding of the culture

Interpretive Approach of
Studying Organizational
Culture

Interpretative approach (p.84):

A culture is what an organization is


Organizational culture is complicated,
emergent and not unitary and often
ambiguous (pp.85-87)
Complicated: culture can be demonstrated through
a wide range of ways
Emergent: cultures are socially created and
maintained through shared meanings
Not unitary: there might be dominant culture and
co-cultures
Often ambiguous: cultures are rapidly changing and
difficult to reify

Scheins Elements of
Organizational Culture (p.90, Figure
5.1)
Artifacts and Creations

Values

Basic Assumptions

Physical and
social
environment

What is
important
What ought to
happen
Taken-forgranted
assumptions

Example of Scheins Model of


Organizational Culture (p.93, Figure
5.2)
Level 1:
Behaviors and
Artifacts

Relaxed, creative
atmosphere,
Bonus given for
new ideas
Suggestion box
throughout office

Level 2:
Values
Innovation
Level 3:
Basic
Assumptio
ns

Change is
good;
Employees
are valuable
resource

Critique of Scheins Model


Provide a model to examine culture by
multiple indicators
Tool to evaluate whether the values
are consistent with actions/behaviors
Oversimplification of the nature of
culture
Missing communication in creating
and sustaining the culture

How to Study Culture


Ethnography:
A research technique with the goal of
representing a detailed depiction of a culture

Ethnographers:
Immerse in organizational life with the goal to
minimize the distance between the
researcher and the culture being investigated
Through observation and inferences,
ethnographers crate mini-theory about a
particular organizational culture.