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The Management of Organization Culture Essay

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Updated: Apr 3rd, 2019


The term culture is regularly being discussed in workplaces. The discussion is in such a way that its meaning is presupposed. However, culture has been observed as one of the aspects of the organization that is essential in achieving high levels of effectiveness.

Though defining organization culture may be an easy task, it is marred with controversies about what constitutes an organization culture, whether organization culture can adequately be described, effectively be managed and what kind of management strategies are more likely to succeed (Smircich 1983, p.342).

More like the wider context of national culture, organization culture is seen as a set of norms, principles, beliefs and behavior that gives the organization its identity (Madu 2011, p.9). How these cultural elements are managed contributes to the organization success. Organization success is a situation whereby the organization stakeholders be it customers or employees are satisfied (Quinn & Rohrbaugh 1983, p.340).

Moreover, Quinn & Rohrbaugh (1983, p.340) claim that organization success is defined by its product quality and the profitability in terms of sales volume. The practice of cultural management and organization success is always being confused (Barney 1986, p.661). Nevertheless organization cultural management contributes to the organization success (Ogbonna & Harris 1998, p.274).

This paper explores significant issues that relate to organization culture, its management as well as its contribution to organizational performance.

Managing the organization culture

The concept of managing the organization culture is new. Organization culture comprises of certain types of artifacts common beliefs and assumptions as well as special values. In this regard it is the culture that creates a true organization.

The organization culture determines attributes that identifies the organization. Where as the organization culture is seen as being organic it is malleable. Organization management should focus on those attributes of culture that can be shaped or influenced.

In some perspectives of organization cultural management like the anthropological, organization culture is defined by parameters such as concepts, language, boundaries and ideology as well as normative measure. These provide foundation for assigning power, status, rewards, authority, punishment, friendship and respect (Valentine 2011, p.106). Generally, culture determines the belief of an organization and forms a link between the organization and the external environment.

Thus, organization culture and strategies are inextricably connected and interdependent. From this view, culture is not separated from the organization and cannot be manipulated or changed. Moreover, organization culture can neither be created nor maintained by the leaders. These forms of perspective are not applicable in the modern organization management.

Organizations should therefore focus on views such as the scientific rationalists who perceive organization culture as the aspect of the organization that can be measured, manipulated and changed over time. Much like organization characteristics that are changeable such as skills, structure, strategy, system, style and staff, organization culture can be transformed (Smircich 1983, p.340).

According to this perspective, organization culture incorporates beliefs and values that are articulated by the leaders to direct the organization. The organization managers and employees are supposed to translate these beliefs and values into appropriate behaviors which are re-enforced by rewards and sanctions.

This perspective discusses organization culture from the manager’s perspective and put a lot of emphasis on the leader’s role in maintaining, creating and transforming culture. Therefore, leaders’ shape organization culture, and culture aids in shaping organization culture. Hence, culture becomes an important facet in the leadership responsibility hierarchy (Al-Alawi et al. 2007, p.22). This perspective forms the foundation of managing organization culture.

The implications of organization culture management and change

Managing organization culture can be approached from two perspectives. It involves either transforming the organization culture or conforming to the existing norms or beliefs. Conforming means maintaining the existing order and continuing to the daily activities. Conversely, transforming culture means changing the existing pattern of doing things and breaking the norms that govern the daily activities (Ackroyd & Crowdy 1990, p.4).

However, the effectiveness of the chosen strategy should reflect the transformation aspect or those aspects of culture that can be transformed or easily influenced. in addition, cultural management should focus towards improving the organization products or generally organization success.

It is essential to identify numerous characteristics of the existing or newly introduced organization culture that can be changed. These include the symbols, values rituals and myths that define the organization culture. This is followed by appropriate application of these cultural characteristics in such key areas as employment, leadership modeling, organization structure, interpersonal communication, and participation as well as performance management (Barney 1986, p.661).

These cultural management attributes should influence recruitment, selection and replacement of employees by ensuring that the new appointments reflects and strengthens or give support to culture change.

Also, socialization within the organization can be influenced by proper management of cultural change through induction, training and ensuring development that acculturates on existing or new values (Meek 1988, p.453). This is essential in instilling interpersonal communication and teamwork which is critical for the success of the organization. This should be focused on the proper management of all stakeholders particularly employees and customers.

Additionally, proper performance management through rewards and punishment can be utilized to encourage and bring forth the desired behavior which may result in changed values. Culture can also be managed through leadership and modeling by executives and managers. This can be used to assist in changing the existing beliefs and values so as to conform to the organizations vision, integrity, universality and value statements (Willmott 1993, p.521). This is essential for the success of the organization.

In conclusion, for an organization to succeed, structures, procedures and policies governing the resource allocation must conform to the organization, culture, strategy and goals. The participation of all members of the organization in cultural reconstruction and maintenance activities is essential if long-term changes in values are to be achieved (Smircich 1983, p.340). This includes involving organizational members in the decision making processes and cultural development activities.

Organizational culture as a critical success factor to an organization

Universal corporates tend to agree that performance and culture emanate to be involvedly interlinked. Nonetheless, the correlation between them materializes to be very complex to an extent that even the executives do not find it too obvious to assertively act on such an imperative business element.

According to Ogbonna (1992, p.49), most research projects that try to ascertain the furtive ideal behind certain corporations’ overtime superior performance in comparison to the less successful contemporary corporations which operate in similar industries have found the same results.

Much emphasis has been based on the fact that successful corporations have softer business aspects including management philosophy, beliefs and values (Ogbonna 1992, p.49). All these explain the underlying disparities amid the less successful and more successful corporations.

Within the organizational context, culture can be seen to constitute the people’s collective styles and behaviors as well as their assertiveness towards different business constituents namely the shareholders, co-workers, suppliers and clients. Culture also includes the commonly shared values that act as binding forces amidst them.

Thus, by observing a successfully operating organization, we see that its culture is embedded on an ethical, professional, friendly and hardworking atmosphere that describes the overall behaviors of people (Quinn & Rohrbaugh 1983, p.339). This implies that, organizational culture definitively influences each priority that an organization sets.

Quinn & Rohrbaugh (1983, p.340) claim that culture generally relates to the underlying organizational value system which lay much emphasis on control, empowerment, strong alliances, cost reduction, innovation and customer focus. Such cultural attributes act in response to numerous business stimuli which ensures organizational success and increased performance (Quinn & Rohrbaugh 1983, p.340).

Organizations that have shaped cultures always appear to be triumphant. Culture building often instigates with the valued tenets of conduct which the founders established. These usually form the basis upon which people develop their daily operational views. Various behavioral blueprints and qualities build up derived on what privileged directors at dissimilar ranks support.

Given that leaders are goal oriented, they will only encourage organizational culture that is goal aligned (Martin & Siehl 1983, p.53). That is, behavioral patterns that are typical to an organization seem to have their foundation on solutions which might have previously worked for an organization.

When culture derives from repeated success, then an organization will be aware of the set ways upon which work should be carried out. Through organizational culture, an organization learns its past success strategies and uses the same to succeed in the current competitive environment (Martin & Siehl 1983, p.52).

In each and every organization, culture is seen to have some powers over organization’s performance. For instance, organizational culture enables individuals and groups to clearly comprehend the alignment of goals, mission as well as objectives. This serves as a source of motivation given that the pooled values make the organization employees to feel good about their corporation and as result sincerely commit their potentials and capabilities towards realizing the set objectives (Willmott 1993, p.526).

Thus, strong organizational culture serves as an inherent motivator which enhances employees’ productivity hence, increase in organization performance. Strong organizational cultures have performance attributes such as team working, learning attitude, decisiveness and empowerment (Willmott 1993, p.526).

At this stage, organizational culture appears as an actual motivating basis for advanced organizational performance as well as a clear-cut competitive advantage resource which is really not easy for marketplace challengers to reproduce.

To justify why unmatchable organizational culture is critical to organizations success, we have to look at a corporation which uses culture to spearhead its market dominance. The lean-production system utilized by Toyota Corporation for example appears to entail procedures, schemes and gears as it seems to be the culture of workers toiling for this corporation (Madu 2011, p.6).

Basically, various competing corporations have tried to emulate the legendary Toyota production system yet none on them could exactly carry it out with identical efficacy. The basis is that, nearly all businesses could have duplicated the in place Toyota Production Systems (TPS) but they could not replicate the original cultural potency which is profoundly entrenched in this corporation’s trade values.

The cultural philosophy of Toyota which facilitates its global performance in based on striving for excellence, pull system, one piece flow, identifying the value stream and understanding clients values (Gregory 1983, p.60).

Even though the bottom line of organization is driven by performance, the work environment where organizational performance takes place is shaped by culture. However, culture seems to develop in some organizations by default while in others it develops in a tangible, intentional and conscious way. Organizations that fall in the latter category tend to be properly positioned for competitive advantage (Madu 2011, p.7).

This is because they have well designed work environments which permit individuals the liberty to constantly outclass the market competitors by doing their level best. Thus, corporate culture appears to be critical for organizational performance since it ideally shapes the work environment where performance takes place. When an organization fails to pay attention to corporate culture, there is the possibility that the level of sustainability and profitability will be undermined (Madu 2011, p.6).

When organizational values, practices and behaviors are aligned with the set goals, individuals will always have a grasp of those organizational values and experience them daily. In this respect, solutions and answers will be found to any impeding performance barriers (Madu 2011, p.7).


The components and the perceived roles of organization culture for the success of organization still remains a matter of debate. In fact, organization culture is still perceived as a deep social system whereby all organizational actions and strategies anchor.

Organization culture is understood as that aspect of the total organization system which can be maneuvered using the organization surface structure like the rewards. The debate focuses on these two organizations cultural aspects. The adopted model determines the desired cultural maintenance or change outcomes.

The same perspective will also determine the focus of cultural change and activities geared towards development and maintenance. That is, whether to involve the organization as a whole, sub-cultures or various cultural units drawn together for specific purpose. There is no definite agreement on the most appropriate way to maintain or change an organization culture. However, with stringent policy measures in place, organizational culture can be managed.


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