Organizational culture

From ArticleWorld

Organizational culture, or company culture as it is also known as, is the attitudes, experiences and values that the individuals in an organization project. In any organization it is seen that persons working in the same work group may project some unique behavioral quirks which vary from other units. This difference in behavior can affect an entire organization to some extent.

There are also other factors that may alter company culture. These may include task culture, where specialized individuals bring behaviors and expertise that influence company culture, as well as corporate culture, where management tries to incorporate ethics and standards of behavior that are in line with company objectives. There is also the embedded internal culture of organizations.

Strong and weak cultures

Though a strong culture may seem preferable, it too has drawbacks. A strong culture exists where the staff responds to situations based on their commitment to organizational values. A weak culture exists where there is little or no loyalty to the organizational culture and measures must be put into place to ensure compliance with company policies.

Though it is apparent that a strong culture is better than a weak culture, there is one downfall to this way of thinking. It is seen in strong culture environments that there is some level of suppression of new and innovative ideas that are not in compliance with the existing organizational culture. Rather than risk putting forth new ideas, individuals stick to the approved methods for executing tasks. This is called 'Groupthink'.


There are several methods to classify organizational culture. These include:

  • Hofstede – showed the influence of national and regional cultural groupings in organizations. He highlighted five characteristics of culture: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity and long vs. short-term orientation.
  • Deal and Kennedy – labeled culture as 'the way things get done around here'. They used two parameters to assess organizations, namely, feedback and risk. Four classes of culture were determined: tough-guy macho culture, work hard/play hard culture, bet your company culture and process culture.
  • Handy – used a method to study cultures that linked organizational structure to the culture. He described power culture, role culture, task culture and person culture.
  • Schein – defined organizational culture as 'the residue of success'. He identified organizational culture as one of the most difficult things to alter and set out three levels of culture from the observer's standpoint. The first level handles attributes that can be seen, felt and heard. The second deals with the culture expressed by individuals in the organization. The third handles elements of culture that are not visible and not easily identifiable.

Elements of culture

Elements used to describe or influence organizational culture as put forward by Johnson (1988):

  • The paradigm – the objectives and values of the organization.
  • Control system – monitoring processes.
  • Organizational structure – hierarchies.
  • Power structure – distribution of power.
  • Symbols – power symbols as well as logos.
  • Rituals and routines – meetings and reports.
  • Stories and myths – convey messages on what is valued in the organization.