October 21, 2012

MU0011 [Management and Organizational Development] Set1 Q1

Q1. State the characteristics of organizational culture.


A single definition of organizational culture has proven to be very elusive. No one definition of organizational culture has emerged in the literature. One of the issues involving culture is that it is defined both in terms of its causes and effect. For example, these are the two ways in which cultures often defined. 

1. Outcomes- Defining culture as a manifest pattern of behavior- Many people use the term culture to describe patterns of cross individual behavioral consistency For example, when people say that culture is “The way we do things around here,” they are defining consistent way is in which people perform tasks, solve problems, resolve conflicts, treat customers, and treat employees

2. Process- Defining culture as a set of mechanisms creating cross individual behavioral consistency- In this case culture is defined as the informal values, norms, and beliefs that control how individuals and groups in an organization interact with each other and with people outside the organization. 

Both of these approaches are relevant to understanding culture. It is important to know on what types of behavior culture has greatest impact (outcomes) and how culture works to control the behavior of organizational members. We will address these two questions later in the module. 

Functions of organizational culture 
1. Behavioral control 
2. Encourages stability 
3. Provides source of identity 

Draw backs of culture
1. Barrier to change and improvement 
2. Barrier to diversity 
3. Barrier to cross departmental and cross organizational cooperation 
4. Barrier to mergers and acquisitions 

What Types of Behavior Does Culture Control? Using the outcome approach, cultures are described in terms of the following variables: 
• Innovation versus Stability- The degree to which organizational members are encouraged to be innovative, creative and to take risks. 
• Strategic versus Operational Focus- The degree to which the members of the management team focus on the long term big picture versus attention to detail. 
• Outcome versus Process Orientation- The degree to which management focuses on outcomes, goals and results rather than on techniques, processes, or methods used to achieve these results. 
• Task Versus Social Focus- The relative emphasis on effect of decisions on organizational members and relationships over task accomplishment at all costs 
• Team versus Individual orientation- The degree to which work activities are organized around teams rather than individuals 
• Customer Focus versus Cost Control- The degree to which managers and employees are concerned about customer satisfaction and Service rather than minimizing costs 
• Internal verses External Orientation- The degree to which the organization focuses on and is adaptive to changes in its environment 

Cultural Control Mechanisms
How does organizational culture control the behavior of organizational members? If consistent behavioral patterns are the outcomes or products of a culture, what is it that causes many people to act in a similar manner? There are four basic ways in which a culture, or more accurately members of a reference group representing a culture, creates high levels of cross individual behavioral consistency. There are: 

• Social Norms
Social norms are the most basic and most obvious of cultural control mechanisms. In its basic form, a social norm is simply a behavioral expectation that people will act in a certain way in certain situations. Norms (as opposed to rules) are enforced by other members of a reference group by the use of social sanctions. Norms have been categorized by level. 

A. Peripheral norms are general expectations that make interactions easier and more pleasant. Because adherence of these norms is not essential to the functioning of the group, violation of these norms general results in mild social sanctions. 
B. Relevant norms encompass behaviors that are important to group functioning. Violation of these norms often results in non-inclusion in important group functions and activities 
C. Pivotal norms represent behaviors that are essential to effective group functioning. Individuals violating these norms are often subject to expulsion from the group. 

Shared Values 
• As a cultural control mechanism the keyword in shared values is shared. The issue is not whether or not a particular individual's behavior can best be explained and/or predicted by his or her values, but rather how widely is that value shared among organizational members, and more importantly, how responsible was the organization/culture in developing that value within the individual. What is a value? Any phenomenon that is some degree of worth to the members of giving groups: The conception of the desirable that establishes a general direction of action rather than a specific objective. Values are the conscious, affective desires or wants of people that guide their behavior 

How are values formed/developed within individuals? We like to think that our values are unique to us and an essential part of who we are. The critical question here is, how much of our values are derived from our reference group affiliation? We find that for most people, their values are generally consistent with the values of the reference group in which they were socialized. There are two kinds of values: 
A. Instrumental values represent the “means” an individual prefers for achieving important “ends.” 
B. Terminal values are preferences concerning “ends” to be achieved. When an individual can no long answer the question of “ 

These components of culture have a well – defined linkage with each other which binds a culture and makes change in any one of the components difficult. However, change in any one of these components causes chain reactions amongst others. 

Culture is a very powerful force at the workplace, which is consciously and deliberately cultivated and is passed on to the incoming employees. It reflects the true nature and personality of an organisation. 

There are various myths about organisational culture. Some of them are presented here along with the counter arguments. 
1. Organisational culture is same as organisational climate : In management literature there is often ambiguity about the two concepts – organisational culture and organisational climate. As explained earlier, organisational culture is a macro phenomenon which refers to the patterns of beliefs, assumptions, values, and behaviours reflecting commonality in people working together. However, organisational climate is a micro phenomenon and reflects how employees in an organisation feel about the characteristics and quality of culture like morale, goodwill, employee relations, job satisfaction, commitmrnt at the organisational, department or unit level. It refers to the psychological enviornment in which behaviour of organisational members occurs. It is a relatively persistent set of perceptions held by organisational members about the organisational culture. Another viewpoint about climate is that various variables get subsumed under the concept of climate, whereas has unique indicators like symbols, rites, myths, and stories. 

2. Culture is same as ‘groupthink’ : Since culture refers to shared assumptions and beliefs, it is likely to cause confusion. Groupthink refers to group members hiding any differences in how they feel and think and behave in a certain way. The phenomenon of groupthink is mostly used in a face – to – face situation when dealing with small groups. Culture, on the other hand, is a much larger phenomenon characterised by historical myths, symbols, beliefs, and artifacts. 

3. Culture is same as organisation : Culture is a result of sustained interaction among people in organisations and exists commonly in thoughts, feelings, and behaviour of people. Organisations on the other hand, consist of a set of expectations and a system of reward and punishment substained by rules, regulations, and norms of behaviour. 

4. Culture is a social structure : Social structures in various collectives exhibit tangible and specific ways in which people relate to one another overtly. However, culture operates on a system of unseen, abstract, and emotionally loaded forms which guide organisational members to deal with their physical and social needs. 

The culture of an organisation may reflect in various forms adopted by the organisation. These could be : 

  • The physical infrastructure 
  • Routine behaviour, langauge, ceremonies 
  • Gender equality, equity in payment 
  • Dominant values such as quality, efficiency and so on 
  • Philosophy that guides the organisation’s policies towards it employees and customers like ‘customer first’ and ‘customer is king’, and the manner in which employees deal with customers. 

Individually none of these connote organisational culture, however, together, they reflect organisational culture. Although organisational culture has common properties, it is found that large organisations have a dominant culture and a number of sub – cultures. The core values shared by the majority of the organisational members constitute the dominant culture. Therefore, whenever one refers to the culture of an organisation one actually talks about the dominant culture of an organisation one actually talks about the dominant culture. Subcultures within an organisation are a set of shared understandings among members of one group/department/geographic operations.

For example, the finance department of an organisation may have a sub – culture which is unique to this department vis–a–vis other departments. This means that this department will not only have the core values of the organisation’s dominant culture but also some unique values. If an organisation does not have a dominant culture and is comprised only of various sub – cultures, its effectiveness would be difficult to judge and there will be no consistency of behaviour among departments. Hence, the aspect of common or shared understanding is an essential component of organisational culture. Also, organisational culture exists at various levels.

Types of Organizational Culture 
Organisational culture can vary in a number of ways. It is these variances that differentiate one organisation from the others. Some of the bases of the differentiation are presented below : 

1. Strong vs weak culture : Organisational culture can be labelled as strong or weak based on sharedness of the core values among organisational members and the degree of commitment the members have to these core values. The higher the sharedness and commitment, the stronger the culture increases the possibility of behaviour consistency amongst its members, while a weak culture opens avenues for each one of the members showing concerns unique to themselves. 

2. Soft vs hard culture : Soft work culture can emerge in an organisation where the organisation pursues multiple and conflicting goals. In a soft culture the employees choose to pursue a few objectives which serve personal or sectional interests. A typical example of soft culture can be found in a number of public sector organisations in India where the management feels constrained to take action against employees to maintain high productivity. The culture is welfare oriented; people are held accountable for their mistakes but are not rewarded for good performance. Consequently, the employees consider work to be less important than personal and social obligations. Sinha (1990) has presented a case study of a public sector fertilizer company which was established in an industrially backward rural area to promote employment generation and industrial activity. Under pressure from local communities and the government, the company succumbed to overstaffing, converting mechanised operations into manual operations, payment of overtime, and poor discipline. This resulted in huge financial losses (up to 60 percent of the capital) to the company. 

3. Formal vs informal culture : The work culture of an organisation, to a large extent, is influenced by the formal components of organisational culture. Roles, responsibilities, accountability, rules and regulations are components of formal culture. They set the expectations that the organisation has from every member and indicates the consequences if these expectations are not fulfilled.

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