What is the nature and substance of organizational culture and why does it matter

What is the nature and substance of organizational culture and why does it matter

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Alexander Zouev Management , SPC What is the nature and substance of organizational culture and why does it matter? Although difficult to define, organizational culture and its importance in today’s business world play a vital and important role in the decision making of managers. It has become a phenomenon that lacks a concrete definition, as Handy (1985) wrote, “culture cannot be defined, for it is something that is perceived, something felt.” Interestingly, Brown (1994) provides an impressive list of 14 definitions for “organizational culture” which in turn only emphasizes the concept that there is a wide selection of understandings of what the trend actually is. What is less ambiguous however, is the nature and substance behind the topic and its importance in the study of management. Working in, or at least spending time with, a variety of different organizations allows one to note the differences in atmospheres ; varying personalities, aims, freedoms and motivation. As a result of this experience, one might ask the question of whether there is an ideal type of structure that encompasses optimum management. The short answer to this issue would be a strong “no” as Handy (1985) explains that “the cultures of organizations rightly differ, they are affected by a variety of factors, that these diverse cultures are reflected in diverse structures and systems.” Although aged management theories would probably insist on an existence of one utopian perfect culture, modern theorists have come to conclude that culture needs to suit the organization appropriately. Within organizations there are questions about how to organize work, distribute power and allocate control. Degrees of formalization, planning schedules, importance of work hours and dress code are all part of the culture of an organization. Surely the St Peter’s college campus has a completely different culture than that of a trading floor at a large investment bank. Moreover, one should not be surprised to find differences in culture even within single organizations. The cafeteria at St Peter’s will employ a different culture than the lecture halls. Rituals, values, traditions, language and a rich history all play such a vital role in an organizations culture that a rule or guidebook would be deemed obsolete. The Japanese tend to embody this notion more than anyone else – whether it is by having a Japanese company song, or implementing the ritual physical exercises which not only keep the workforce healthy but also demonstrate a sense of allegiance (Meek, 1988). Although strong cultures tend to make strong organizations, emphasis should be placed on the fact that not all cultures suit all purposes or people.
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Alexander Zouev Management , SPC Although Handy (1985) provides a blueprint for four main types of culture, Schein (1984), before him, categorized culture into two main groups. The first organization worked on assumptions that ideas came from individuals, people were
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2010 for the course ECON DEAM taught by Professor Vines during the Spring '10 term at Oxford University.

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What is the nature and substance of organizational culture and why does it matter

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