Miller_CulturalApproaches

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Unformatted text preview: q<4<4<4q<<q4<44<4444a¢ 41ee<¢444<44<4<<4<4<4¢ 4a4¢4444a4<4444444444< «44‘444444444444444444 <44<<44444<<<<<4<4444a 444444444<<144<<<<4444a 44¢44<4<q44444q<44<444 444414~q<44<44<<44¢444a 94 4fl€<<4444444<<1¢44€4¢€<§ CHAPTER €<4<€¢44€¢i41 dérfidflfifififlfifl: GULTUflAl - APPROACHES WV V? 44‘2444444444dfi‘fi44444éfi everal of the approaches in the previous chapters have looked at organizations and communication through the lens of a metaphor. Classical approaches con— ceptualize organizations as machines, and systems approaches look at the organ- ismic aspects of organizational structure and functioning. In this chapter, we look at an additional metaphor by regarding organizations as culturex. The cul— tural metaphor derives from the field of anthropology, where for years scholars have studied the cultures of nations, tribes, and ethnic groups. What is a culture? When we think about the culture ofa nation, many things come to mind. For example, consider U.S. culture. We might think of some of the values that many Americans hold—freedom, independence, hard work, or achievement. We might think of some of the symbols of US. culture— the stars and stripes, the bald eagle, baseball, or apple pie. We might think of the rites and rituals of Americans—Fourth of July picnics, blow—out wedding recep— tions, or Super Bowl parties. We might think of the day—to—day life ofAmeri— cans—early mornings on the family farm, 90—minute commutes on the Los An— geles freeways, or long days balancing the demands of work and family. In short, when thinking about U.S. culture, we think about the complicated patchwork of values, symbols, and behaviors that make America what it is. In using a cultural metaphor for the investigation of an organization, we are again looking for the qualities that make an organization “what it is.” What makes IBM different from Hewlett-Packard? What makes McDonald’s different from Burger King? What makes the University of Texas different from Texas A&M University? What makes the Delta Gamma house on your campus differ— ent from Alpha Chi Omega’s? As Pacanowsky and O’Donnell-Trujillo (1983) note, “Each organization has its own way of doing what it does and its own way CULTURAL APPROACHES 95 W of talking about what it is doing” (p. 128). To discover these ways of doing and ways of talking is to investigate organizational culture. In this chapter, we consider two different ways of thinking about culture. The first, originating in the popular business press, looks at culture as something an organization has. According to this approach, having the “right” kind of cul- ture can make or break an organization. The second approach considers culture as something an organization is. Following the discussion of these two ways of thinking about culture, I explicate one model of culture in more detail. This model, developed by Edgar Schein (1992), conceptualizes culture as the assump— tions, values, behaviors, and artifacts that an organization exhibits as it attempts to adapt to internal and external organizational contingencies. Finally, we take a look at the research methods typically used to investigate organizational culture. PPBSCI‘iDIWB View: Ill culture During the last part of the 20th century, organizational scholars and practi- tioners became fascinated with the concept of “organizational culture.” As Eisenberg and Riley (2001, p. 291) note, “the speed at which ‘organizational culture’ emerged as a significant lens for communication scholars and other aca- demics to examine or otherwise engage with organizations and institutions was astounding.” The concept of “culture” took the business and academic com- munity by storm for several reasons. First, the metaphor of culture clearly reso— nated with both academics and practitioners. It simply made sense to see orga— nizations as complex arenas of stories and values rather than entirely rational institutions. Second, the cultural metaphor opened up new and fruitful areas of research, as you will discover as you continue through this chapter. And finally, culture quickly became a part of everyday talk around water coolers and in carpools. As Eisenberg and Riley (2001, p‘ 292) point out, “organizational dis— course was soon peppered with such statements as ‘The culture here won’t al— low us to . . .’ or ‘Our culture is very intense—we work hard and play harder.m The early popularity and widespread use of cultural terminology can be traced back to two very successful books published in the early 1980s. These books were Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, by Terrence Deal and Allen Kennedy (1982), and In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman (1982). Both of these books propose that successful companies can be identi- fied in terms of their cultures. ska CHAPTER FIVE Deal and Kennedy’s “Strong Cultures” Deal and Kennedy (1982) argue that business success can be enhanced through the development of a “strong” culture. If an organization has the components of a strong culture, it would be a better place for individuals to work and would improve both individual and organizational performance. Deal and Kennedy identify four key components of a strong culture: 1. Values are the beliefs and visions that members hold for an organization. For example, 3M Corporation espouses a value for innovation, whereas Prudential Insurance represents the value of stability. 2. Heroes are the individuals who come to exemplify an organization’s values. These heroes become known through the stories and myths of an organiza— tion. For example, Bill Gates is a hero who exemplifies the forward—thinking culture of Microsoft and standing up against government interference. 3. Rite: and ritualx are the ceremonies through which an organization cel— ebrates its values. An organization that values innovation may develop a ritualistic way of rewarding the new ideas of employees. In other organiza— tions, rites and rituals might include a company picnic or an awards banquet for outstanding employees. 4. Finally, the cultural network is the communication system through which cultural values are instituted and reinforced. The cultural network could consist of both formal organizational channels, such as newsletters, and the informal interactions of employees. Peters and Waterman’s “Excellent Cultures” A second book that made a big impact on the business community in the 1980s was In Search ofExeelleme, by Peters and Waterman (1982). Like Deal and Kennedy, Peters and Waterman were attempting to identify aspects of organiza— tional culture that were prevalent in high—performing companies. They studied 62 organizations deemed “excellent” by employees and organizational experts. They then identified “themes” that characterized the cultures of these excellent organizations. These themes are presented in Table 5—1. As this table indicates, the themes emphasize the importance of people (e.g., “close relations to the customer” and “productivity through people”) and downplay bureaucratic structure and values (e. g., “autonomy and entrepreneurship” and “simple form, lean staff”). Both Corporate Culture: and In Search ofExtelleme had an enormous im— pact on organizational practice. These books emphasize the importance of orga— CULTURAL APPROACHES 97 Table 5-1 Peters and Waterman’s Themes for Excellent Organizations Theme Description l. A Bias for Action Excellent organizations react quickly and do not spend excess time planning and analyzing. 2. Close Relations to the Excellent organizations gear decisions and Customer actions to the needs of customers. 3. Autonomy and Excellent organizations encourage Entrepreneurship employees to take risks in the development of new ideas. 4. Productivity through Excellent organizations encourage positive People and respectful relationships among manage- ment and employees. 5. Hands—On, Value—Driven Excellent organizations have employees and managers who share the same core value of productivity and performance. Excellent organizations stay focused on what they do best and avoid radical diversification. 6. Stick to the Knitting 7. Simple Form, Lean Staff Excellent organizations avoid complex struc- tures and divisions of labor. 8. Simultaneous Loose— Excellent organizations exhibit both unity Tight Properties of purpose and the diversity necessary for innovation. nizational intangibles, such as values and heroes, and signal a move away from strictly rational models of organizing. However, the books were not as widely embraced by the academic community, primarily because they provide prescrip- tion: for managerial practice rather than descriptions or explanations of organi— zational life. For example, Deal and Kennedy’s book argues that a strong cul- ture held by all employees is the only route to success in the business world. Similarly, individuals reading Peters and VVaterman’s book would conclude that excellence could best be achieved through the themes laid out in Table 5-1. In— deed, some scholars later called this approach “value engineering” because it es— pouses the belief that “effective cultural leaders could create ‘strong’ cultures, built around their own values” (Martin St Frost, 1996, p. 602). Others have emphasized that this integration approach to culture is only one lens through which a culture might be viewed (Martin, 2002). a.’ 98 CHAPTER FIVE =‘ ' It is important to stress that the values prescribed in this view of culture I are, in large part, ones that can—and do—make positive contributions to ‘ ' organizational performance and to the work lives of organizational members (see Eisenberg 8c Riley, 2001, for review). However, these prescriptive ap— , . " proaches to culture also fall short in two important respects. First, it is naive to l i assume that there is a single cultural “formula” for achieving organizational I success. For example, although a “bias for action” may have proven effective ’ for the organizations studied by Peters and Waterman, there are certainly times when a more contemplative approach to organizing would be appropriate. ' Thus, prescriptions for the “correct” culture oversimplify the complexities of organizational life. Second, these approaches treat culture as a “thing” that an 1 : organization “has.” This objectification of culture is risky because when we objectify culture we de—emphasize the complex processes through which orga— nizational culture is created and sustained. When we objectify culture, we also tend to simplify it. For example, we might assume that all organizational par— ticipants share the same culture and that the organization’s culture is relatively stable over time. Because of these problems, most scholars who adopt a cultural approach to fia- the study of organizations avoid the prescriptive tack taken by these writers. In— ” stead, cultural researchers seek to dexcribe and understand the complex ways in 3% which organizational culture is developed and maintained. The next section considers these alternative approaches to culture. 3‘ & _ Allfll‘nmwe “Dnrflacnes m GImIII'B 3 Today, most scholars interested in organizational culture eschew the simple pre— scriptive approaches discussed above. Rather than seeing culture as a “thing” g ’ that can and should be “managed,” these researchers see culture as the emerg— ing and sometimes fragmented values, practices, narratives, and artifacts that g , make a particular organization “what it is.” Louis (1980) exemplifies this ap— proach in noting that studies of culture seek to describe an organization’s B ' “unique sense of place.” Putnam (1983) introduced this interpretive approach in the communication discipline, noting that this approach requires a consid— fi eration of “the way individuals make sense of their world through their com— , , municative behaviors” (p. 31). Although this chapter cannot fully explore the E multitude of positions taken by those trying to describe and understand organi— E zational culture (see Eisenberg & Riley, 2001; Martin, 1992, 2002; and Martin & Frost, 1996), four issues highlight the distinction between prescriptive ap- {5 CULTURAL APPROACHES 99 W proaches to culture and the approaches taken by most cultural scholars today: (1) culture is complicated; (2) culture is emergent; (3) culture is not unitary; and (4) culture is often ambiguous. Organizational Cultures Are Complicated The complexity of organizational culture is demonstrated by the wide variety of “markers” that scholars use to investigate it. We will consider just a few. Beyer and Trice (1987) argue that an organization’s culture is revealed through its rites, and they differentiate among rites of passage, rites of degradation, rites of enhancement, rites of renewal, rites of conflict reduction, and rites of integra— tion. Dandridge (1986) looks at organizational ceremonies as indicators of cul— ture. Quinn and McGrath (1985) focus on the role of values and belief systems in the transformation of organizational cultures. Smith and Eisenberg (1987) con— sider the metaphors of employees and management in a study of the culture at Disneyland. Boje (1991) and Meyer (1995) contend that culture can best be revealed through the stories that organizational members tell. Schall (1983) and Morley and Shockley—Zalabak (1991; Shockley—Zalabak 8c Morley, 1994) inves- tigate communication rules in the development of culture. Even organizational hallway talk can be a lens for Viewing culture (Gronn, 1983). Rites, ceremonies, values, belief systems, metaphors, stories, communication rules, and hallway talk are just a few of the windows through which researchers attempt to gain a glimpse of an organization’s culture. Moreover, some scholars concentrate on a single cultural marker Whereas others attempt to examine the ways in which a variety of cultural manifestations are woven together (Martin & Frost, 1996). Given this diversity of cultural markers, it is not surprising that most scholars see organizational culture as a highly complex phenomenon. Organizational Cultures Are Emergent A second point of agreement among most organizational culture scholars is the notion that cultures are socially created through the interaction of organiza— tional members. This idea is central to a communication focus on culture in which culture is not merely transmitted through communication but in which communication is “constitutive of culture” (Eisenberg & Riley, 2001, p. 294). Putnam (1983) took this position many years ago, arguing that social reality is a symbolic process “created through ongoing actions and intersubjectivc mean— ings attributed to those actions” (p. 44). Pacanowsky and O’Donnell—Trujillo (1983) took this emergent approach into the cultural realm in their work on -. 3a.— »n‘zv . L; ,i ‘7 51-; « Twwi >1“? V‘ev'eara'vv‘s‘vvve v‘avvwvvvvvvvv vvvvvwvvvvvvv vvvwv'vv vvvv v a v v v" v v v KHZ: sromuur on vvvvvv :::::: sonolnnsmr v; v e v v v ' v v v v evvaxvvvvvvvvv Scheibel, D. (1999). “Ifyour roommate dies, you everyday practices, or rites and rituals. In get a 40”? RCClaiming rumor With Burke and 0r" Scheibel’s investigation of student culture on ganizational culture. Waternfiurntzl ofCommuni- college campuses) hC chose to look at rumou- mfim, 63’ 168—192 as a cultural indicator. As he argues, “rumor is a collective, communicatively constituted When we think of organizations, we often cultural phenomenon” (p. 169) that is par— consider corporations, or even small busi— ticularly important during critical periods of nesses and nonprofit ventures. However, an organization’s existence such as times of educational institutions (such as colleges and crisis and change. Thus, Scheibel believes that universities) are also clearly organizations, rumors can serve as a window for under— and students enrolled in such institutions are standing the values and culture of a particular an integral part of those organizational cul— social group. ’ tures. Dean Scheibel investigated the student In his study, Scheibel did not look at ru— "55 cultures of colleges and universities in a re— mors in general, but chose to concentrate on cent investigation of a very specific cultural a specific rumor. This rumor, which Scheibel manifestation. documents as occurring on a wide range of As discussed in this chapter, culture can be campuses across the U.S., considers the situa— 3: seen through a Wide array of indicators. Cul— tion in which a student suffers a fatal acci— ' tural scholars might look at material artifacts, dent, succumbs to disease, commits suicide, at V‘s?vsv'vvvwvvv‘e‘evv‘an“???vv‘tvvatwvvvvv $ “Organizational Communication as Cultural Performance.” These scholars ar— % gue that a study of organizational culture should concentrate on the communi— cation processes through which culture is created. They further argue that these g ' communication processes can be best conceptualized as “performances” that are interactional, contextual, episodic, and improvisational. § Cultural performances are international in that they require the participa— tion of multiple organizational members. Cultural performances are contextual D V in that they are embedded in organizational situations and organizational his tory. Cultural performances are epixodic in that they are “nameable as distinct g ‘ ” events” (Pacanowsky 8c O’Donnell—Trujillo, 1983, p. 133). Finally, cultural per— formances are improvimtionnl because there are no scripts that guide organiza— tional members. By pointing to the importance of “cultural performance,” Pacanowsky and O’Donnell—Trujillo highlight the communicative processes through which organizational cultures emerge and shift over time. if - 100 CULTURAL APPROACHES or is murdered. In such a case, according to this rumor, that student’s roommate will be given the rest of the semester off and given an “A” in all coursework. In other words: “If your roommate dies, you get a 4.0.” So what does this rumor say about the or— ganizational culture for students away at col— lege.> Scheibel analyzes the rumor using methods of Burkean rhetorical analysis (Burke, 1966) and Bantz’s communication culture perspective (Bantz, 1993). Using these analytical tools, Scheibel draws a num— ber of conclusions about the student subcul— ture at American colleges and universities. Some of these are relatively obvious. For ex— ample, the rumor points out that two of the most critical aspects of the student culture are performance (as measured by grades) and so— cial life (as indicated in roommate relation— ships). Second, the rumor points to the inevi— table stress ofthe college student subculture. Particularly during times of high tension, such as final exams, rumors that involve the major stressors of campus life will surface. The rumor also points to the “mystification” 101 “W “at of university administration in the student subculture. As students search for the source of the rumor in college handbooks or discuss why such a policy would never be in the col— lege handbook, it is clear that the administra— tion is a source of “hierarchy and mystery” (p. 181) to most students. Beyond these points, though, Scheibel ex— plores the nuances of student culture by con— sidering more detailed questions about the rumor. For example, he looks at the implica— tions of whether the roommate has been murdered (with perhaps the person getting the 4.0 as perpetrator?) or committed suicide (with the person getting the 4.0 as grief- stricken friend). He considers the ways in which students speculate about the adminis— trative motives for such a policy (Is the ad— ministration truly compassionate or are they just covering their ass?). It is in exploring these questions of “why” and in considering the ways in which students actually talk about this rumor that Scheibel uncovers some of the most telling details of the student subcul— ture on college campuses. WVV'WVV"???‘%‘§373‘€3V§'*§°§?V$'¥°V Organizational Cultures Are Not Unitary Most organizational culture researchers agree that it is impossible to character— ize an organization as having a tingle culture. Rather, most scholars agree that organizations are characterized by a multitude of subcultures that “may co—exist in harmony, conflict, or indifference to each other” (Frost, Moore, Louis, Lundberg, 8: Martin, 1991, p. 8). Martin (2002) highlights this aspect of cul— ture in her discussion of a tifferentintion approach in which inconsistencies among cultural views are expected and often seen as desirable. But where are these various subcultures found in an organization and how do they work? Louis (1985) addresses these questions in her consideration ofthe titer of enltnre and enltnml penetration. Louis first argues that there are a num— ber of sites where culture might develop in an organization, including a “vertical slice” (e.g., a division), a “horizontal slice” (e.g., a particular hierarchical level), or a specific work group. Martin (2002) also points out that subcultures might v w 5 102 CHAPTER FIVE emerge around networks of personal contacts or demographic similarity. These cultural sites all “serve as breeding grounds . . . for the emergence of shared meaning” (Louis, 1985, p. 79). Thus, a wide range of subcultures could spring up at various sites in a single organization. One additional consideration of the nonunitary nature of organizational culture is that various subcultures within an organization may represent impor- tant differences in power and in interests (see, e.g., Alvesson, 1993). In other words, not only can the subcultures of the corporate boardroom and the assem- bly line be described as “different,” these differences also point to fundamental schisms in power and ideology in the organization. (These differences in power and ideology are discussed in much greater detail in Chapter 6.) Organizational Cultures Are Often Ambiguous Finally, scholars of organizational culture recognize that there is not always a clear picture of the organization’s culture—or even of its various subcultures. There may be multiple manifestations of culture that are difficult to interpret. Martin (2002) discusses this approach to culture as the fragmentation perspec— tive, and argues that fragmentation studies will see an ambiguous culture as “a normal, salient, and inescapable part of organizational functioning in the con— temporary world” (p. 105). This notion that culture is oftentimes ambiguous, fragmented, and hard to pin down is particularly important when considering organizations that are rap— idly changing. Many scholars argue that we now live in a “postmodern world” that is multifaceted, fragmented, fast—moving, and difficult to understand (see, e.g., Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). In such an environment, it is not surprising that organizational culture might also be in a state of flux. For example, Risberg (1999) analyzed the culture ofa Swedish manufacturing company that had just been acquired. Risberg noted that “a post—acquisition process cannot be under- stood in one clear way. There are ambiguities in interpretation of situations and statements. These ambiguities illustrate the multiple realities within the organi- zation and during the post—acquisition process” (Risberg, 1999, p. 177). In summary, current organizational culture scholars take an approach to culture that seeks to understand the ways in which communication and interac— tion create a uniun sense of place in an organization. These scholars look for the complex web of values, behaviors, stories, rules, and metaphors that com- prise an organization’s culture, acknowledging that culture is socially created through the communicative performances of organizational members. These scholars also look for the similarities and differences among various subcultures CULTURAL APPROACHES 103 W that exist simultaneously in any organization, and acknowledge that culture is often ambiguous and in a state of flux. In the next section, we review one spe- cific model of organizational culture. Although this model does not capture all of the nuances of contemporary approaches to culture, it provides a helpful lens for analyzing organizational cultures and subcultures. , SOIIBilI'S MDIIBI 0' Organizational fllllllll‘e Edgar Schein is a management scholar and consultant interested in the role of leaders in the development and maintenance of organizational culture. His 1; 1992 book, Organizational Culture and Leaa’erxkip (first edition published in 1985), describes a model of culture that pulls together several of the notions we have already considered in this chapter, A Definition of Culture Schein (1992) first defines the culture of a social group—an organization or other collective in the following way: 1;}. , . . a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems. (p. 12) This definition raises several critical issues. First, Schein defines culture as a group phenomenon. An individual cannot have a culture, because cultural forma— tion depends on communication. However, cultural groups can exist on many levels, ranging from civilizations and countries to small organizational or social groups. Schein acknowledges that not all groups develop an “integrated” cul— ture and that cultures are often fragmented, as we discussed above. However, Schein believes that it is important to highlight the human need for stability, consistency, and meaning. Thus, he argues that “cultural formation, therefore, is always a striving towara’ patterning ana’ integration, even though the actual history of experiences of many groups prevents them from ever achieving a clear~cut paradigm” (Schein, 1992, p. 11). Second, Schein defines culture as a pattern ofbaxie axsurnptionx, suggesting that the beliefs that make up culture are relatively enduring and difficult to change. Indeed, individuals may not even be aware of the cultural assumptions they hold. As we will see in the model he developed, Schein acknowledges that organizational culture also encompasses values, behaviors, rules, and physical 104 CHAPTER FIVE artifacts. However, he believes that the core of culture is its basic assumptions and that values, behaviors, and so on are better seen as reflections of that culture. Third, Schein sees culture as an emergent and developmental process. Ac— cording to his definition, cultures are learned or invented as a group meets in- ternal and external challenges. Consider, for instance, the trajectory of Internet start—up firms in the 1990s and early part of the 21st century. In the mid— to late—1990s, many fledgling Internet companies were riding high, looking for venture capitalists to finance grand schemes of expansion. The culture of such a company would reflect the contingencies of this environment. It might be ag— gressive, confident, fast—moving, perhaps even brash. But when the economy—— and particularly the Internet economy~contracted in 2000 and 2001, the cul- ture at these companies probably changed substantially. In short, the culture was shaped by the circumstances of the organization and its environment. Finally, Schein’s definition highlights the Jocializing aspect of organiza- tional culture. We will discover more about this topic in Chapter 7. At this point, though, it is enough to point out that when individuals enter an organi- zation, a major part of “learning the ropes” consists of developing an under- standing of the assumptions and values that make up that organization’s cul—. ture. This is not to suggest that newcomers are blank slates upon which culture is written, however. Indeed, Schein believes that in many cases “the new mem— bers’ interaction with old members will be a more creative process of building a culture” (Schein, 1992, p. 13). A Model of Culture After presenting his definition of culture, Schein sets forth a model that sorts out the various elements of culture into three distinct levels. This model is pre sented in Figure 5—]. Level 1: Artifacts. The most visible level of culture in Schein’s model consists of the physical and social environment that organizational members have cre- ated. A number of different cultural indicators could be included at this observ- able level. The most obvious of these are the artifacts—0r things—created by organizational members and the overt behavior of organizational members. A researcher attempting to investigate and understand an organization’s culture would normally begin by considering these overt manifestations. An investiga- tor looking at artifacts might consider such diverse items as architecture, filrni- ture, technology, dress, written documents, and art. An investigator looking at behaviors might consider communication patterns such as forms of address, CULTURAL APPROACHES 105 Artifacts and Creations Technology _, Art 2, Visible but often Visible and audible not decipherable behavior patterns a, T Values Testable in the physical _ environment f; Greater level Testable only by social of awareness consensus ' L Basic Assumptions Relationship to environment Nature of reality, time, and space Nature of human nature Nature of human activity Nature of human relation Taken for granted Invisible Preconscious Figure 5—1 Levels of Culture and Their Interaction. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, from Schein, H., Organizational culture and leadership. © 1985 by Iossey-Bass, Inc, Publishers. decision—making styles, communication during meetings, and network configu- ration. These items, and the questions a cultural investigator might ask about them, are included in Table 5—2. Ofcourse, as Schein (1985) notes, “whereas it is easy to observe artifacts— even subtle ones, such as the way in which status is demonstrated by members— the difficulty is figuring out what the artifacts mean, how they interrelate, what deeper patterns, if any, they reflect” (p. 15). Hence, even this outer layer is la— beled as “difficult to decipher” in Schein’s model. Imagine, for instance, that you notice that the faculty in a communication department all address each other by formal titles (e.g., “Professor Iones” or “Doctor Smith”) rather than by first names. How are you to interpret this observation? Perhaps faculty at; in? 106 CHAPTER FIVE Table 5-2 Cultural Artifacts and Behaviors Artifact / B ehavior Possible Questions of Cultural Researcher Architecture Furniture Technology Dress Written documents Art Forms of address Decision—making style Communication during meetings Network configuration Is the floor plan open? Do the offices have windows? Who has the large offices? What part of the building does the company occupy? Is the furniture functional? Is the furniture comfortable? How is the furniture arranged? Does the furniture match? How is furni— ture distributed among employees of various hierarchical levels? What kind of hone s 'stem is used? How u —to—date are the com— P 3 P puter systems? What are the usage patterns of computers, fax, and phone systems? Does the company use video conferencing? Is there a dress code? Do men wear suits and ties? Do women wear dresses? Does dress vary by position? Does dress vary by day of the week? Is all activity documented? Handwritten, typed, or electronic? How are forms processed and filed? Are there rules in place for document creation and destruction? Is public art classical? Modern? Impressionistic? Do employees decorate their own spaces with posters and photos? What do those personal spaces look like? Are titles or first names used? Do forms of address vary by job level? Do forms of address change over time? Does everyone fol— low the same rules for address? Do managers make decisions autocratically or participatively? Do managers consult with employees on decisions? Are decisions made quickly or after much deliberation? How formal are meetings? Are “Robert’s Rules of Order” always used? Is there always an agenda? Do participants stick to it? Are decisions made in meetings? Are people attentive during meetings? Who talks to whom? Does the network pattern vary for work and social communication? Has the network pattern changed over time? members hold each other in such high esteem that the use of titles seems natu— ral and appropriate. Perhaps formality is the rule throughout the university. Per— haps faculty members are trying to set an example for students. Perhaps faculty members dislike each other intensely and hence try to maintain a distant rela— tionship. Any of these explanations might be plausible and each says very differ- CULTURAL APPROACHES 107 ent things about the organizational culture. Thus, to get a better handle on the cultural meaning of observable behaviors and artifacts, we must move to Schein’s second level of culture. Level 2: Espoused Values. The second level of Schein’s model of culture is composed of individual and group values. Values represent preferences or what “ought” to happen. For example, an individual with a value for hard work will probably spend long hours at the office. A manager who values innovativeness will reward workers who come up with new and better ideas for getting the job done. Thus, this level ofculture represents a mosaic of beliefs about how things ought to be done in an organization. There are several interesting points that should be raised about this second level of culture. First, organizations do not have values, individuals do. The in— dividuals in an organization may hold a wide range of values whose variety will contribute to the existence of the organizational subcultures that we considered earlier. However, not all values will hold equal “weight” in an organization. In— deed, many scholars believe that the values of the organizational founder or chief executive officer (CEO) play a critical role in shaping the organization’s culture. In discussing the values and behaviors of the CEO, Bennis states that “[h]e or she is the one clearly responsible for shaping the beliefs, motives, com— mitments, and predispositions of all executivesfifrom senior management to the operators of the organization” (1986, cited in Morley & Shockley—Zalabak, 1991, p. 425). In support of this, Morley and Shockley—Zalabak (1991) deter- mined that founder values exert a strong influence on the values held by other employees. A second point about the value level of Culture is that sometimes individuals say they hold a particular value but their behavior belies that statement. Thus, Schein labels the “middle” level of culture “espoused values” (see Argyris 8: Schon, 1978), emphasizing that stated value and behavior don’t always match. For example, a manager might say that she values the contributions of her em— ployees in decision making. However, that same manager might consistently make decisions without seeking employee input. Thus, when studying an organi— zation’s culture, it is critical to look at the correspondence between the behaviors and artifacts of Level 1 and the values of Level 2. If there is a strong match be— tween these two levels, it is likely that both the behaviors and the values are indi— cators of underlying cultural assumptions. However, if espoused values do not match artifacts and behaviors, it is possible that the values are really “either ratio» nalizations or only aspirations for the future” (Schein, 1992, p. 21). Because of the contradictions that might be found at this value level of culture, it is often ~53; is? 5’3 ' 5: 108 W CHAPTER FIVE important to look even further, to the third level: the basic assumptions oforga- nizational members. Level 3: Basic Assumptions. Schein’s third level of culture is the “core” as— sumptions that individuals in a group hold about the world and how it works. As indicated in Schein’s definition of culture, these assumptions have become “taken for granted” because they have been reinforced time and time again as the group deals with internal and external problems. These basic assumptions are uniformly held by cultural or subcultural members. However, individuals can rarely articulate them because they have become such a natural part of “the way we are” or “the way we do things around here.” Schein discusses six areas around which these basic assumptions typically rev volve. These are: Assumptions about the nature of reality and truth Assumptions about the nature of time Assumptions about the nature of space Assumptions about the nature of human nature Assumptions about the nature of human activity QWH‘FNNT“ Assumptions about the nature of human relationships Clearly, these basic assumptions are not specific to organizational functioning but deal, instead, with how people View the world and humanity’s relationship to it. Schein believes that an examination of the basic assumptions might reveal a coherent paradigm that guides a strong and united culture. Or, the cultural assumptions might be fragmented and contradictory and point to problems of adapting to external and internal organizational problems. As Schein (1985) states: “Unless we have searched for the pattern among the different underlying assumptions of a group and have attempted to identify the paradigm by which the members ofa group perceive, think about, feel about, and judge situations and relationships, we cannot claim that we have described or understood the group’s culture” (p. 111). Schein’s definition and model, then, represent culture as a complex pattern of assumptions, values, behaviors, and artifacts. The cultural pattern that devel— ops over time in a group might be a consistent one. That is, underlying assump- tions about the world might be reflected in a set ofvalues that in turn generates behaviors and artifacts. In this case, Schein’s model might be seen as an “onion” with interconnected levels. Consider, for example, the “onion” pattern of as— CULTURAL APPROACHES 109 Level 1: Behaviors & Artifacts Relaxed, creative atmosphere Bonuses given for new ideas Suggestion boxes throughout office Level 2: Values Value for innovation Level 3: Assumptions "Change is good" Figure 5—2 An “Onion Model” Example of Organizational Culture sumptions, values, and behaviors illustrated in Figure 5—2. In this illustration, the organization has an underlying assumption that change is good. This under- lying assumption might be reflected in the valuing of innovation in products and services. On the outside layer of the onion, then, are behaviors and artifacts that reflect this value. These might include bonuses for new ideas, suggestion boxes spread around the office, and a relaxed atmosphere that encourages cre— ative thinking. Of course, organizations will also exist in which the assumptions do not match the espoused values or where the values are not reflected in observed be— havior and creations. These cases might indicate the existence of fragmented subcultures or a culture in transition from one set of assumptions and values to another. .5? 110 W CHAPTER FIVE MBIIIOIIS lfll' Slllllllillfl Ol'flfllliZflliflllfll Gulllll'fl In our discussion oforganizational culture, several points have been emphasized. First, an organizational culture is reflected in a complicated set of assumptions, values, behaviors, and artifacts. Second, organizational cultures change over time as groups adapt to environmental contingencies. Third, organizations are usually composed of subcultures existing in varying degrees of harmony or competition. Fourth, organizational cultures are created and maintained through the commu— nicative interactions of organizational members. Research methods used to in— vestigate culture, then, need to account for these facets of culture. Although a variety of analytical tools have been used to investigate organi— zational culture, many researchers believe that qualitative methods are the most appropriate for gaining an understanding of the complicated, fragmented, and changing nature of cultural groups (see Strauss 8c Corbin, 1990). In particular, because the metaphor of culture was borrowed from the field of anthropology, many scholars have turned to an anthropological method, ethnography, for the investigation of organizational culture. , The term ethnography means the “writing of culture,’ and ethnographic methods differ dramatically from traditional social science techniques (Goodall, 2000). To begin with, an organizational ethnographer approaches an organiza— tional culture as a “text” to be read (Brown 8: McMillan, 1991). In order to decipher this cultural text, an ethnographer will try to become immersed in or— ganizational life. For example, an ethnographer attempting to learn about the culture at a fast—food restaurant might get a job flipping burgers (“participant observation”); might spend a great deal of time watching interactions at the res— taurant (“nonparticipant observation”); might examine training manuals and work—related memos (“archival analysis”); or might talk with employees about their values, heroes, metaphors, rules, and stories. Actually, the ethnographer would probably do several or all of these things. Whatever the specific observa— tional techniques, the goal is to minimize the distance between the researcher and the culture being investigated. It is assumed that a rich understanding of culture can be garnered only through personal experience (Jackson, 1989). Through this intense observation of the cultural group, the ethnographer begins to develop an understanding of the values and assumptions at work. In other words, through the observation of organizational behaviors and artifacts (Level 1 of culture) and discussion about organizational values (Level 2 of cul— ture), the researcher develops ideas about the assumptions that drive organiza— tional members (Level 3 of culture) and how all three levels of culture interre— late. Bantz (1993) systematizes this inference process in his “organizational communication culture method.” This method suggests that the researcher should first gather organizational communication messages, then analyze these CULTURALAPPROACHES lll messages in terms of their vocabulary, themes, and symbolic forms (e.g., meta— phors and stories). Inferences can then be made from these messages and sym— bolic forms with regard to organizational norms, roles, motives, and style. Through these methods of observation and inference, the ethnographer thus creates a minitheory that is grounded in observations of a particular orga— nizational culture (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Consider again, for instance, the communication department in which the faculty always address each other by using formal titles. If an ethnographer were studying this department, she might observe many other behaviors and artifacts. She might note that male professors always wear suits and ties when lecturing and that female professors always wear skirts or dresses. She might observe that faculty members socialize together and engage in much more informal behavior outside of the university setting. In talking to faculty members, our ethnographer might find that they often refer to their university and profession in reverential tones. From these and other observations, our ethnographer might begin to build a grounded theory about the department’s culture. This theory might revolve around the importance of scholarly tradition in this culture and discuss the manner in which behaviors and artifacts reflect this basic value. Once a cultural researcher has developed a grounded theory about an orga— nization’s culture, the ethnography of that culture can be written. For a cultural researcher, the writing of the research report rarely takes the form of a traditional social science article (e.g., literature review, methods, results, discussion). Rather, the ethnographer is trying to tell a “cultural tale” to help the reader understand the organization in all of its rich and varied detail. Van Maanen (1988) has dis— cussed three kinds of cultural tales that can be told about an organizational cul— ture. The first, a realist title, is like a documentary, as the ethnographer tries to provide a complete and relatively objective account of what was observed in the organization (e.g., Carbaugh, 1988). The second, a tonfissionul tale, is as much about the ethnographer as about what was observed. That is, the researcher talks very personally about how he or she experienced the culture under investigation (e.g., Goodall, 1991). Finally, an impressionist tale is a narrative in which in— formation about the culture is slipped into a story that could stand on its own dramatic merits (e.g., Goodall, 1989). Critical tnltsinarratives with the express goal of uncovering the deep power structures implicit in organizational func— tioning—could also be added to this list (e.g., Wendt, 1994). Thus, research regarding organizational culture is often quite different from traditional social science research. The researcher usually uses qualitative methods of observation, including participant observation, nonparticipant observation, and interviews. The researcher then tries to gain an understanding of the culture that is grounded in these loeal and detailed observations. Finally, s.maadk..:m'.s.2w;aw.tmsm ‘NthlM-xuvdwm.dvn ._ 7.1m» fl '3? ,3 .21 *3 Cl A :1 '2 j ,3 =4 "‘l l 112 CHAPTER FIVE the researcher shares this cultural understanding with readers through tales that reflect the complex, emergent, and interactional performance of a particular or- ganizational culture. Summarv This chapter has presented approaches that view organizations and communica- tion through the lens ofa cultural metaphor. We began by considering two books about business practices that popularized the notion of “organizational culture.” These books, Corporate Cultures, by Deal and Kennedy, and In Search of Excellence, by Peters and Waterman, conceptualize culture as a “thing” that belongs to an organization. In this View, having the “right” organizational cul— ture is a prescription for success. This prescriptive view of culture, however, has been largely rejected by aca- demics. Instead, scholars now take an approach that emphasizes the description and understanding of culture. This approach emphasizes that cultures are very complex, are socially constructed through the communicative interaction of or- ganizational members, are composed of fragmented subcultural units, and may be fraught with ambiguity. We then considered an approach developed by Schein that emphasizes the emergent and complex nature of culture. Specifically, Schein argues that cul— tures can best be conceptualized as having three levels: behaviors and artifacts, espoused organizational values, and taken—for—granted assumptions about how the world works. Finally, we looked at the research methods used by researchers of organiza— tional culture. We noted that cultural investigators—ethnographers—typically use qualitative methods to build a grounded theory that enhances cultural un— derstanding. Research results are then communicated to the audience through the telling of cultural tales. InfoTrac College Edition Questions Use InfoTrac College Edition to find “Perceptions of Organizational Culture and Women’s Advancement in Organizations: A Cross—Cultural Examination,” by Linda Bajdo and Marcus Dickson, published in Sex R015::A]0urnal ofRe- rmrch in 200]. How does the approach taken by these authors fit into the vari— ous approaches to organizational culture considered in this chapter? How does this article help you understand the ways in which men and women behave in the cultures of various organizations? 441114444444444444‘ 4<1¢<<4<111<411144 fifldédfléfldfi‘ 4.24 «a. '"u ‘53 ‘2‘? Q a :2» «a «.2 4 “1% 4; ;<§‘Q‘6<‘4§€34£ «a «a ‘6‘ a: v; 5;: v ’9' In July of 1985, Houston Natural Gas merged with InterNorth, a natural gas com- pany based in Omaha, Nebraska. This merger formed Enron, a natural gas pipeline com— pany with over 35,000 miles of pipe. In 1989, Enron expanded beyond the pipeline business and began trading natural gas com— modities. In 1994, Enron began trading elec— tricity. Soon, Enron was the largest trader of natural gas in North America and the United Kingdom and the largest marketer of electric— ity in the United States. Enron went on to trade coal, pulp, paper, plastics, metals—even bandwidth. As Enron expanded, its value as a publicly traded company was enhanced. By December 2000, Enron shares on the New York Stock Exchange hit a 52—week high of $84.87. Less than a year later, Enron filed for bankruptcy and its stock was trading for less than $1, marking the most spectacular corpo~ rate collapse ever. What happened? How did a company riding as high as Enron (a sign greeting visii tors at corporate headquarters in Houston hailed it as “the world’s leading company”) fall apart so quickly and so completely? Many explanations for the collapse have been of— fered, including quick expansion, risky busi— ness ventures, slavish attention to stock prices, questionable or illegal accounting practices, and dishonest communication with shareholders. Interested parties in govern— ment, business, the media, and academia will spend many years sorting out the extent to which these issues were factors in the failure. THE RISE AND FALL However, very soon after Enron’s fall, many analysts were suggesting that a key contribu» tor to the collapse of Enron was its organiza— tional culture (Hassell, 2001; “Houston, we have a problem,” 2001; Sloan, 2002). When organizations are in times of dy— namic growth, there is little doubt that the culture will be one of confidence and aggres— siveness. If the organization is to successfully branch out and deal with competition in the marketplace, managers and workers often de- velop a strong culture that exemplifies Peters and Waterman’s (1982) call for autonomy and entrepreneurship. However, analysts of Enron believe that the culture of “confidence and aggressiveness” turned into one of “cockiness and arrogance” and that this cul— ture—together with issues of finance, ac— counting, and business development—led to the most dramatic crash in US. corporate history. As Sloan (2002, p. 21) notes, “What made Enron successful—innovation and dar— ing—got the company into trouble.” Hassell (2001) discusses a number of “cultural indi— cators” and “cultural values” that, in retro— spect, may have spelled doom for Enron (see also Sloan, 2002). Consider just a few: 0 Employees up and down the hierarchy adopted a “cocky” attitude after their fast and meteoric growth. As Hassell (2001, p. 29a) explains, “[t]he arrogance at Enron became a palpable force.” This attitude gave Enron executives and workers the be— lief that they could tackle anything—even 113 l..b_-...:~.h.‘.~;~....‘.u.k.;‘_L-. .24.“ «3.7.1.4 Jauwamfl 114 CHAPTER FIVE projects that seemed questionable to the outside observer. The reward system at Enron, initially based on group and team performance, increas— ingly relied on individual performance. When Ieffrey Skilling was CEO, one per— formance review process became known as “rank and yank” (Hassell, 2001). In this system, employees ranked each others’ per— formances, these rankings were combined, and the lowest 15 percent were laid off each year. Hassell (2001, p. 29a) quotes a former Enron employee on this system: “Because of that, you never helped one an— other. Everyone was in it for themselves. People stabbed you in the back.” 401(k)s. This, of course, increased the pressure to perform at all levels as employ- ees’ individual flscal stability was tied to the performance of the company. Sadly, many Enron employees lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement savings when the company collapsed. While it thrived, though, attention to stock prices drove many employees. As a former senior executive described, “Everyone was just too excited about the stock price and how rich we were getting. The company sold its soul for a higher stock price” (Hassell, 2001, p. 30a). Hassell (2001, p. 1a) begins his Houston Enron’s reward system also highlighted the Chronicle article about Enron by stating, “1f importance of individual accomplishment the incredible collapse of Houston’s most with big bonuses and promotions for those powerful company were written like a who- who landed important deals each quarter. dunit, there would be no shortage of clues to Another former Enron employee explains: sift through in search of the culprit behind it “It took everyone’s eye off the big picture all.” This puts the analysis of organizational .1: it, retirement investment programs—cg . , a and made them focus on pushing deals culture in a nutshell—it is sifting through ‘ through the system, even if the deal was a messages, stories, behaviors, and values to bad deal” (Hassell, 2001, p. 29a). find clues to the workings of an organization. ' One eye at Enron was always on the price of its stock. As Hassell (2001, p. 30a) Discussion aueslions States» managers and Workers anke were 1. Consider Schein’s “onion model” of orga— % “eager to keep the Company gFOWing and nizational culture. What were the values the stock price soaring.” This attention to and underlying assumptions at Enron? $ stock may have led to risky dec1srons about HOW do you think those values and as_ deals and ventures and t0 queStlonable sumptions were illustrated in overt arti— , ways of accounting for those deals. Hassell facts and behaviors; E (20013 P‘ 303) qn0te5 an tndnSttY analyse . How were various aspects of Enron’s cul— “Tney bOOked 3“ the deals, Pronts up“ ture interconnected? Did the culture form g front» eVen though the PaYOtt “’Onld be a coherent whole? Do you believe there for nVe Yeats; 10 Years: or 15 Yeats- When may have been subcultures at Enron that 9 you do thata there is an urgency to bOOk could be differentiated? How might these new deals, because all the old profit is al— subcultures have been defined; § ready nOOked- When You Pnsn tne ontet . Do you think there is anything that could hm1ts hke that, 1t puts tremendous pres— have been done_in terms of organizer E sure on everyone in the Company” tional culture—to “save” Enron? If you The concentration On Stoek Price was had been a communication consultant at enhanced because most employees were the corporation, what might vou have sug_ § heavily invested in Enron stock through gested in 1995? In 1998; 111'2001; ...
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