culture

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culture

The norms and shared attitudes that pervade an ORGANIZATION. It may be expressed in symbols, rituals and the language used by organization members. It thus constitutes the distinctive characteristics of an organization. In recent years managerial interest in organizational culture has grown enormously It is believed that the culture will influence how individuals behave at work and hence will affect both individual and organizational performances.

A number of types of culture have been identified in this respect:

  1. power culture, characterized by an emphasis on personal charisma, risk-taking and a low level of respect for procedures. This might be found in a small entrepreneurial organization, where power tends to be concentrated in the entrepreneur;
  2. rôle culture, characterized by well-defined procedures and job roles, and an emphasis on conformity. This might be found in an established BUREAUCRACY for example government administration;
  3. task culture, characterized by an emphasis on problem-solving by expert teams. Groups are formed to deal with particular problems. Once the task is completed the group may be disbanded. Here the culture is one which attaches importance to expertise, though in fact expertise may be less developed in organizations of this sort than in role culture organizations, where job roles are more specialized. Task culture places a much greater emphasis on flexibility and creativity than does role culture;
  4. person-oriented culture, characterized by an emphasis on meeting the needs of individuals in the organization. This is often found in small, ‘alternative’ organizations. It may also characterize small organizations composed mainly of PROFESSIONALS, such as small consultancy companies, where it is deemed important that individuals be given some freedom to shape their jobs so that they can pursue particular professional or other ‘acceptable’ outside interests (for example, being a local councillor).

A concern of many managers in recent years has been that the prevailing culture of their organization is inappropriate, or even obstructive, to a desired change in objectives. For instance, a role culture, where jobs are specialized and well-defined, could obstruct creativity and hence prevent an organization from becoming more entrepreneurial. As a result much attention recently has been devoted to changing cultures. It is doubtful, however, whether managers can actually achieve dramatic cultural change in the short term. Culture is influenced by a complex of factors, such as the character and background of the workforce, many of which are to some extent independent of managerial action. See MANAGEMENT STYLE. MECHANISTIC AND ORGANISMIC, EXCELLENCE CULTURE.

Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson
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