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Organizational culture is defined as “A pattern of shared basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration" that have 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” Schein. It has also been defined as "the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization." Ravasi and Schultz (2006) state that organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations.
Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values. In such environments, strong cultures help firms operate like well-oiled machines, cruising along with outstanding execution and perhaps minor tweaking of existing procedures here and there.
Conversely, there is weak culture where there is little alignment with organizational values and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.
Where culture is strong, people do things because they believe it is the right thing to do, and there is a risk of another phenomenon, groupthink. "Groupthink" was described by Irving L. Janis.He defined it as "a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when members' strive for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternatives of action." This is a state in which even if they have different ideas, do not challenge organizational thinking, and therefore there is a reduced capacity for innovative thoughts. This could occur, for example, where there is heavy reliance on a central charismatic figure in the organization, or where there is an evangelical belief in the organization' values, or also in groups where a friendly climate is at the base of their identity (avoidance of conflict). In fact, groupthink is very common and happens all the time, in almost every group. Members that are defiant are often turned down or seen as a negative influence by the rest of the group because they bring conflict.
Innovative organizations need individuals who are prepared to challenge the status quo, groupthink or bureaucracy, and need procedures to implement new ideas effectively.
Characteristics of healthy organizational cultures
Organizations should strive for what is considered a “healthy” organizational culture in order to increase productivity, growth, efficiency and reduce counterproductive behavior and turnover of employees. A variety of characteristics describe a healthy culture, including:
- Acceptance and appreciation for diversity
- Regard for and fair treatment of each employee as well as respect for each employee’s contribution to the company
- Employee pride and enthusiasm for the organization and the work performed
- Equal opportunity for each employee to realize their full potential within the company
- Strong communication with all employees regarding policies and company issues
- Strong company leaders with a strong sense of direction and purpose
- Ability to compete in industry innovation and customer service, as well as price
- Lower than average turnover rates (perpetuated by a healthy culture)
- Investment in learning, training, and employee knowledge
Typologies of organizational cultures
Several methods have been used to classify organizational culture. Some are described below:
Hofstede (1980) demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behavior of organizations.
Hofstede looked for national differences between over 100,000 of IBM's employees in different parts of the world, in an attempt to find aspects of culture that might influence business behavior.
Hofstede identified four dimensions of culture in his study of national influences:
- Power distance - The degree to which a society expects there to be differences in the levels of power. A high score suggests that there is an expectation that some individuals wield larger amounts of power than others. A low score reflects the view that all people should have equal rights.
- Uncertainty avoidance reflects the extent to which a society accepts uncertainty and risk.
- Individualism vs. collectivism - individualism is contrasted with collectivism, and refers to the extent to which people are expected to stand up for themselves, or alternatively act predominantly as a member of the group or organization. However, recent researches have shown that high individualism may not necessarily mean low collectivism, and vice versa. Research indicates that the two concepts are actually unrelated. Some people and cultures might have both high individualism and high collectivism, for example. Someone who highly values duty to his or her group does not necessarily give a low priority to personal freedom and self-sufficiency
- Masculinity vs. femininity - refers to the value placed on traditionally male or female values. Male values for example include competitiveness, assertiveness, ambition, and the accumulation of wealth and material possessions.
- Daniel Denison’s model (1990) asserts that organizational culture can be described by four general dimensions ? Mission, Adaptability, Involvement and Consistency. Each of these general dimensions is further described by the following three sub-dimensions:
- Mission - Strategic Direction and Intent, Goals and Objectives and Vision
- Adaptability - Creating Change, Customer Focus and Organizational Learning
- Involvement - Empowerment, Team Orientation and Capability Development
- Consistency - Core Values, Agreement,Coordination/Integration
Deal and Kennedy:
Deal and Kennedy defined organizational culture as the way things get done around here.In relation to its feedback this would mean a quick response and also measured organizations in ition, such as oil prospecting or military aviation.