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To what extent can organisational culture be managed. How critical is it for organisation success

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To what extent can organisational culture be managed? Is organisational culture critical to the success of an organisation? Peter Anthony (1994) asserts that the pursuit of change in a cultural sense has been considered synonymous with the pursuit of excellence for organisations. It is true that a wide variety of management practitioners view the control of organisational culture as something both possible and necessary for organisational success (Brown 1993). A survey of organisational practices of a range of firms revealed that 94% of the firms had engaged in 'culture management' of some sort (IRS 1997). However, despite the apparent popularity of these practices and the strong level of importance placed upon these activities, it can be seen that there is no factual evidence that supports the assertion that organisational culture as a whole can be managed, or that such a culture is critical to the success of an organisation. An examination of the various theoretical and practical pieces that both support and reject these ideas reveals that the truth of the theories are at best overstated, and possibly completely incorrect altogether. An evaluation of the extent to which organisational culture can be managed must first be given a groundwork definition of 'culture' from which management efforts to change this phenomenon can be assessed. A major issue that academics and practitioners alike have faced is this definitional problem. There are a wide range of definitions that can be applied, and in many cases the definition utilised is paired with a most suitable methodology according to the researcher (Burrell and Morgan 1979, Ogbonna 1990 and Smircich 1983). These disagreements on the nature and scope of organisational culture have contributed strongly to the inconclusiveness of research conducted on the subject (Harris and Ogbonna 2000, Lim 1995). In order to examine the extent to which culture can be managed however, a generalised concept of 'culture' must be utilised. ...read more.


The greatest limitation of quantitative data is its inability to go beyond the superficial aspects of organisational culture - that is, the realised actions and behaviours of staff members - and reveal any information about the underlying assumptions and beliefs that form the basis for any organisational culture (Saffold 1988, Schein 1990). Additionally, the use of surveys incurs a basic limitation in that answers will unconsciously be bound by the question (Lim 1995). As a result of the severe methodological limitations evident in any attempt made to quantify a link between organisational culture and organisational success, there have been very few empirical studies that have managed to relate cultural characteristics to the financial performance of a firm (Gordon 1992). In the absence of objective, comparable data that is bound by a set of agreed definitional boundaries, it is impossible to assert with certainty that there is a link between organisational culture and success. Christensen and Raynor, in their piece detailing the relevance of academic management theory to practical organisational use, discuss the concept of being a "discerning consumer of theory" (2003, p. 73). One of the issues that a large amount of theories experience within the field of management is to diagnose correlation as causation. The two are explicitly different - correlation merely identifies a link, whereas causation implies a direct relationship where the advent of one variable will be the cause of the second variable occurring. A review of the studies examining this topic reveals there is no real indication of an existing relationship between organisational culture and short-term corporate financial performance, let alone a causal link. Several studies (notably Frame et al. 1989 and Quick 1992) reported their outcome data as successful, but in each of the cases there was no evidence of a firm relationship between culture and performance. What this highlights is that the usefulness of measuring organisational culture (whatever the assumptions and methodology used) ...read more.


O'Reilly, C., Chatham, C. and Caldwell, R. 1988, "People, jobs and organizational culture", University of California, Berkeley, CA. Ott, S.J. 1989, The Organizational Culture Perspective, Dorsey Press, Chicago, IL. Ouchi, W.G. 1981, Theory Z, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA. Pfeffer, J. 1999, 'Putting people first for organisational success', Academy of management executive, vol. 13:2. Quick, J.C. 1992, "Crafting an organizational culture: Herb's hand at Southwest Airlines", Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 45-56. Reed, R. and DeFillipi, R. 1990. 'Causal ambiguity, barriers to imitation and sustainable competitive advantage', Academy of Management Review, vol. 15:1 , pp. 88-102. Reynolds, P. 1986. 'Organizational culture as related to industry, position and performance: A preliminary report.' Journal of Management Studies, vol. 23:3, pp. 333-345. Risher, H. 2007. Managing to create a performance culture. PM.Public Management, 89(5), 25-29. Sackman, S. 1991, "Uncovering culture in organizations", Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 295-317. Saffold, G.S. 1988, "Culture traits, strength, and organizational performance: moving beyond strong culture", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 546-58. Sathe, V. 1983, 'Implications of corporate culture: a manager's guide to action', Organisational Dynamics, vol. 12:2, pp. 5-23. Schein, E. 1985, Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. Schein, E. 1990, "Organizational culture", American Psychologist, Vol. 45 No. 2, pp. 109-19. Schall, M. 1983, 'A communications-rules approach to organisational culture', Administrative Science, vol. 28:1, pp. 557-581. Scholz, C. 1987, 'Corporate culture and strategy - The problem of strategic fit', Long Range Planning, vol. 20:4, pp. 78-87. Smircich, L. 1983 'Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis', Administrative Science Quarterly, 28:3, pp. 339-358. Smith, M. 2003, 'Changing an organisation's culture: correlates of success and failure', Leadership and Organisation Development Journal, vol. 24:5, pp. 249-261. Soupata, L. 2001. 'Managing culture for competitive advantage at united parcel service'. Global Business and Organizational Excellence, 20:3, pp. 19-26. Troy, K. 1994, Change Management: An Overview of Current Initiatives, The Conference Board, New York, NY. Weick, K. 1985, 'The significance of corporate culture', Organisational Culture, vol. 12:1, pp. 381-389. Wilkins, A. and Ouchi, W, 'Organisational Culture', Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 28:3, pp. 468-481. 311242847 311242847 ...read more.

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