At the heart of any organisation lies its culture in which are found the philosophies on how to work together and individually, how to treat customers, and how to generate revenue or keep the business operating successfully. Leaders and even middle managers are concerned with meeting some key goals tied to customers, products, and revenue, but they sometimes do not pay attention to the culture. The overriding beliefs and behaviours in the organisation that truly determine the ability to hit those key goals or not (Ford 2008: 1). It is the culture that determines how things get done, whether it is in a good or bad way, and it provides the mechanism for changing strategies and responding to competition or causing the demise of a merger or creating silos of isolation and conflict (Ford 2008: 2). Therefore, effectively managing culture in a way that addresses problems and helps everyone in the organisation embrace this culture will provide a strong foundation for accomplishing all the organisation’s strategic objectives. This paper will critically evaluate both the assumptions and methods put forward by various writers, including Edgar Schein, to effectively manage organisational culture as an integral component of management practices and strategic success.
As part of social science, the study of culture has been around for many decades as a means of better understanding how it plays a role in the “functioning of society” (Denison and Mishra 1995: 204). In recent years, business theorists began to look at the organisation of companies in the same manner, understanding that the same socialisation process could be applied to a business that previously might have just been seen as an intangible thing rather than a living organism that was made up of individual and collective behaviours. One book described culture as the result of “group learning experiences in which a number of people face a problem and work out a solution together” (Miner 2007: 321). This could mean that one organisation develops a culture that can provide them with a competitive advantage whilst another may focus on ethical or environmental standards and still another may look to create a culture that is geared toward customers or technological innovation (Sims 2002: 301). Whatever the case, the culture is directed toward a particular belief about one of those areas that serves to direct all the organisation’s approach to strategy as well as its interaction with the external and internal environments. That would certainly describe what is happening with business today as products and services are framed around finding solutions whilst internal processes are devised to solve internal problems. Other issues on an internal scale are also being linked to culture, especially when it comes to large firms caught up in scandals riddled with a lack of ethics like Enron and many of the recent lending practices in the U.S. and the U.K. that led to the credit crunch, in which the blame was placed firmly on the shoulders of the leaders and the culture that they had developed that might have promoted greed and a lack of ethical behaviours (Pfister 2009: 2).
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