Culture matters, according to Ed Schein, "...because it is a powerful, latent, and often unconscious set of forces that determine both our individual and collective behavior, ways of perceiving, thought patterns, and values. Organization culture in particular matters because cultural elements determine strategy, goals, and modes of operating. The values and thought patterns of leaders and senior managers are partially determined by their own cultural backgrounds and their shared experience. If we want to make organizations more efficient and effective, then we must understand the role that culture plays in organizational life."
Yet, the biggest danger in trying to understand culture, according to Schein, is to oversimplify it in our minds. It is tempting— and at some level valid—to say that culture is just “the way we do things around here,“ “the rites and rituals of our company,“ “the company climate,“ “the reward system,“ “our basic values,“ and so on. These are all manifestations of the culture, but none is the culture at the level where culture matters. A better way to think about culture is to realize that it exists at several “levels,“ and that we must understand an manage the deeper levels.
In addition, Daniel Denison at the University of Michigan, has studied the impact that organizational culture can have on performance and effectiveness over time, particularly, that there is a close relationship between the culture of an organization, its management practices, and its future performance and effectiveness. Denison's research indicates that the values and beliefs of an organization give rise to a set of management practices that then reinforce the dominant values and beliefs.
Our approach to cultural alignment and change is grounded in both the qualitative approach suggested by Schein and in the quantitative approach to measuring performance effectiveness as developed by Denison.
The Research Shows
-Research involving over 2,000 companies indicates that effective organizational cultures, regardless of organizational size, industry, sector, or age, achieve results by unleashing the very best that the individual has to offer (Involvement: internal orientation which enhances flexibility),
- within the framework of a vivid direction (Mission: external orientation which enhances stability),
- with systems to support efficient and quality delivery of products and services (Consistency: internal orientation which enhances stability,
- while being continually open and responsive, both to its many stakeholders, and to new paths and possibilities in this highly changing world (Adaptability: external orientation which enhances flexibility).
Denison, D.R. (1990; 1994; 1996); Denison, D. R. and Mishra, A. K. (1995); Denison, D. R. and Mishra, A.K. (1996); Denison, D.R. and Neale, W.S. (1996); Fisher, C. J. (1997)
What do we mean by Culture?*
(The visible structures, policies, practices and processes. What you see, hear, and feel when you go into an organization)
(What the organization “says” it believes to be it's values, strategies, goals, and philosophies.)
Basic Underlying Assumptions
(The unconscious, taken-for-granted, outside-of-awareness beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings.)
Culture Change — the Bottom Line
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