the importance of Organizational Culture in management

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Organizational culture, the most influential of the past several decades has been the largest and concepts of management buzzwords. Hofstede (1997) report that the term as a synonym for organizational culture, organizational climate appeared during the 1960s. “Corporate culture” after the publication of several popular press in the 1980s, general management buzzword has become. Interrelated academic and popular management literature the culture and its impact is reflected in the subjects, there is widespread belief that the organizational culture, organizational effectiveness near is related. The culture of organizational problems often cause a comfortably vague and is all inclusive.

Some examples of the proposed impact of organizational culture remains strong interest in why the concept can underscore. Culture, a source of competitive advantage as has been explored, although others have limited empirical evidence . Attention post-merger/acquisition integration has been in the organizational culture . Also, organizational culture, success or failure of large-scale efforts to change.

In a review of recent diversity literature Jackson, Joshi and Erhardt (2003) report results of studies exploring effects of organizational culture on diversity dynamics. Ely and Thomas (2001 ) contend that diversity is more likely to lead to positive outcomes if organizational culture stresses integration and learning. Cox and Tung (1997) argue that the degree of structure and informal integration in an organization will influence outcomes of diversity. Polzer, Milton and Swann (2002) suggest organizational cultures may influence the process of identity negotiation and that teams are more likely to benefit from diversity when team members’ identities are verified by reflected appraisals of other team members.

Definitions of organizational culture reflects the dichotomy in the conceptualization, although some researchers have developed integration frameworks. On the one hand, culture is seen in practices and behaviors – “how things are done here”. Other conceptualize culture in practices that support. In 1992 Hunt say about culture as the value, beliefs and attitudes which shows how the company perceive and Interpretation of events. The same applies to Davis (1984), involves the culture of beliefs and values that give meaning and organization provide members with rules of behavior.

Schein (1985) argues that organizational culture “should be reserved for the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic” taken for acquired “fashion an organization seen by himself and his environment”. Others, such as Hampden-Turner (1990) see culture as a concept fill levels and function at the subconscious level visible and concrete. Hofstede (1997) defines organizational culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of an organization from another”, but he also argues that “the common perception of daily practices must be considered the core of an organization of culture “.

Multicultural Organizations: Opportunities and Challenges

Much has been written about problems and benefits of diversity in cross-cultural management and diversity literature. During the past decade, however, there has been an interesting shift in the rhetoric of diversity. Thomas and Ely (1996) cite the increasing emphasis on diversity as a spur for greater organizational effectiveness. Robinson and Deschant (1997) argue that diversity makes good business sense. Popular diversity discourse aside, however, diversity does not automatically lead to greater organizational effectiveness. Although there is general acknowledgement that cultural diversity offers numerous potential benefits to an organization, those benefits may not be realized unless they are purposefully pursued. Moreover, the challenges presented by diversity may negatively impact organizational performance unless properly managed.

What are the benefits and challenges of a multicultural organization. When employees representing nine nationalities, who work in eight multicultural organizations in Luxembourg answered those questions they discussed advantages and disadvantages for both organizations and individuals (Trefry, 2001). Without exception those interviewed saw multicultural diversity as an important asset for organizations. They reported organizational advantages such as:

  1. the possibility of matching employees with diverse customers/clients;
  2. ability to apply knowledge of different cultures to business projects;
  3. better decision-making and problem-solving after considering diverse perspectives;
  4.  more creativity and innovation in products, services and organizational processes.

In addition, however, to echoing benefits described in the diversity literature, Luxembourg respondents emphasized personal benefits such as:

  1. greater personal ability to cope with the unexpected;
  2. broadening of their perspectives on any given issue;
  3. greater tolerance and acceptance of others’ differences;
  4. greater flexibility in their own personal behavior, communication and interaction styles;
  5. enhanced self-insight.

Interestingly enough, it is understanding the logic of personal benefits cited and applying it at an organizational level that offers insight on how organizations can achieve maximum value from a culturally diverse workforce.

Implications for Multicultural Organizations

Although multicultural organizations are increasingly the norm, most are just beginning to strategically deal with their cultural diversity. Thus we come back to the primary premise of our exploration: organizational culture has the potential for even greater impact in multicultural organizations because it can intensify both the benefits and the challenges of cultural diversity, and thus indirectly, affect potential competitive advantage. Yet how is it that multicultural organizations manage the challenges and achieve the maximum benefit from their cultural diversityThe answer lies in the nature of the organizational culture as well as a strategic approach to harnessing diversity for benefit of the organization. It is the strategic utilization of cultural differences that creates real competitive advantage for the organization.

A metaphor of organizational culture as a double-edged sword that cuts in numerous directions seems appropriate. Organizational culture can exacerbate the challenges of diversity. It can also intensify potential benefits. At the practices level organizational culture can facilitate integration; at the level of business assumptions and shared frames of reference guiding how the work of the organization is accomplished there is potential danger that a strong culture can downplay or even negate the advantages of cultural diversity. Too much uniformity in mental models about ways work is approached may encourage employees to accept existing paradigms for the organization’s work without ever questioning them.

How can organizations create a culture that values differences and purposefully facilitates “cultural synergy,” as it has been labeled by Adler (2002). The question leads us to a paradox which needs to be explored at both practices and underlying values, beliefs and assumptions levels of culture. At the practices level organizational norms are operationalized by processes, procedures and policies. Yet acceptance of the value of multiple perspectives and approaches means there is both individual and organizational flexibility to sometimes act outside of delineated policies, processes and procedures and that diverse approaches can co-exist and influence each other. Pascale (1990) describes this paradox as a vector of contention between mandatory and discretionary systems and charges managers with responsibility for “orchestrating the tension and harnessing contending opposites”.

Managing this tension between opposites, however, is a significant challenge. The traditional western managerial mindset has stressed consistency of policies and procedures in order to reduce ambiguity and promote internal integration (Senge, 1990). Indeed the common assumption has been that effective organizations have strong, highly consistent and well integrated cultures (Saffold, 1988). Yet there has also been increasing recognition of an organizational irony: well-integrated organizations are often the least responsive to changing conditions. Success in today’s continually changing environments requires that people in organizations think in different ways, learn, and adapt to evolving circumstances. It is such requirements that underscore the need to purposefully explore organizational culture at the underlying beliefs, values and assumptions level.

Thinking in different ways, learning and appropriate adaptation can only happen if there is continual questioning of organizational frames of reference – those constellations of beliefs, values and assumptions that determine how the organization approaches its business. Here the insight regarding personal benefits of working in a multicultural environment seems applicable. Multicultural team members in Trefry’s study (2001) attributed their broadened perspectives, increased personal tolerance, flexibility and adaptability to their exposure to different ways of thinking and their consequent reexamination of their own perspectives. Thus as Gentile (1996) so eloquently asserts, “it is precisely through our interactions and confrontations with difference-of perspective, of prior experience, of style, of identity- that we come to recognize the limits of our own perspectives, experiences, and styles”.

The same logic can apply at both individual and organizational levels. Exposure to different values, beliefs, assumptions and perspectives can lead to broadening our frames of reference, whether at a personal level or an organizational level. Indeed Trefry & Vaillant (2002) suggest that individuals and organizations actually “learn” from expanding the frames of reference through which they view and interpret what they see and experience – thus increasing their awareness of alternative ways to act. Developing a greater range of options can promote organizational flexibility, enabling adaptation to the needs of specific contexts. Insight facilitated by expanded frames of reference can be used to generate new approaches to business issues and practices.


Thus challenging existing organizational assumptions and broadening frames of reference offers a rich potential for increased effectiveness and competitive advantage. The organizational “learning” must go beyond exploration of differences, however. The goal is to integrate different approaches and frames of reference into new, more sophisticated approaches and organizational frames of reference. Adler (2002) argues that “culturally synergistic organizations reflect the best aspects of all members’ cultures in their strategy, structure, and process without violating the norms of any single culture”.

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