Corporate Culture : The Key to Understanding Work Organisations

Organisational or corporate culture is widely held to refer to a system of
shared meanings held by members that distinguishes the organisation from other
organisations, that is a set of shared key characteristics or values.

The culture that an organisation has will play an important part in its success
in its market sector. Likewise an organisation\'s continued success will depend
to a large extent on the ability of the leadership of the organisation to
perpetuate that culture.

A large, established organisation in a mature market is likely to have
objectives of moderate growth and the maintenance of its position within the
market. McDonald\'s is an example of such an organisation. You could walk in to
a McDonald\'s restaurant in London, Tokyo or Moscow and expect to see staff
dressed in the same uniform serving the same food from within restaurants that
look remarkably similar. There are no risks to be taken here and rarely a snap
decision to be made and certainly not by the staff.

Contrast this with a small organisation, thirsty for success in an emergent
market such as Steve Job\'s Apple Computers in the early eighties. Here was a
company led by a very strong character who was highly motivated, possessed a
highly practical imagination and was fanatical about detail. He built up a
multinational company on the strength of his ability to promote free thinking
coupled with the attention to detail that is required to produce a world class
computer within the organisation that he ran.

It is quite clear that if the cultures of these two organisations were
transposed there would be internal chaos and the company\'s would lose their
positions within their markets. A McDonald\'s restaurant that started to add
flair to its menu would soon cut in to the company\'s tightly controlled profit
margins whereas a company with tightly enforced rules and regulations could
never lead the market in innovative technologies.

It is not by chance that these two organisations have such different cultures.
They are each the product of a clearly constructed and executed leadership
policies reinforced by the organisation\'s founders and subsequently their top
management. The processes of selection and socialisation are key tools in the
maintenance of an organisation\'s culture.

The selection process is typically employed within organisations not only to
select individuals who have the technical skills and knowledge to perform their
roles within the organisation but also to select people who will fit in with,
and not undermine, the organisation\'s culture.

The process of socialisation has as its key objective the moulding of the
individual, who has already been selected partly for their apparent conformity
with the organisation\'s core values, in to a true member of the organisation
where their values and norms are synchronised with those of their work group

A work organisation cannot be understood, however, by studying it\'s culture in
isolation to the areas of group dynamics, leadership, power and influence. It
is indeed not possible to understand organisational culture without putting it
within the context of organisational behaviour as a whole.

Leadership plays a key role in the establishment of organisational culture. As
culture is principally the subjective perception of the organisation\'s and how
it achieves those aims then leadership must play a central role in setting the
values that underlie this perception.

The founders of an organisation hold the responsibility for the establishment of
an organisation\'s culture. In an embryonic company this does not necessarily
have to be done with much thought. In this environment the organisation\'s
founders generally have a lot to do with the day to day running of the
organisation. The founders or their close associates will interview prospective
employees and the successful candidates will be those who not only have the
appropriate skills but those who also possess values and behaviours that are
similar to those of the interviewer.

As the organisation develops and grows a number of sub-cultures will develop and
it is now more important that the organisation\'s values are communicated in an
effective way. Now the interviewers are further removed from the founders and
direct exposure to their values and behaviours. Now it is important that the
founders develop an effective way of communicating their values and behaviours
so that they are seen as the basis of the dominant culture within the
organisation.

Likewise the group dynamics within the organisation will have a direct
relationship to the organisation\'s culture. In fact the norms that are
established within the various groups that make up an organisation form a
substantial part of the organisation\'s culture and it is in the establishment of
these norms that leadership