Themodern corporate world is dominated by several multinationalcorporations with budgets bigger than most developing countries.These corporations have operations in many countries and theirtentacles reach all corners of the world. Majority of them created aunique identity in the way they do things. Toyota Motors for instanceis recognized for the Toyota way which might not mean much to theunfamiliar mind. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that theirdistinctive way of handling business and their operations makes themunique and can be linked to the success they have achieved. This wayof doing things is what makes organizations different from others andis embedded in their organizational processes. With rapid changes inthe market, organizations are on a constant change path adapting newtechnologies, new national cultures, new markets, and so on. To becompetitive they have to change and managers want to run the change.In fact, “What managers most often want to know about theirorganization`s culture is how to change it……But what isrecommended to managers on the basis of culture theory differsmarkedly according to the perspectives adopted” (Hatch &Cunliffe, 2013, 185). The paper discuses Hatch and Cunliffe’smodernist and critical theory in managing culture with support fromrelevant literature.
Organizationalculture is an integral component of the modern day organization. Itis a unique identity that pertains to how things are done in theorganization usually in an unwritten rule. One of the classicdefinition of culture is provided by Edward Taylor who indicated that“culture is the complexwhole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as amember of society”(Hatch & Cunliffe 2013, p.178). As a complex entity, it is verydifficult or nearly impossible to single handedly point out whatculture is but its concepts are clear. Inhighlighting the importance of culture to organizations, Eldrige andCrombie wrote that “while the uniqueness of individuals inexpressed in their personality, the individuality of organizationsmaybe expressed in terms of their differing cultures” (Baumler,2007 146). Furthermore, most employees seek to identify themselveswith organizations and their cultures or dis-identify with them wherethey oppose the culture (Fleming & Spicer 2003). The World Bankfor instance is one organization that encompasses many nationalcultures and a dynamic culture which many employees take pride in (Xu&Weller 2009).
Themodernist perspective is based on modernism that is basically basedon a philosophical orientation that acknowledges far reaching andwide scale transformations in trends and cultures in the westernworld since the industrialization period. The fact that thisperspective acknowledges change, which is basically the only constantfor modern day organizations that are operating in rapidly changingbusiness environments characterized by globalization, blistering technology change, climate change, high level competition amongothers, makes it very relevant in studying culture (Chance 2011). Theapproach calls for an objective approach independent of personalknowledge of culture and an abandonment of the native approach, whichrelies very much on empathy to understand organizational culture froman internal perspective (Schermerhorn et al. 2011).
Asan objective position, the modernist perspective views theorganization from an external position. It is also guided bypositivism which argues that knowledge can be gained throughcollection of data through scientific ways and assessed in anobjective manner. For managers, it means that the individual aspectsof culture that identify an organization must be assessed from anobjective position and measured through objective scientific means.This is because organizations are perceived as individual entitiesoperating in a real world. To make them function, they rely on a setof actions, decisions and rules that guide the whole process toachieve their purpose in the industry. This view is supported bythree theories the general systems theory, socio-technical systemsand contingency theory.
Thegeneral systems theory lays emphasis on an organization’s structurerather than function. The structure of an organization influences theculture of that organization in dynamic ways. The systems theory,which can be applied in many situations, is applied in understandingthe organization and its culture through the biological lens. Thisway, the organization is viewed as a whole and not a sum of its part.This can be equated to the various systems that are found in theliving thing such as the digestive system, nervous system, skeletalsystem, and muscular system. Through this view, the whole is greaterthan the sum of the parts which incorporates all the systems andhence the organization must be perceived as a whole but not a sum ofits parts as is suggested by reductionism (Schermerhorn etal.2011). The structure of an organization cannot thus be subdividedinto the various levels to explain what is happening or explain howcertain things are done. Various departments as stipulated by theorganizational structure create their unique way of accomplishingtasks informed by the larger organization. In essence, a departmentas a part of the whole should not en assessed as a single entity whenassessing its culture.
Organizationstructures are key indicators of culture. According to the GeertHofstede dimensions of culture, national cultures also influenceorganizational cultures and the structures they adapt in societiesthat have high power distance such as China, there is a tendency fororganizations to create vertical organization structures that givehigh precedence to authority and power (Rezvani etal.2012). The senior managers at the top wield high power and theemployees at the lower levels are poorly engaged in the organizationand are not empowered. For managers, organizational culture cannot beunderstood by just looking at individual practices but by looking atthe organization as a whole inclusive of suppliers, its vision,stakeholders, employees and even clients (Wilson, 2014). Areductionist approach would for example assess culture based on thebehaviours of employees as single entity and that of suppliers as aseparate entity.
Thesystems theory perceives organizational culture as a social network.This is linked to the organization structure is that socialinteractions among people follow a given structure which is providedby the organizational structure. For a vertical organizationalstructure, there are minimal interactions across differenthierarchies in societies with high power distance. In societies withlow power distance such as Australia, UK and the US, horizontalstructures are dominant. These structures facilitate socialinteractions from the highest level to the lowest levels. In suchorganizations, a culture of free flow of information and knowledgesharing is established. For knowledge dependent organizations, thisis critical as a social environment as opposed to a formalenvironment is best suited in facilitating tacit knowledge sharing(Cummings & Vorley 2014).
Themodernist view digests cultural knowledge to make it palatable fororganization’s immediate adoption. This allows managers to studyand perceive culture on ‘as is basis’ meaning that subjectiveexperience is not needed. For managers aspiring to drive and initiateculture change in organizations, they have to understand theemployees make meaning and role of mean making plays in theworkplace. Symbols and artefact come handy in this as they have to beunderstood in a subjective manner. Moving these symbols can result intheir meaning and therefore they should be understood within thecontext. To change a culture, managers cannot and should not perceivecultural symbols and artefacts outside their context or as parts of awhole but rather part and parcel of a whole system(Hatch & Cunliffe 2013).Simply put, symbols and artefacts do not hold intrinsic meaning butthe gain meaning according to the meaning they are assigned bysociety. To change culture, symbols and artefacts must becontextualised to understand meaning.
Thecritical theorist perspective on power, culture and structure is thesecond perspective used by Hatch and Cunliffe (2013). Thisperspective differs philosophically from the modernist perspective onits ontological beliefs that knowledge and reality are determined bysocial and political values over time. For organisations, thestructure and culture are products of the social and politicalsystems that be. In all, reality is subjective and influenced byeducation, politics, traditions and organization theory. Therefore,qualitative methodologies which are highly subjective are used toresearch gather knowledge and understand the organizations power andstructure. It must be noted here that the main difference with themodernist view is that positivism relies on quantitative researchapproaches which are objective (Chance 2011). For this approach, arange of theories such as the grounded theory are employed tounderstand the political and social issues that influenceorganizational culture.
Criticaltheories agree with modernist on the place and role of power inorganizations, they acknowledge that the distribution of power withinan organization through the organizational structure influences itcultural bearing (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013). However, they divergeon the ideologies and assumptions. Critical theorists vieworganizational structures and power distribution in an organizationas a way of manipulating employees. Accordingly, organizations usethe promise of promotion provided by the hierarchical organizationalstructure to promote the organizations interest as opposed to thoseof employees (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013). From this view,organizations use the promise of promotions and more responsibilitiesand better remuneration as one goes up an organizational structure totrick them into delivering more in they hope more will be added untothem.
Organizationalcultures are perceived as a code of discipline for workers. Criticaltheorists view organization cultures adapted by firms as gearedtowards glorifying working hard and maintaining control oversubjects. Such cultures are geared towards serving the interest ofthe management and not the people (Crawford & Nahmias 2010). Thevarious values, code of ethics, dress code and the formal environmentmaintained in an organization is geared towards controlling employeesto achieve the interest of the firm. This approach viewsorganizations as unique entities with own ambitions where employeesare not part of but as expendable elements.
Thesocial structure created within an organization manipulates thepeople and interaction processes. Titles and positions created usedin a firm are perceived as one of the many ways of creating divisionsamong employees in order to control them. Some employees are given afalse sense of power courtesy of their positions and titles they areassigned in the organisations in order to control what they think ofthemselves and even how they act towards others especially thosebelow and above them in the rank (Crawford & Nahmias 2010). Theuse of titles and ranks determine the social interaction environment.Some organisations require the use of specific title such as the caseof master-servant relationship observed in teacher-studentsrelations. In such situations, titles are emphasized not just as anexpression of respect towards the title holders but as a means ofcontrol by the prestigious title holders and delineation for thosewith lowly titles. The approach also questions the legitimacy ofpower and control that organizational structures assign some people.Organizations with horizontal organization structures have uniqueways to control employees (Griffin & Moorhead 2013). They createa false sense of equality to oppress and exploit employees to achieveorganisational goals.
Froma grounded theory perspective, managers keen on addressing culturalissues should thus seek to understand what the people perceive of theprevailing culture and structure in the given organization. Theyshould also understand the role and place of leadership in shapingthe organizational culture. The use of titles and the use anddistribution of power through the organizational and how the sameaffects social interactions should all inform the culture changeprocess. The different perspectives provide ways through whichmanagers can approach the topic of culture and change in anorganization. They indicate ways which managers can study andorganisational culture and the subcultures that define it, thesymbols, and artefacts. The fact that a given organizational cultureidentified with the organization does not imply that change inorganizational processes, structures, symbols and artefacts will beresult in a change of culture. As the software of the mind, it isimportant managers understand the human element of organizationalcultures and apply the systems theory to have a wholesome view of thefirm.
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