What is the culture of your organization

3.1.1 Does an organization have a culture or is it a culture?

Linda Smircich, an American organizational researcher with basic anthropological training, goes into her article, which is much cited to this day "Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis" (1983) the importance of the cultural concept for the analysis of organizations. It gives an overview of five fields of research that dealt with culture and organizations in the early 1980s, and recognizes two fundamentally different assumptions in the diverse discussions: 1) Dem Variable approach is based on the idea of ​​culture as a variable; 2) the Metaphor approach uses culture as an organizational metaphor.

1) Culture as a variable

  • Both cross-cultural management research and corporate culture studies understand culture as a variable. The cross-cultural management research takes culture as external variable or context factor of organizations. Seen in this way, (national) culture has an impact on organizations or is brought into the organization by organization members.
  • "An organization has a culture" describes Smircich the position of the so-called. Corporate culture studies. An organization has a culture similar to how it has a strategy and a structure. "Organizational culture" is therefore a part or a internal variable an organization. It is seen as a configurable factor that influences the performance of the organization. In so-called success factor studies (e.g. Peters / Waterman 1982, Deal / Kennedy 1982), considerations are made as to how the organizational culture can be designed and controlled in order to ensure the economic success of the organization.
  • Both - cross-cultural management research and corporate culture research - are that functionalist paradigm to be assigned (see Functionalism and Structural Functionalism in Ethnology, Cultural and Social Anthropology: Link 1, Link 2). Your research topics are fundamentally different; nevertheless, they share a common research interest, says Smircich. Ultimately, both are interested in how organizations can be controlled and better managed. "Underlying the interests in comparative management and corporate culture is the search for predictable means for organizational control and improved means for organization management (Smirich 1983: 347).

2) Culture as a metaphor: "An organization is a culture"

  • Smircich contrasts the variable approaches with the theoretical approaches that Culture as a metaphor for organizations use. It includes cognitive, symbolic, structural and psychodynamic organizational theory. What these theories have in common, says Smircich, is that they oppose functionalist positions. It is not the ability to shape culture that is of interest, but to analyze organizations and cultures. The focus is therefore on the cognitive and symbolic processes by means of which meaning and social reality are created. "Characterized very broadly, the research agenda stemming from this perspective is to explore the phenomenon of organization as subjective experience and to investigate the patterns that make organized action possible" (Smirich 1983: 348).
  • From the perspective of the metaphor approach Hasan organization not a culture - themisrather a culture (Smircich 1983).

Other organizational metaphors (see also Morgan 1986)

  • The culture metaphor also shows how these organizational theories differ from other theoretical approaches. The Scientific Management of Frederick Taylor (Taylorism), for example, is based on a completely different organizational metaphor. Are in Taylor's mind Organizations like machines. His considerations are aimed at ensuring smooth and efficient work processes.
  • The variable approach presented above, in turn, understands one Organization as an organismwho has to adapt to the environment. In the case of cross-cultural management research, this becomes clear: it deals with the relationship between environment and organization. The corporate culture studies look at the design of relationships within according to the organization.

Website: Linda Smircich