Organizational culture is a necessary term when it comes to describing an organization. It influences many crucial aspects of the organization’s work processes, such as the performance and behavior of the employees. Defining the organizational culture and emphasizing its role in the success of the team is essential for providing good management strategies. Even though there are numerous varying definitions of the term, it is possible to analyze them and find commonalities. Further, the ideas and theories suggested by different studies could be applied to one’s personal, and professional experience to analyze their practice’s efficiency.
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Defining Organizational Culture
Different scholars use a variety of terminology to describe organizational culture. Similarly, the concept and the idea behind the organizational culture could be defined in a variety of ways. According to Schein (1987), organizational culture is a set of common core assumptions created, developed, or discovered by the group when learning to address the issues of external adaptation and internal integration. They are effective enough to guide new members of the group on the right path and are taught to recognize, think and feel these issues through reframing. Schein (1987) has also argued that this definition of organizational culture lies behind values and determines behavior patterns. In addition, it influences the visible aspects, such as office layout, architecture, and dress codes. Schein has introduced the concept of organizational behavior at different levels, including artifacts, values, and underlying assumptions, such as feelings, perceptions, and thoughts. His definition is one of the perspectives on the term from the discipline of social psychology. I find the explanation of the organizational culture provided by Schein important since it could serve as a basic form of understanding the concept.
Hofstede et al. (1990) also emphasized the role of values and symbols when defining organizational culture. He said that culture might manifest itself through heroes, values, rituals, and symbols. Together they could be named practices, and these are the level at which various organizational cultures differ from each other. Siehl and Martin (1983) viewed the concept of organizational culture as a set of social ideas, values, and beliefs that the members of a particular organization share. Pettigrew (1979) had a quite similar definition and said that it is the system of collection and generally accepted meanings that work for a particular group in a certain context.
Organizational culture is, to more or less, an extent coherent system of symbols and meanings that promote social interaction (Alvesson, 2002). According to Alvesson (2002), behavioral patterns that result from social interactions are called social structures. He has referred to the influence of social interaction and the role of the social structure concerning organizational culture in his definition of the concept. According to his explanations, the key aspect of organizational culture is how people are related to certain actions and how they interpret them. Alvesson (2002) has also argued that organizational culture has dual nature, and it could be either constraining or useful.
Many authors define organizational culture as something relevant to people, the organization’s unique quality and style (Kilmann et al., 1985), or the way different things are organized and conducted within the organization (Deal & Kennedy, 1982). Organizational culture could also sometimes refer to corporate culture. The term corporate culture refers to a more commercialized version of corporate culture (Deal & Kennedy, 1982).
Organizational culture is defined as transmitted patterns of ideas, values, and other various symbolic systems which shape an organization’s behavior (Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck, 1961). It includes patterns of expectations and beliefs shared by the organization’s members that shape behavior by producing norms (Schwartz & Davis, 1981). Another study also indicates organizational behavior as a set of ceremonies, myths, and symbols that deliver the underlying beliefs and values of the organization to employees (Ouchi & Wilkins, 1985). Shared values and beliefs should interact with the control system and structure of an organization to set behavioral norms (Jones, 1983). Organizational culture refers to that aspect that is shared by the members of a particular social group. The older employees should be able to pass these things on to the younger members of an organization (Adler et al., 1986). It, in turn, will shape the structure and behavior of an organization. Denison and Mishra (1995) similarly mention the values, principles, and beliefs as the core components of defining the organizational culture.
Linn (2008) suggests that the concept is a summary of how members of an organization are related to each other. It is a worthy definition since the organizational culture is not only about values and beliefs but also about how these shared values connect people using and following them. For example, it might also refer to the relationships between the leaders and employees. As Cameron (1988) has stated, organizational culture defines the main leadership styles in an organization and emphasizes its uniqueness. Lee et al. (2002) highlight the lifestyle of the people when explaining the concept. The shared values and beliefs that develop in a particular group or its sub-units guide the behavior of its members (Zila, 2001). That is why those components are important to mention when defining the term organizational culture.
Thomas and Ramaswamy (1996) state that the concept refers to evolving the values, attitudes, logical processes, and beliefs that provide cognitive maps for an organization’s members to think, perceive, act, reason, interact, and react. Taylor et al. (2008) definition could support the claim since it raises the idea that the messages received about how to act influence and shape the behavior within a group. Organizational culture is an informal way of determining the membership in a group or organization that binds people and impacts their thoughts and opinions about their work and themselves (Wagner et al., 2014). Almost all of the mentioned definitions could support the claims stated by one another. They have many commonalities, and through reviewing each of them, the understanding of the term organizational culture could be shaped.
Application of the Theories
I believe that underlying values, principles, and beliefs serve as a base for the management system of an organization. It determines the behaviors and management practices that both reinforce and exemplify those core values and principles. As could be understood from reviewing many different definitions of organizational culture, it is the system of meanings. Thus, it is the common approach that is used by the members of an organization when solving problems. For me, it defined how we should act within the organizational context, what we value, and what we pay attention to.
All the above-mentioned information corresponds to my personal working experience at Saudi Railway Polytechnic. Our organization puts a big emphasis on constructing the values of the team. The core values and principles of the group are based on discipline, dedication, desire, and determination. When necessary, punishment will be given as a legitimate means of maintaining discipline. Such an approach to forming values helped me, and I believe all the employees shape the behavior that corresponded to the standards of the organization.
Saudi Railway Polytechnic seeks to raise the aspiration of the wide community and become an organization that inspires learners for success. The vision is to be outstanding in all the operating spheres. Great establishments work to construct constant adjustment to their dream, intention, and aspirations. Defining organizational culture with the emphasis on the lifestyle of the group members according to the theory suggested by Lee et al. (2002) is also fair enough considering the idea that ideas, values, knowledge, and material objects that are shared by the members are part of their lifestyle.
As the theory proposed by Adler et al. (1986) suggests, organizational culture is something that could be passed from the older employee to the younger one (Adler et al., 1986). It is also applicable to my experience in the organization, where the support of all employees is essential. For example, when I had just started to work in the organization, the team members that had more working experience helped me to familiarize myself with the working process, management system within the organization, and some behavior norms. I feel that this practice is important for me as an employee since it increases the inclusiveness and feeling of commonality and belonging. Acknowledging the support of all employees has an extensive, definite beneficial effect on corporate culture. When every employee understands the deeds of others, people begin to see how they are part of the total.
According to the theory stated by Linn (2008), organizational culture is based on the techniques that determine how the organization members relate to each other. It is true for me as an organization member because I think that the way team members cooperate and communicate is one of the key factors influencing the organizational culture. For example, how the colleagues interact with one another or how the leaders motivate the employees are very crucial points.
The core value of the organization I am working at is continuous professional development. Continuous professional development is the key to managing a career and how to keep up with the latest processes. I think that providing the members of the organization with a clear understanding of the values and beliefs is essential. It promotes the improvement of abilities, and the development of career paths, and maintains employment throughout working life. For instance, to remind the employees about this particular principle, the organization organizes various activities.
Saudi Railway Polytechnic college management team is responsible for identifying staff training needs using the Performance Development Review (PDR) process, recognizing, supporting, disseminating good practice, and evaluating the impact of CPD activity within their area. All staff members participate in the performance development and review process, enabling line managers and team members to discuss factors that contribute to outstanding performance. It helped me to identify my personal, and professional needs and allowed me to think about my aspirations.
Another process that constantly takes place within the organization is the review process. The process looks at the developmental needs of each individual to ensure they are supported appropriately in their roles, focusing on contributing to teaching and learning and the impact this has on learners. In our organization, continuous professional development activities will be evaluated using learning logs, which must be completed every time a staff member completes an event or activity. All staff will be responsible for organizing these learning logs into a combination as a record of the number of CPD hours in preparation for their PDR. Emphasizing mentioned values of the organization helped me to stay motivated and increased my willingness to work better. Because I have a common vision and ideas about the work with my colleagues, I feel that I can rely on them. Being surrounded by people with the same principles and beliefs gives me a feeling of support, which positively impacts my performance and professional success.
In conclusion, many different theories define the concept of organizational culture. The main idea behind almost all of the definitions is that the organizational culture is based on the shared beliefs, ideas, and values within an organization. The main reason is that these things, in many ways, shape and determine the behavior of the team members. The way team members relate to each other and the way they act and solve problems also contribute to shaping the organizational culture. These ideas were proved when applying them to my personal, and professional experience at the organization. I believe that organizational culture has positively influenced my development as a team member and a professional.
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