Culture - Organizational Culture
Some people think of culture as the character or personality of an organization. How an organization looks and "feels" when you enter it is a manifestation of the organi- zational culture. For example, you might visit one company where you get a sense of formality the minute you walk in the door. Desks are neat and orderly, employees wear professional business attire, and there are few personal items such as family photos or other decorations on walls and desks. At another company, employees may be wearing jeans and sweaters, have empty pizza boxes and cola cans on their desks, and bring their dogs to work with them. Both companies may be highly successful, but the underlying cultures are very different. Culture can be defined as the set of key values, assumptions, understandings, and norms that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as eorreet.0 Norms are shared standards that define what behaviours are accept- able and desirable within a group of people. At its most basic, culture is a pattern of shared assumptions about how things are done in an organization.
As organizational members cope with internal and external problems, they develop shared assumptions and norms of behaviour that are taught to new members as the correct way to think, feel, and act in relation to those problems.' Culture can be thought of as consisting of three levels, with each level becoming less obvious. At the surface level are visible artifacts such as manner of dress, patterns of behaviour, physical symbols, organizational ceremonies, and office layout-all the things one can see, hear, and observe by watching members of the organization. For example, Commerce Bank's mascots and employees dressing in red for Red Fridays are visible manifestations of the corporate culture. At a deeper level are the expressed values and beliefs, which are not observable but can be discerned from how people explain and justify what they do. These are values that members of the organization hold at a conscious level. Commerce Bank's employees consciously know that service is highly valued and rewarded in the company culture. Some values become so deeply embedded in a culture that organizational members may not be consciously aware of them. These basic, underlying assumptions are the deepest essence of the culture. At Commerce Bank, these assumptions might include
(1) That the bank cares about its employees as much as it expects them to care about customers,
(2) That individual employees should think for themselves and do what they believe is right to provide exceptional customer service, and
(3) That work should be as natural and joyful a part of life as play. Assumptions generally start out as expressed values, but over time they become more deeply embedded and less open to question-organization members take them for granted and often are not even aware of the assumptions that guide their behaviour, language, and patterns of social interaction.