The Components of Culture

1. Values

Values are beliefs in what is best or good for the organization and what should or ought to happen. The ‘value set’ of an organization may only be recognized at top level, or it may be shared throughout the business, in which case it could be described as ‘value-driven’.

The stronger the values the more they will influence behaviour. This does not depend upon their having been articulated. Implicit values that are deeply embedded in the culture of an organization and are reinforced by the behaviour of management can be highly influential, while espoused values that are idealistic and are not reflected in managerial behaviour may have little or no effect. When values are acted on they are called ‘values in use’. Some of the most typical areas in which values can be expressed, implicitly or explicitly, are: performance; competence; competitiveness; innovation; quality; customer service; teamwork; care and consideration for people.

Values are translated into reality (enacted) through norms and artefacts. They may also be expressed through the media of language (organizational jargon), rituals, stories and myths.

2. Norms

Norms are the unwritten rules of behavior, the ‘rules of the game’ that provide informal guidelines on how to behave. Norms tell people what they are supposed to be doing, saying,believing, and even wearing. They are never expressed in writing if they were, they would be policies or procedures. They are passed on by word of mouth or behavior and can be enforced by the reactions of people if they are violated. They can exert very powerful pressure on behavior because of these reactions; we control others by the way we react to them.

Norms refer to such aspects of behavior as:

  • how managers treat the members of their teams (management style) and how the latter relate to their managers;
  • the prevailing work ethic, eg ‘work hard, play hard’, ‘come in early, stay late’, ‘if you cannot finish your work during business hours you are obviously inefficient’, ‘look busy at all times’, ‘look relaxed at all times’;
  • Status; how much importance is attached to it; the existence or lack of obvious status symbols.

3. Artefacts

Artefacts are the visible and tangible aspects of an organization that people hear, see or feel and which contributes to their understanding of the organization’s culture. Artifacts can include such things as the working environment, the tone and language used in e-mails, letters or memorandum, the manner in which people address each other at meetings, in e-mails or over the telephone, the welcome (or lack of welcome) given to visitors and the way in which telephonists deal with outside calls. Artifacts can be very revealing.

4. Management Style

Management style is the approach managers use to deal with people. It is also called ‘leadership style. There are many styles of leadership, and leaders can be classified in extremes as follows: Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez-faire, Bureaucratic, and Expert Leadership.

Most managers adopt an approach somewhere between the extremes. Some will vary it according to the situation or their feelings at the time, others will stick to the same style whatever happens. A good case can be made for using an appropriate style according to the situation, but it is undesirable to be inconsistent in the style used in similar situations. Every manager has his or her own style but this will be influenced by the organizational culture, which may produce a prevailing management style that represents the behavioural norm for managers that is generally expected and adopted.

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