As an HR professional with over 25 years of experience, I’m often asked what can be done to impact an organization’s culture in a positive manner. According to organizational culture expert Geert Hofstede, emphasis on market process, stress on the individual and focus on the manager and not the work distinguish culture in the United States from other countries. By acknowledging differences in handling power, individualism, uncertainty, masculinity and long-term planning, you can build working relationships with peers, customers and stakeholders. By studying the theories, you can apply the tips, techniques and methods that work for your company.
Management theorist Peter Drucker developed the process of defining objectives to organize work. In this type of culture, managers and employees agree on a direction, set goals and make decisions together. When employees are involved in setting the measurement criteria, they tend to be more likely to fulfill their obligations and achieve the company’s strategic objective. Employees who contribute to making strategic decisions tend to feel more loyal to their company and committed to long-term relationships and continued employment.
In the 1960s, social psychologist Douglas McGregor described two theories on motivation. He believed that managers should help workers accomplish their goals. Previously, managers felt that employees didn’t want to work. Theory X assumes that employees only respond to an autocratic leadership style. In this culture, managers direct and control work. Theory Y assumes that a participative management style produces better results. In this culture, employees want responsibility and don’t require much guidance. Creativity and innovation tend to flourish.
Management theorist Edgar Schein divides organizational culture into three levels. Cultural artifacts include the company’s structure and processes. Values include documented strategies, goals and philosophies. Basic assumptions tend to exist at an unconscious level. Each of these levels must be aligned so the organization functions smoothly. When values do not align, different parts of the organization may have different cultural characteristics. This tends to cause conflict.
Theorist Gareth Morgan believes that cultures exists because people create them. This means that they can recreate them as well. His research describes organizations as machines, organizations or brains. Other types include cultures, political systems, prisons, transformations and domination. By understanding how your organization is structured and functions, you can better respond to organizational problems. This includes structuring work effectively so that output from one process flows smoothly into the next, without waste, inefficiency or disruption.