An organisation’s culture can be defined as the organisation’s prevailing ideas, values, attitudes, norms and beliefs that guide the way employees think, feel and act. An organisation’s culture directly impacts the

An organisation’s culture can be defined as its prevailing ideas, values, attitudes, norms and beliefs that guide the way employees think, feel and act. An organisation’s culture directly impacts the decisions and actions of that organisation. It can also be described as the manifestation of the values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation.

If the definition above encompasses culture, then is it possible for two different organisations to share the same culture? Thus, can one culture model be applied to many different organisations?

Organisations can be compared to individuals. It is widely accepted that no two individuals are exactly the same, not even genetically identical twins. Even if two individuals have the exact same set of values, they are likely to display different behaviours, as they have different personalities.

An example is that of Amazon, which established its culture based on 14 Leadership Principles that would reflect the behaviours that would best enable Amazon to continue to compete effectively. This was  culture consciously designed specifically with Amazon in mind.

The word “model” suggests a generic representation. If a culture is unique, then it would be illogical to apply a one-size-fits all approach to it. A culture always has several facets. It is a result of the type of industry an organisation is in, the size of the organisation, the type of leadership an organisation has, the employees, the business strategy and how a person perceives the culture of an organisation. People often speak of strong vs. weak cultures or good vs. bad cultures. This is entirely incorrect. Cultures can only be viewed within the context they exist in.

Charles Handy (1976) defined four different kinds of cultures: power, role, people and task cultures and what they would look like. Classifying a complex concept such as “culture” into neat little boxes suggests that two organisations labelled as having “power” cultures, for example, will look the same, and that if you are part of a “power” culture you cannot have any elements or characteristics of a “people” culture. This is very prescriptive and short-sighted., There simply is no single model that can in all respects be generalised to every single individual from different cultural groups.

References:

Business Dictionary. (2017). Organisational Culture. Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/organizational-culture.html

CultureIQ. (2017). Company culture isn’t one-size-fits-all. Retrieved from https://cultureiq.com/company-culture-isnt-one-size-fits-all/

Handy, C. (1985). Understanding Organisations. (4th ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Levine, S.R. (2015). Culture drives results: No one size fits all and the choice is yours. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesinsights/2015/10/12/culture-drives-results-no-one-size-fits-all-and-the-choice-is-yours/#543f14d832f0

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