Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chapter Five: organizational culture

The metaphor of organizational culture is interesting in part because it is difficult to say exactly what a "culture" is. How do you talk about communication that is not cultural? Arguably we are in the process of creating and maintaining culture every time we speak.

On the other hand, when we want to identify what distinguishes organizational communication form management or business the undeniable and fundamental way in which communication creates the culture of an organization is a good explanatory framework.

What do you think of the cultural approach to communication? Are we talking metaphor here? Or something more?

26 comments:

Liz E. said...

I think that when we are talking about culture it's something more than just a metaphor. For example, in the chapter it talks about how culture shapes the character of the organization. Historical cultural factors affect the way organizations communicate in different cultures. I found it interesting to read about Japan's historical culture that treats organizations in much the same way as it treated the rice farm. Everyone works together and there are no individual winners and losers. The US's cultural history reflects something much different, it has competitive individualism built into it, winner's are rewarded and loser's are punished. I think this can be seen often still in today's organizations in the US. Incentive programs for individuals in an organization that consist of money and high praise are certainly valued in organizations in the US. I think the most enlightening definition of culture for me in the chapter was the Garfinkel discussion about the social norms and customs that we take for granted. And that from past knowledge and knowing the context of the situation we can change our actions and the way we communicate. It's easy to see how organizational culture can't just be assigned to an organization, but that it evolves through the different sub-cultures of the organization.

mbb724 said...

I like looking at organizations through a cultural perspective for the simple reason that everything is and has culture. There is culture everywhere we look, whether its the culture of a country, a state, an organization, a school, or a group of friends. And not only is culture in everything, it affects everything and is constantly evolving and changing. Just think about today how we were talking about different management styles we've had. Those managers created a culture and this can lead to someone hating or loving their job, being productive or not being productive, being supportive or being detrimental. The culture we are in affects everything we do.

kelsey k said...

I agree that viewing organizations as cultures is more than just a metaphor. I find it impossible when describing any organization to not say something that could be used to also describe the organization's culture. An organization's culutre is what it is...as our professor would say. This chapter makes me think the project will be interesting. It will give us a chance to look at different organizations to identify their unique culture, symbols, identity, etc. This is something that will be good to learn as we leave to enter the workplace and start becoming parts of various organizations and their cultures.

jennad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jennad said...

I agree with Liz in that when we are talking about culture it's more than just a metaphor...so many different things can be discussed when talking about "culture" and organizational culture...how culture shapes the character of an organization...the idea of organization as a cultural phenomenon and that it varies from one society to another and how we can use this information to help us understand the cross-national differences in culture...for examle... I had never read anything before about the Japanese rice fields/rice culture and I found this section in the chapter to be very interesting...how the rice culture was transferred into the Japanese factory...and that respect for and dependence on one another are central to the Japanese way of life. I think that is a main reason why they succeeded so well...because of their collaborative spirit, interdependence,shared concerns, and mutual help. I can see the difference between that and culture and management in the U.S. and the idea of competitive individualism and the whole idea behind everyone wanting to be "winners" and always needing to be rewarded for succeessful behavior.

Teri said...

I really related well to this chapter, as I think that most people probably did, because it was fairly easy to find comparisons to this metephor in places that I have worked at. I thought that the worksheet that we did, especially since I used the place where I work now, illustrated well the point that culture is more than just a metaphor. With all the other chapters we have discussed, it was very obvious that we were utilizing the topic as a metaphor, a way to put the organization into context and gain a better understanding of it. But never did it appear that the organization really was a machine, or really was a brain. However, with the culture metaphor, it is a little harder to distinguish between comparison and actuality. As mentioned by the other posts so far, the organization creates a culture within itself that allows people to become a part of the organization and find their role within the bigger picture. In a way, I think that this has been the most successful and best metaphor presented so far because it plays such a clear and important role in all organizations.

LizC said...

I’m going to have to agree with everyone else that has responded here in that the culture metaphor was the easiest metaphor to understand so far. This was a couple of different reasons. First, I think this was the one metaphor that I really remember from 350. I remember doing a worksheet much like the one that we did for class on Wednesday last year when I took 350 and remembering how I filled out that worksheet helped me to understand what the culture of an organization is all about. Another reason that this metaphor was easy to understand was that, culture is an easy concept to understand. It’s everywhere and everything has its own culture. Culture is what makes an organization. Every organization has its own culture. It is what shapes the organization as well as how people learn to work in that individual organization. I also agree that culture is more than just a metaphor as others who have posted. An organization can be described as a culture, just like a brain or a machine, but every organization also has a culture of its own.

lsenz said...

I definitely believe that the statement "organizations as cultures" is more than a metaphor. Culture is so hard to define and I think it obviously stands for more than just the organization as a whole. It's about images, values, stories, people, etc. This is why I found it easy to understand because I am a part of many different cultures. This metaphor was by far the easiest for me to grasp so far.

dkieck said...

When it comes to organizational culture it is more than just a metaphor. The culture of the company is what can make or break the organization. When we look at an organizations culture it is something that may only matter to people in that specific organization. As an outsider you may not understand the language, stories and terms used but the workers in that organization do. They know that when their co-workeres use specific language that it means a specific thing. If everyone in the organization is on the same page and imbeded in the culture, I think that that organization is doing something right. If everyone is not on the same page with language, stories and other things that go into the culture then the organization has a flaw.
Overall I really enjoyed talking about organizational culture. I think that it is one of the cooler topics that we have talked about.

Molly S said...

I think talking about organizations in terms of a culture as metaphor is a little bit eaiser to understand because it is something that anyone can relate to or identify with. You know the rules, catch phrases, conversations, rituals, etc... about organizations in your life. I know when I go to work what I am going to say to the guests, how to manage converstaions, what abbervations to certain things mean because it is a culture is part of my every day life. Organizational culture will never go away and it is something that is in our lives and will most definitely be in our lives in the future.

Brooke said...

In many ways culture isn't just a metaphor for an organization, it is the reality and the whole entity of an organization. The culture formed within an organization, as much as it looks like others, is unique to itself. It has its own language, its own norms and in many ways as a member of different organizations you form to the environment you are in. I think a discussion on that topic alone could take up an entire class period. Culture as an organization is something I believe we've touched on so much in the past few years that all of us could discuss many different points and continue to dig deeper and deeper into the subject.

amandamc said...

I think that the organization as a culture metaphor is the easiest to understand so far. Many of us have experienced managers like Maria Theresa or Vince and their different managerial styles have a huge impact on the employees, their motivation, and the overall feel of the organization. I think this chapter is really interesting because it showed us how every organizational culture is different and that these differences are what make each organization unique.

Nick T said...

Definitely more than a metaphor. I think that the fact that our communication or more specifically our language inhibits or expands the way we can talk about our communication or our culture is evidence that communication is a constant production and maintenance of culture.

On a completely different note, I always found it interesting that Japanese and American culture are used to draw comparisons from in communication texts. I used to not really have a grasp on the differences, other than they were described in the communication texts.

I think a really good example of our differences could be found in, I know this is weird, looking at the differences in contestants in the Japanese "Ninja Warrior" and our "American Gladiator." American Gladiator contestants are very interested in the person victory involved in winning while in Ninja Warrior, contestants are concerned with attaining a victory for the group. It seems very odd, every time a ninja warrior contestant looses he apologizes to the crowd for disappointing them. Ok that was a big tangent.

Nick T said...

Definitely more than a metaphor. I think that the fact that our communication or more specifically our language inhibits or expands the way we can talk about our communication or our culture is evidence that communication is a constant production and maintenance of culture.

On a completely different note, I always found it interesting that Japanese and American culture are used to draw comparisons from in communication texts. I used to not really have a grasp on the differences, other than they were described in the communication texts.

I think a really good example of our differences could be found in, I know this is weird, looking at the differences in contestants in the Japanese "Ninja Warrior" and our "American Gladiator." American Gladiator contestants are very interested in the person victory involved in winning while in Ninja Warrior, contestants are concerned with attaining a victory for the group. It seems very odd, every time a ninja warrior contestant looses he apologizes to the crowd for disappointing them. Ok that was a big tangent.

mtn4105 said...

Looking at organizations as a culture was an interesting topic. It was nice to have an understanding of the metaphor being talked about. This metaphor was not completely foreign. It is important that organizations understand their own culture. An organization should be able to identify what is good and what is bad with their organization's culture. It is not easy changing the culture of an organizations but if it is a bad culture it is something that will need to be done. This is an interesting metaphor and one that can be easier looked at then some of the other ones.

courtneyb said...

As everyone else has pretty much said, talking about organizations as cultures or org culture is actually a pretty interesting topic. It is also easily applicable to everyday life. I like that fact that every organization has their own culture, and that influences how we are to behave in that certain culture. We are almost defined by our org culture because of the language, stories and values that we follow in that particular culture. I am a different person when I am at work then when I am not because the nature of my job does not allow me to talk about my social life, or anything deeper than general conversation. Organizational culture is way more than a metaphor, its really a way of life.

heathstip said...

I enjoyed learning about organizational culture back in cst 350, and I enjoy looking into it now even more. Viewing organizations as a culture is absolutely more than a metaphor. This is evident through our class discussion. Almost everyone has examples of specific organizational cultures that they have experienced. Organizational culture is an important concept to grasp because as we all move into our careers and choose which company we want to ultimately work for, it may be the organization's culture that becomes a deciding factor. An organization's culture may change with time, and can be adapted to - but in the end, I want to work for an org. that has a culture I can see myself fitting into - one that supports similar values, morals and ideas that I have.

I find it interesting to hear what types of org. cultures other people have experienced. I think we all have experiences that can be related very well to this chapter.

dano said...

The idea of organizational culture in the past couple years has really come into the lime light. With people expecting to have 5 or 6 careers throughout their life as we see in a growing trend, organizational culture can be an aspect of a company that encourages employees or potential employees to be interested and want to work and stay loyal to that particular company. There are many companies even in this area that pride themselves on their sense of organizational culture for attracting and keeping employees and i think this is a trend we will continue to see in the next couple decades. It is definately more than just a clever metaphor.

cstmajor08 said...

This metaphor is perhaps one of the better metaphors about organizations. It's easy to relate to and we've all expereinced organizational culture in one way or another. What Morgan added about child rearing and noticing trends of national culture and organizational culture is extremely interesting to me. "Strong links exist between the welfare of the individual, the corporation, and the nation." When broken down it seems apparent and all too obvious, but it seems to be something we either take for granted or just don't pay enough attention to. Knowing this you would think politicians would be making sure that the welfare of the people is in good standing, therefore affecting the welfare of the organization and then leading to the nation. This metaphor has strong connections with the next metaphor: Organizations as Political Systems.
In my own experience, a strong and positive culture in an organiziation leads to a higher satisfactory job--personally and professionaly this is ideal. Those organizations that are able to pull off that culture, or at least foster positives in the workplace, will be the most successful hands down.

KimB said...

Okay, I know I’m posting REALLY late because apparently I’m blog disabled, but I am getting the hang of it and catching up now! I actually had a difficult time before I read the chapter grasping the concept of looking at Organizations and Cultures as a metaphor. I didn’t really understand the metaphor part of it, because I was thinking- duh, all organizations have cultures what are we really discussing here. The book actually did a good job of clearing this up for me. To answer the question thought, I agree with the rest of our class, yes I do see the metaphor, but there is definitely something more to it. I work at Old Navy and we are in the process of hiring, and I think its really interesting when I am doing training to try and explain some of our lingo and other things that make up part of our org culture. First they are confused and trying to grasp these new terms, but slowly they will start using them as they start to blend with our culture.

MelissaF said...

Culture is so much more than just a metaphor. It is the organization. Culture is all around us, in everything that we do, so it only makes sense that we look at organizations from a cultural perspective. I think it is definitely one of the easiest ways to look at the organization. It's great to look at organizations in this light because you find out that each organization develops and shapes their own unique culture. It's fun to think about all the artifacts, the stories, the language, etc... that develop and are unique to just one culture. The worksheet given to us in class can be applied to any "organization" that we are apart of and with that we can really delve deeper into the culture of the groups we belong and have contact with.

JGrab said...

I feel that there is very little distinction between an organization and it's culture. I feel like the culture is what makes the organization what it is. Anytime someone says "don't work for this company because..." or the reverse of that statement, odds are good that it is culturally related. As many other professors continue to stress, the current job market is great for graduating students, and I feel that most organizations want to promote their culture as a positive in order to attract the best and brightest to their organization. I think everyone has been in a situation where the culture of their employer was less than perfect, and because of this I feel that this is a great topic to continue to look into and a great one to use for our class.

jessie S said...

I agree that culture is more than just a metaphor because it encapsulates the philosophy of an organization. It helped me a lot to understand culture through doing the worksheet on an organization. I did not realize how many pieces need to fit in order for the culture to be maintained. I thought that it was also interesting in the reading to consider the complexities that would involve changing the culture of an organization. The text described this process as "inventing what amounts to a new way of life." This comparison between organizational culture and life shows that relating culture to a metaphor might not do enough justice.

johnd said...

I like looking at organizations through normal life. There are different cultures wherever you are. For example, the apartment that I live has a different culture that another apartment. My work has a different work culture that another person's workplace. There are many different cultures and I think that it is easy to see this through the differences in how a place feels and how people act. Just like these different cultures, organizations have their own culture. Even departments within organizations have their own cultures. I think it is always fun to see these differences.

TracyMachtan said...

I think culture is a very interesting organizational communication metaphor. It's helpful when understanding an organization because it breaks the organization down into catagories: physical impression, beliefs and values, norms, ceremonies and rituals, etc. A person can learn much about an organization by looking at it this way. It may help struggling organizations pinpoint problem areas. I'll find this very helpful if I receive the Educational Leadership Consultant position I just interviewed for.

I'm not sure if culture is necessarily a metaphor. My uncertainty lies in the fact that when looking at the culture of your organization, you can identify metaphors that people use to describe the organization. [Handout 85: Understanding the Culture of Your Organization.] Can a metaphor have metaphors?

jen c said...

Looking at an organization as a culture was a bit easier than the previous chapters. Culture surrounds us and it is constantly changing. We create culture and in turn it creates us. Similarily, we create an organization, and it creates job titles/duties/norms. Examining different companies and organizations will allow us to explore what it is that we have learned and have been talking about, cant wait!