Twenty Years After In Search of Excellence: Where is Culture Now?
For submission to: the Organizational Behavior track
Midwest Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2003
“We began to realize that these companies had cultures as strong as any Japanese organization. And the trappings of cultural excellence seemed recognizable, no matter what the industry. Whatever the business, by and large the companies were doing the same, sometimes cornball, always intense, always repetitive things to make sure all employees were buying into their culture—or opting out.” (Peters and Waterman, 1982, p. xx)
So, just 20 years ago, corporate culture was pushed strongly to center stage for managers and academics alike. The 1982 book was a central part of a stream—no, a torrent—of popular and academic business publications. Preceded by Theory Z (Ouchi 1981), and concurrent with Corporate Cultures (Deal & Kennedy, 1982), Peters and Waterman offered explanations and recipes for success. While the popular press explored culture, management researchers dove in with full furor, as evidenced by the special organizational culture issue of the Administrative Science Quarterly in 1983, and then the landmark book Organizational Culture (Frost, Moore, Louis, Lundberg & Martin, 1985).
Now, 20 years later, what is the place and purpose of culture research? Have all the questions been answered? Have all the debates been settled? Has a hot topic rightfully cooled in the Academy?
We propose that a number of key issues still need to be explored, and offer three papers that look at culture as a key variable in organizational life. Our symposium is the fruit of a doctoral seminar in organizational culture, in which we sought to answer 6 overriding questions for the field of organizational culture: 1) What is organizational culture? 2) Where does it come from? 3) How, exactly, is culture related to performance? 4) How should we research culture? What methods are appropriate? 5) What are the key levers for changing organizational culture? 6) How are organizational and national cultures linked?
As a result of student research in this seminar, we focus on three areas where organizational culture research may still provide direction for practitioners and academics alike. These areas—which connect organizational culture to other key phenomena, help sketch the edges of the frontier in culture research. As we look at one paper which connects like-level constructs (culture and mentoring), another which connects culture across organizational sectors (private and public enterprise), and a third which connects levels (organizational and national), we believe the presentations and discussion may spur others to set up research outposts on the organizational culture frontier.
The Importance of Organizational Culture in Public Sector Reforms
Much of the research in the Academy has focused on the for-profit sector, leaving the not-for-profit and governmental sectors relatively understudied. Yet, for the past 3 decades, public sector organizations around the world have undergone a series of progressive management reforms (Dann, 1996), encouraging a transformation of traditional bureaucratic administration to new public management (NPM). This movement has involved the advocacy of private sector business concepts and styles (McHugh, 1997). Despite the movement toward NPM, we still lack empirical understanding of public sector organizational culture. With widespread acknowledgement that significant organizational change inevitably involves cultural challenges, such a lack of cultural awareness and sensitivity in this sector may be leading to some of the failures in public sector reforms. An improved understanding of culture, and individual organizational cultures, within the public sector can provide the basis for evaluating appropriate change strategies, and hopefully improved outcomes in the public sector organizations. (Parker & Bradley, 2000).
Piamlarb Natrujirote, a DBA student at St. Ambrose University, will raise this challenge. Her interest in the connection of organizational and public sector reform comes in part from her experience as a trade officer and Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Commerce in Thailand.
Does Organization Culture Influence The Effectiveness of a Mentoring Program?
The influence of organizational culture on the effectiveness of mentoring programs has not been extensively researched. This paper suggests that a typology of organizational culture may be used to help predict the successful implementation of a mentoring program. Building on the Goffee and Jones (1998) culture classification approach, this paper connects organization sociability and solidarity with the probable success of mentoring programs—formal and informal. Propositions and a methodology for testing them are suggested. Marc points out that while there has been significant criticism of formal mentoring programs (Allen, Russell & Maetzke, 1997), the effect of culture on the efficacy of such programs has not been clearly considered.
Marc Parise is the Regional President for First Midwest Bank. Marc has overall responsibility for the commercial loan portfolio and commercial sales functions for four banking centers stretching from Iowa to Indiana, accounting for 25% of the company’s commercial banking assets. Marc’s bachelor’s degree is in finance from Northern Illinois University and he has a graduate degree in finance from DePaul University. His interest in mentoring and organizational culture stems directly from his experience with the mentoring program he developed and implemented in his organization. He proposes important, yet unresearched culture/mentoring relationships that may help explain the mixed success many organizations have had in developing formal mentoring programs.
The Influence of National Culture on Organizational Culture Formation
While there is no universal definition of culture, there is widespread agreement that culture is a multi-layered construct. While researchers identify these layers using different terms, a common theme throughout the culture literature is to label the observable culture phenomena as “practices” or “artifacts” and the deeper, more tacit phenomena as “values ” or “assumptions”. In addition, a growing body of research shows that organizational culture may be closely related to practices, whereas national culture is more closely related to values. If this research is on track, national culture should be expected to have a significant influence on organizational culture formation. So, an understanding of the relationship is essential.
This research examines the ways in which national culture is related to and even a partial determinant of organizational culture. This research calls for approaching cultural research in multinational organizations using a specific frame of mind and suggests several ways through which the influence of national culture on organizational culture formation might be understood once the connection between the two is recognized. Integrating the work of Schein (1992), Martin (2002), Trice and Beyer (1993), Hofstede (1993; 1999) and Hofstede, Neuijen, Daval Ohayv, and Sanders (1990), this paper proposes an integration of the layers of national and organizational cultures.
Shawn Duster is Project Manager, Computer Security Architecture and Infrastructure Support, with John Deere at the Worldwide Headquarters. He received his BS from Clarke College, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science, and his MBA from St. Ambrose University.
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