Linh Nguyen – 1149482 AFM Assignment 2 “One of the major strengths of the culture metaphor rests in the fact that it directs attention to the symbolic significance of even the most rational parts of organizational life” ( Morgan, G. 1986) Discuss the issues raised in the quotation above, and comment on: • • • the effects of organization culture on the design of organization structure; the effects of national culture on organization culture; and the ways in which power exists in different organization cultures.
Metaphor is a method to explain a phenomenon or create meaning by using one element of experience to understand another.
Gareth Morgan uses this tool for building up theories about organization and management. He suggests the way of observing and thinking about organizations through different metaphors such as mechanistic, organic, political or cultural approach, etc. In scope of this essay, I will focus on issues raised by Gareth Morgan in 1986 “One of the major strengths of the culture metaphor rests in the fact that it directs attention to the symbolic significance of even the most rational parts of organizational life”.
Furthermore, I will criticize the effects of organization culture on the design of organization structure based on Gareth Morgan’s theory and the effects of national culture on organization culture based on Hofstede’s idea. Lastly, I will explain how power can exist in different organization cultures by using theoretical approaches from Gareth Morgan and Mullins Book. In essence, organizational culture is a difficult context. It is hard to be conceptualized exactly so there are many different definitions of organizational culture.
However, the definition given by Gareth Jones is broadly accepted.
He considered organizational culture as “a set of shared values and norms that controls organization members’ interaction with each other, and with suppliers, customers and others outside the organization” . Culture goes beyond an entity’s physical form or operation. It is reinforced through the system of rites and rituals, patterns of communication, the informal organization, expected patterns of behavior and perceptions of psychological contract . According to Schein’s viewpoint, organizational culture also needs approaching from three levels of culture: artefacts, values and basic underlying assumptions.
Therefore, the strength of culture lies in immaterial forms. According to Gareth Morgan, organizations are considered as mini-societies with their own distinctive patterns of culture and subcultures such as unique values, formalities, ideologies and faiths. The major strength of culture metaphor is that it emphasizes the symbolic significance of even the most concrete and rational parts of organizational life – whether structures, hierarchies, rules or organizational routines – embody social instructions and meanings that are crucial for understanding how organization functions day-by-day .
The symbolic significances go beyond the physical presence of organizational components, existing under certain organizational culture forms, “the slogans, symbols, stories, rituals, and patterns of tribal behavior that decorate the surface of organizational life merely give clues to the existence of a much deeper and all-pervasive system of meaning” . For example, the “locked door” story in HP conveys the message that HP trusts and highly appreciates its employees.
The symbolic meaning connects employees’ effort to the organizational success, which means the organizational goal is only achieved by the employees’ working cooperation. This encourages their motivation to contribute to achieve the organization’s objectives. Cultures create a form of “Blindness” and “Ethnocentrism”. If the individual then experiences other organization culture that have different values and normal behaviors, the individual finds that the thought patterns appropriate to their birth organization culture are not appropriate for the new organization cultures.
The ethnocentric individual will resist or refuse the new thought patterns unless the new organization culture is superior to the birth culture. Modern organizations are built on a basis of rationality. As one of the most rational parts of an organization, the design of structure also carries symbolic significance. Thus organizational culture inevitably has an effect on it. Different structures give rise to different cultures. For example, a massive production factory possessing a mechanistic structure may have developed a culture of supervision in order to achieve standardization.
In contrast, research companies such as AC Nielsen or TNS may prefer innovation and openness in organization with adhocracy. Culture varies from country to country. National Culture forms individual personality traits, behaviors and attitudes. Hofstede’s study shows that there are five independent dimensions of national culture differences; Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientation that affect the behavior of organizations and persistency across time.
In High context culture such as Japan Organization culture is considered by Hofstede to be “High masculine culture”, where the value placed on traditionally male values, “High uncertainty avoidance culture”, means the people prefer rules and structured circumstances and “High LongTerm Oriented” where values include persistence, ordering relationships by status, thrift, and having a sense of shame. This context culture finally results that every in-group member in organization is constantly up-to-date with the facts around the business because they communicate with each other intensively and exchange information about many different topics.
In comparison, in Low context culture such as organization Culture in United States are considered to be “High Individualism” where low degree to which individuals are integrated into groups and “Low Long-Term Oriented” where values include normative statements, personal steadiness and stability, protecting ones face, respect for tradition, and reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts, “Low Power Distance” where people expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic.
People in this context culture, they exchange information just to the necessary extent so that work can be done and they don’t discuss or exchange information constantly in their work environment and colleagues. In Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organization, Organization is viewed as Political Systems. We can identify different styles of government and see how organization becomes politicized because of divergent interests of individuals and groups. Conflict is a natural property of every organization therefore; we observe many different sources of power and learn how they can be used to our advantage.
Power can exist in different organization culture in various ways. In this paper, I will give an example of Political Organization. There are some sources of power in different organization culture for example, firstly is Formal authority. It is position power because it is based on the role of the leader in the organization, and not on the nature of the personal relationship with others. Secondly, Control of scarce resources, such as promote, increased responsibilities, allocation of work, granting privilege.
Thirdly, the use of the organizational rules, regulations, and procedures that are designed to guide and streamline activities can almost always be used to block activities to gain power and control. Fourthly, Control of boundaries by monitoring and controlling boundary transactions. The next source is Control of technology which influences the interdependence within an organization and the power relations between individuals and departments. Moreover, Affiliations, and coalitions are all provide sources of power in term of Interpersonal alliances, networks, and control of Informal organization.
Control of decision process is another example of sources of power. It can be seen as Referent power; which is based on the subordinate’s identification with the leader. A particular manager any not be in a position to reward or punish, but can exercise over subordinates because of their respect of commands. Besides, Control of knowledge and information; power exists where man skillful organizational politicians control information flows and knowledge that is made available to different people, thereby influencing perception of situations and hence the ways they act in relation to those situations.
These politicians are opening and closing channels of communication, summarizing, analyzing, and shaping knowledge with a view of the world that favors their interests. They also have the right information at the right time, and skill is seen as a form of power. In conclusion, it is true that one of the major strengths of the culture metaphor rests in the fact that it directs attention to the symbolic significance and can be considered as the most rational parts of organizational life. There are both positive and negative effects by viewing Organizations as Cultures as I discussed above.
The effect of national culture on organization culture is given between two nations; USA and Japan. Other countries which have similar national culture also have similar score among five independent dimensions of national culture differences by Hofstede. Because of Individuals Norms and Values is formed together according their national cultures. By giving an example of Political Organization, power exists in different organization cultures by various sources as mentioned above. References  L. Mullins, Management and Organizational Behavior, 7th ed. Prentice Hall  G. Morgan (1986), Images of Organization, Sage Publications, Inc.
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