Organizational Culture – How it Forms

factory1Marvin Bower (1903-2003), author of The Will to Manage (1966), explained organizational culture as “…the way…we do things around here”. He actually referred to it as the corporate philosophy. To be certain, in organizations it is common for a team or group to take some sort of stand, when it comes to deciding how to perform the task requested of them. In his book, Authority (1980), Richard Sennett claimed while “…it is easier to see the emotional commitments made in a family, than in a factory, the emotional life in [that factory] is equally real”. Edgar Schein distinguished between “macro” cultures and sub-cultures in Organizational Culture and Leadership (2010). The former he attributes to nations, while the latter to organizations and occupations-trades-professions.  Amongst the first explorations of sub-cultures inside organizations, is Dr. Elliott Jaques’ The Changing Culture of a Factory: A study of Authority and Participation in an Industrial Setting (1951). Jaques described three main processes evident inside the organization: 1) the sanctioning of authority; 2) the operation of authority (the executive system); and, 3) social adaptation. More importantly, Jaques described the mechanisms that explain resistance to change. Schein emphasized in his definition of organizational culture the processes of external adaptation and internal integration.  From Schein’s work we understand these workers are trying to avoid uncertainty. Jaques emphasized, “the general suspicion and anxieties of individuals and groups are liable to become attached to particular practical issues and difficulties, so much so that the resolution of these practical, and maybe trivial difficulties is thereby seriously obstructed.” Herein do we see the relevance of emotions (anxieties) to the process of change management, and the challenges faced by leaders whose responsibility it is to ensure innovation thrives.