Culture – exactly what is it?
One of the major challenges in organizational analysis is the definition of “culture”. It is an oblique word with as many meanings as there are people in the room. And ineffective organizational culture costs thousands, even millions of dollars for organizations every year.
Culture is a glamorous,, intriguing word and it has the sophisticated ring of … well, culture! The problem is culture is often vague and difficult to pin down. Deference to culture allows those who do not want to change the ability to say “it’s a cultural issue,” providing them an excuse to continue on with their same old practices.
Culture is “the glue that binds an organization together … it is the collection of values, beliefs, symbols, and norms the organization follows and that define what it is and how it does business each and every day” (SHRM, Fornal, 2002).
In my view, culture is 'how we get things done around here."
Unfortunately, cultural analyses, while helpful, do not provide solutions to the roots of the culture itself. Let me explain. I agree with the foundational researchers who offer that “Culture is the way we do things around here.” If that’s the case, then we need to resolve (1) what it is we’re doing and (2) how we’re doing it, and (3) why we do what we do. Then, and only then, make changes that correct the way we do things. If culture is ‘the way we do things around here,” why not analyze that?