What is Organisational Culture, and Why is it a Vital Organ for Multi-Cultural Companies?

What is Organisational Culture, and Why is it a Vital Organ for Multi-Cultural Companies?

Many people limit the meaning of culture to stand within a race, a religion or an accent heard in conversation, but, in fact, it spreads to so many elements of our lives. Organisational culture is defined as the way in which members of an organisation relate to each other, their work and the outside world in comparison to other organisations. It can enable or hinder an organisation’s strategy – Geert Hofstede. It is made up of instinctive repetitive habits and emotional responses which are self-sustained, and brought into each company by each individual’s personal values, attitude and beliefs.

One way to observe this is by looking to the different workplace structures of the east and the west. It can be readily established that the existence of high power distance values and a bureaucratic culture in Asian firms is very uniform, where for example, important decisions are made by the owners and senior management of Korean and Chinese firms. Owners and executives are on top of any bureaucratic structure in these firms and direction and orders tend to be top-down with little delegation and empowerment. On the other hand, despite the seemingly bureaucratic workplace structure of Australian companies, they are mainly used to coordinate activities and reporting purposes. Held increasingly by values of equalitarianism, democracy and participation, there is greater delegation and decentralisation of decision making and control. In both situations, each organisational structure has taken advantage of the beliefs and values of their employers and structured it into a workable organisation that evolves the needs of both parties involved.

At an organisational level, culture is a basis of all interactions between the people in that workplace.  Our collective ability to constructively manage workplace relationships, particularly in the face of inevitable tension and conflict, defines our organisational culture.

In order to stimulate the growth of organisational culture, it is beneficial to start noting those actions that benefit the company and lead it towards a positive outcome, and utilise them more frequently. These things may include the way your employees speak to clients or the way in which meetings are lead, and it is important that these align with the business strategy. Therefore, instead of focusing on changing the cultures themselves, it is often more appropriate to change behaviours in the workplace, as they tend to be more tangible and easily appropriated. Cultures do not tend to change automatically, but they do turn to follow behaviour chains.

Understanding and realising the cultural organisation of your company is only the starting point to how to improve in a manner that will increase the odds of financial and operational success. The next step involves the recognition and observation of different practices of cultural organisation in leadership, workload distribution, work capabilities, relationships and structural controls.