How Will You Fit into the Organization?
All companies seem to have their own particular way of doing things. The personality, or culture, of the organization affects the way that everything is seen and done. The culture may be visible in the style of the building, the layout of the offices, the corporate brochure, the dress code, and the workplace jargon.
Less tangible, but no less important in helping to identify a company's culture, are the shared traditions, values, policies, attitudes, structures, and beliefs within the organization.
Charles Handy analyzed the shared and unwritten rules of workplace behavior in his book Understanding Organizations. Handy used analogies to illustrate the main features of each culture. You may already have a good idea of the culture of your organization. If not, then the following may provide some more clues:
A spider's web depicts power cultures – These organizations are usually controlled by one main character. Such cultures are common in family-run businesses and small entrepreneurial companies.
A Greek temple represents role cultures – These gain their strength from the various functions, rules, roles, and procedures in an organization. Large organizations tend to have this type of culture.
A net illustrates the linkages between individuals that are typical of task cultures – Task cultures tend to be responsive and flexible. They are often advertising agencies, high-tech companies, and other research-based organizations.
The individual is of paramount importance in person culture – the organization is secondary. Medical practices and law firms are good examples of this type of culture.
So, how does knowing the type of culture that exists within your organization help you as a new manager? Understanding the culture is important, because the characteristics of each culture will have an impact on the way that things are done, or can be done, in an organization.
The characteristics of the four types of culture are:
Power – The main characteristic of a power culture is a strong, central figurehead who is the source of all authority within the organization. The central figure delegates tasks on a need to do basis, and planning is ad hoc and short-term. Communication is informal, and bureaucracy is low.
Role – This is a structured, bureaucratic type of culture. Continuity, stability, and predictability are important. Job roles in the company are defined, position confers authority, and training is valued. Communication is formal, and these companies tend to be established and stable.
Task – Communication is informal, and bureaucracy is low in a task culture. Authority is based on expertise and not on position. In this culture, multi-disciplinary teams are common, and work is of a problem-solving kind. This culture is typical of fast-moving entrepreneurial businesses.
Person – In this culture, the needs of the individual take precedence over those of the organization. There are few formal procedures. Decision making is informal, and centers around influential individuals. Many not-for-profit organizations and professional practices fit this model.
New managers face slightly different challenges as a result of their organizational cultures. Understanding the particular difficulties that you may encounter will help you to deal with them more effectively.
Possible challenges you may face are as follows:
Task – Introducing tiers of management or processes to a task culture may be difficult. Formal job descriptions are often non-existent. You mustn't be offended if someone else works on your task, because completion of the task is the most important thing.
Role – Trying to introduce more creative thinking can be difficult, because roles are usually defined, and communication is formal. You need to be aware that systems are important, and decision making may be slow. For example, new initiatives may have to be agreed to by a committee.
Person – Trying to structure decision making in a person culture may be very difficult. You will also find that trying to move the focus away from the individuals involved and onto the task can be a challenge.
Power – Trying to formalize lines of communication can be difficult. If you are brought in as part of a new layer of management, you may meet with some resistance, as people are used to going to the figurehead for decisions. It could be difficult to get anyone to focus on long-term plans.
Nothing lasts forever, and an organization's culture might change and evolve over a period of time. An organization that begins life as a power culture may need to become a role culture when the owner sells the company, or when the business grows much bigger, for example.
The important thing is that, as a new manager, you understand your organization's prevailing culture, and work with it, not against it. If you do this, you'll find it easier to make a difference.
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