There are many different and competing definitions
of “corporate culture” in the organizational theory literature. On one end of the spectrum culture is simply defined
as the patterns of behaviour within the organization (Smircich, 1983). On the other end, some theorists have defined organizational
culture as a system of shared cognitions and the human mind generates the culture by means of a finite number of rules (Fiol,
1991). Although all the theorists believe in the importance of the culture in the organizational studies but still there is
a lack of consensus over its precise definition (Papers4you.com, 2006). Theorists have accepted this fact and approached the
concept of culture from the most widely used definition of culture, as defined by Lismen et al (2004) “a complex set
of values, beliefs, assumptions, and symbols that define the way in which a firm conducts its business”.
The evolution of corporate culture within an organization
has been the center of discussion for many years. Practitioners have called it the ‘way we do things around here’
(Hampden-Turner, 1990) and the theorists have called it as the ‘collective programming of the mind’ (Siew &
Kelvin, 2004) which distinguishes one group from another. Culture reflects the identifiable components of practices, customs,
beliefs and values:
Practices: These represents the surface level of
a culture i.e. the visible elements such as language, etiquette, form of greeting, clothing, and also include the artifacts
of the business i.e. the physical layout. These practices do have relevance as it greases the functionality of the organization.
Such practices keep the employees motivated, concerned and even transform everyone to follow the similar path as everyone
in order to achieve the common corporate objective.
Customs: These are the accepted modes or norms of
behaviour within the organization, reflecting the values and beliefs, which provide guidelines for the way people and groups,
are expected to behave towards each other. These often shape aspects of the physical appearance of the organization, also
called the artifacts.
Beliefs: The assumptions that members hold about
the organization and the situation within it- about what practices work well in this business, for example how people make
decisions, how teams work together and styles of problem solving.
Values: Deeply held ideas of members regarding what
constitute right or wrong, fair or unfair, thus anything that has personal worth or meaning. These values are expressed in
operating beliefs and norms of behaviour.
The corporate culture develops as people come to
share a set of beliefs and then they use these to establish norms about the way they should behave towards each other and
to outsiders (Papers4you.com, 2006). If the outcomes are positive this reinforces their shared belief in the values underlying
their behaviour. In this way, the organizations develop deep seated values and beliefs about the way that staff should run
things. However, it looks simple and straight forward case in theory, but when it is referred in the practical life then it
is a big task to let it be a success story. It can be concluded by drawing upon Barney (1986) that a valuable, rare and inimitable
corporate culture can be a source of sustained competitive advantage for a company.
Barney, J. (1986) “Organizational Culture:
Can It Be a Source of Sustained Competitive Advantage?” Academy of Management
Review, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 656-665
Fiol, C. (1991) “Managing Cultures as a Competitive
Resource: An Identity-Based View of Sustainable Competitive Advantage,” Journal of Management, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 191-211
Hampden-Turner, C (1990), “Corporate Culture-
From Vicious to Virtuous circles”, The Economist books, pg 21-22
Lismen, C.; Margaret, S. and Ed Snape (2004) “In
Search of Sustained Competitive Advantage: The Impact of Organizational Culture, Competitive Strategy and Human Resource Management
Practices on Firm Performance,” International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 15:1, pp. 17-35
Papers For You (2006) "E/B/49. Review of theories
on organizational culture", Available from http://www.coursework4you.co.uk/sprtbus22.htm [22/06/2006]
Papers For You (2006) "P/B/309. Why is corporate
culture important?", Available from http://www.coursework4you.co.uk/sprtbus22.htm [21/06/2006]
Siew Kim Jean Lee, Kelvin Yu (2004), “Corporate
culture and organizational performance”, Journal of Managerial Psychology; Volume: 19
Issue: 4; 2004 Research paper
Smircich, L. (1983) “Concepts of Culture and
Organizational Analysis,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, pp. 339-358