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Avoid the Hustle

Culture: lecture content

Category: Essay Writing

• At the end of the lecture you should be able to:
– Explain why ‘culture’ emerged as a management concept
– Distinguish between the two views of culture
• Mainstream ‘has’
• Critical ‘is’
– Evaluate the strengths and limitations of both approaches
Why ‘culture’?
• Ouchi (1981) Theory Z
• Pascale & Athos (1982) The Art of Japanese Management
• Deal & Kennedy (1982) Corporate Cultures
• Peters & Waterman (1982) In Search of Excellence
• Importance of historical context
• General decline in religious belief in the West
• Emergence of neo-liberalism
• Limitations of ‘Theory X’ approach to management
• Innovative production methods
• Unrest in the American & UK workplaces
• The ‘Japanese miracle’
Mainstream view of culture
• Every organisation has a culture…
• An independent variable
• Integrating & stabilising
• Created at the top
• Cultural engineering to get the ‘right’ culture
• Is there a ‘one best way’?
• Peters & Waterman (1982: 11)
• ‘All that stuff you have been dismissing for so long as the intractable, irrational, intuitive, informal organization can be managed. Clearly, it has as much or more to do with the way things work (or don’t) around your companies as the formal structures and strategies do … you [are] foolish to ignore it’
• ‘Softer approach’
• The opposite of ‘Theory X’ & scientific management
Alternative, critical view of culture
• Every organisation is a culture…
• A metaphor rather than a variable
• Intersubjectivity
• How do the shared assumptions emerge?
• Everyone participates in culture
• Multiple subcultures
• Is culture a coping mechanism?
Culture as a metaphor
• The machine
– … managed and designed like a machine made up of interlocking parts that each play a clearly defined role in the functioning of the whole
– The brain
– … draws attention to the importance of information processing, learning and intelligence
• The organism
– … different organisations belong to different species and species cope with the demands of different environments in different ways
Why a critical approach?
• Does not accept the ‘has’ perspective at face value
– Organisational values can be contested & multiple
– There can be a struggle to impose ‘one best way’
– Is management trying to brainwash employees?
– Are strong organisational cultures desirable?
Examples of a critical approach
• Collinson’s (1988) study of a factory making lorries
• The culture of humour
– Nicknames like ‘electric lips’
– Initiation rites like the ‘long stand’
– Jokes and pranks
• Humour was a way of coping, but did not provide a unified sense of community or basis for collective action
• Ackroyd & Crowdy (1990) study of an abattoir
• Aggressive, macho culture
– Harassment & degradations
– Demonstrations
– Set pieces
• The study questions whether culture can be managed. However, even though the workers break rules, it suits management because the work gets done
The two perspectives contrasted:

Culture has
Culture is

Independent variable
A metaphor


Culture managed from top
Culture tolerated

Symbolic leadership
Management control

Lecture summary:
• Explain why ‘culture’ emerged as a management concept
• Distinguish between the two views of culture
– Mainstream ‘has’
– Critical ‘is’
• Evaluate the strengths and limitations of both approaches
Tutorial questions:
• Describe the culture of:
– The slaughterhouse (Ackroyd & Crowdy 1990)
– Iocus (Fleming & Spicer 2004)
• For each reading, compare the ‘has’ and ‘is’ analyses of culture
• Can you manage culture?
• Do we all mean the same thing when we talk about culture?
Organisational culture & the Enron case study

1. Do you agree that culture is created by strong leadership? (‘has’ view of culture)

2. What metaphors would you use to describe Enron’s culture? (‘is’ view of culture)

3. How was a strong culture created and sustained in Enron?

4. Why do the Milgram experiments help to explain the behaviour of the Enron traders?

5. Analyse the relationship between Enron’s organisational culture and wider society

6. ‘Enron’s slogan is ‘Ask Why’. You know, I didn’t ask myself why enough. I didn’t ask managers why enough. I didn’t ask my colleagues why enough’. Analyse why people were slow to resist the Enron culture.

7. ‘A fatal flaw was a sense that brains and wiliness could outthink the actual way the system worked’. Analyse this statement from a CMS perspective (e.g. non-performativity, denaturalisation, reflexivity)