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Organisational culture

Over time, organisations come to attract like-minded individuals with similar worldviews and mindsets, leading to the emergence of a common set of values and assumptions in the form of an unwritten dominant logic or organisational code.

These undercurrents form the basis of organisational culture, which for every firm is simply ‘the way we do things around here’. Every organisation is intrinsically unique in its routines, habits and personality. The personality of an organisation can be traced to:

  • The character of the founders and leaders of the firm
  • Moments in the firm’s history that continue to shape its current and future behaviour
  • The industrial environment and the expected patterns of behaviour within that environment
  • The national culture and its influence on firms within the jurisdiction

There is an argument that organisations do not merely possess culture, but are a culture in themselves. As best as possible, managers aim to influence the internal culture because it shapes the motivation of people.

In order for the organisation to succeed, employees’ personal interest must be matched by or surpassed by those of the organisation. The prospect of organisational effectiveness is greatest when employees identify with the firm’s ethos and ways of doing things.

In the same way, the inherent culture determines the speed and capacity of the firm to react to environmental changes. Typically, entrenched and longstanding ways of doing things cause a resistance to change and vice-versa.

Many high-tech start-ups opt for a colourful and casual office layout in order to emulate the culture of successful counterparts such as Facebook and Google. However, culture is not appropriated in the same way that routines are; it is nurtured.

Your task

Let’s take a look at two case studies that demonstrate how Apple and Valve cultivate their unique cultures:

In the comments, reflect on and discuss answers to the following questions:

1) Whose characters shape the organisational cultures at Apple and Valve?

2) How does the industrial environment influence the culture at Apple and Valve?

3) Do you think Apple and Valve are influenced by wider American culture?

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This article is from the free online course:

Strategy as a Process and Measures of Success: An Introduction

Coventry University