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2007/07/25

Organizational Culture and Climate

Linking: Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate
Editors: Neal M. Ashkanasy, Celeste P. M. Wilderom, and Mark F. Peterson
Paperback: 664 pages
Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc (January 22, 2004)
ISBN-10: 141290482X
Book Review:


The Handbook of "Organizational Culture & Climate" provides an extensive overview of and an insight into the relevant research. The 61 authors who are coming from different professions and various nations contribute 30 articles to five subject areas. The articles put diverse focal points and go into numerous aspects like values, change, behavior and methodology.

Part I introduces into the basic concepts of culture and climate and compares the diversity of perspectives. The climate for service is considered by Schneider, Bowen, Ehrhart and Holcombe not only from the perspective of customers, but also from the point of view of employees, because those - in the author's opinion - are largely responsible for quality of service. The authors examine how customer orientation is seen by the employees and on what it depends whether they behave in a customer orientated way. Stackman, finder and Connor ask how values cause the development of human's preferences and finally human's behavior. They discuss topics like the descriptiveness of values, the comparison between personal and occupational values, their stability and changeability, the levels of analysis in organizational value research as well as an ethical aspect: the effort of management for achieving a strong culture by developing value congruence among employees. Helms Mills and Mills use the concept of culture as a framework for considering the character of gender discrimination at the workplace. With the aid of the attained insights the authors present practical advices to prevent discrimination. In the fourth chapter Rafaeli and Worline consider symbols that are central for the interpretative culture theories. Symbols reflect organizational culture, mirror basic values, permit (wrong?) conclusions about organizations and they remind the member of an organization to keep his or her role. Tyrrell documents that culture is less a variable which results from structural circumstances but emerges from a continuous interactive process among individuals and structures. Likewise Peterson and Smith describe culture as a result of and a guidance for sense-making processes. In the last chapter of part one Bluedorn deals with the temporal aspects of culture - a neglected approach up to now. Thereby he addresses dimensions and forms of time like polychronicity and their relations to organizational culture.

Part II discusses the measurement of culture and climate. Incipiently Ashkanasy, Broadfoot and Falkus dwell on the development regarding the measurement of organizational culture. They describe the design of a multidimensional measuring system, the "Organizational Culture Profile", and pose the (legitimate) question whether such an instrument can be adequate to an ingenious understanding of culture. With the "Organizational Culture Inventory" Cooke and Syumal present in chapter 9 a measure that already has been applied in numerous studies. On the basis of the results of these studies the authors introduce a theoretical model about the functioning of organizational culture. The relationship between climate and culture is picked up by Pajne in chapter 10. He asks to what extent methods for analyzing organizational climate can support studies of organizational culture. The following two chapters give attention to the connection between performance on the one hand and culture and climate on the other. Wiley and Brooks show how the measuring of climate can be used to get insights into high-performance organizations. Wilderom, Glunk and Maslowski conduct a critical review of the extensive literature regarding the interrelation between culture and performance. Furthermore they offer a framework for an examination of the link between culture and performance. In the last chapter of the second part Kilduffand Corley outline a social-network approach that describes culture as a social framework and they point out how to use it in studying organizational culture.

The third Part addresses the dynamic of organizational change. Michela and Burke analyze whether culture and climate concepts help for a better understanding of permanent improvement and innovation strategies. They assume that cultural change substantially depends on the experience of management. In contrast, Hatch emphasizes in her article the members of an organization as the central element of cultural change. Without them a (charismatic) leader is not able to initiate cultural change. Hatch presents a model to answer the question of how culture changes emerge. From the point of view of Zammuto, Gifford and Goodman organizations with a strong need for control don't have the ability to change culture. The authors show that management ideologies can affect the innovative change in a positive way as well as in a negative. Sathe and Davidson examine how competitive advantages can accrue from specific organizational cultures. They use the term of cultural evolution to characterize a purposeful cultural development. Markus follows the question whether the continuity of cultures can be traced back up to solid structures. The author asserts that the dynamic aspect of culture is at least as important for understanding stability as for understanding change. How can cultural congruence and diversity, a topic especially relevant in mergers and acquisitions, be measured? The relevant literature is based mainly on atheoretical observations of consultants and practitioners. In his article Weber looks for a better theoretical foundation of measuring cultural differences between two organizations and presents a method he developed in his own research.

Part IV analyzes the relationships between culture and climate on the one hand and personnel-psychological aspects like commitment, attachment or socialization on the other hand. The first chapter of the fourth part examines how culture affects individual's attachment to social groups and how this bond in turn affects culture. Bejer, Hannah and Milton describe how difficult it is to disentangle this interrelationship because of the great confusion that exists regarding the terms culture and commitment in literature. Virtanen discusses the manifold dimensions and elements of different commitment concepts. Among other things he makes up the assertion that the strength of commitment expresses the strength of organizational culture. Socialization has a great relevance for the mediation of the organizational values, aims and practices which are elements of the organizational culture. In the socialization concept which is represented by Major she takes account of the diverse relationships among new and already for a longer time employed members of an organization. The subject of the last chapter in part four is the career. The organization's culture inevitably exerts a strong influence on the career patterns of an organization. Conversely - as Gunz notes - the way in which people enter an organization and get ahead has great influence on the organization and its culture. The author exemplifies his considerations by the example of career planning of executives.

The last Part provides a global perspective on organizational culture, with chapters on culture and climate in Japan, China, Europe and North American settings and thereby goes into theoretical and methodological problems of analyzing international cultures. The stimulations derived from analyzing Japanese (organizational) culture for die American organizational culture theory are critically reviewed in the first chapter of the last part. Brannen and Kleinberg examine how the thinking about Japanese management has influenced comprehension of culture. The conceptual differences between national and organizational culture are examined by Hofstede and Peterson. The importance of this distinction becomes clear when companies implement management practices from other countries or want to apply their own methods abroad and disregard the impacts of the national culture. In the following chapter Sagiv and Schwartz assert that the organizational culture and the behavior of organization's members are influenced considerably by the surrounding culture. They develop a set of societal culture profiles and they present two studies to illustrate their thesis. A frequently asked question in organizational culture research is how to establish a strong identification of employees with the organization and its values. Rose, Kahle and Shoham come up to this question from an interesting perspective: they highlight the causes of nonconformity. Dickson, Aditya and Chbokar raise the question whether the observable differences between organizations from different countries can be ascribed to the differences between these countries. For their considerations the authors use the database of the extensive "GLOBE"-project. The next chapter is concerned with the military, a very distinctive organization with a quite pronounced and uniform culture. Soeters exemplifies that values of uniformed people are often different from the values of their national culture. To characterize the culture of the military he introduces the concept of vocational culture, a concept that is quasi placed between the societal and the organizational concept of culture. The fifth chapter is completed by a consideration of a very interesting country: China. Skromme Grannie, Huang and Reigadas investigate the issue, how far western organizational culture theories can contribute to the understanding of change processes in the Chinese organizational culture.

The reader will recognize that this handbook gives lower attention to organizational climate than to organizational culture. This may be due to the numerous inter sections between these two constructs. It also seems as if the subject of organization climate has lost attractiveness. In some respect it is less profound and therefore less attractive from a scholarly point of view. Regarding the quality of the articles one has to notice remarkable differences, and regarding the contents one will find different aspirations too. In detail the contributions argue on a different high level. Some articles provide valuable overviews, others concentrate on their own approach. The reference among the different contributions is often very loose, a deficit which this handbook has in common with many others. On the one hand comprehensive handbooks deliver the essential insights by the wealth of the presented material, on the other hand substantial questions remain unanswered. This is particularly true for a field like organizational culture research which is characterized by countless blind alleys. Thus the reader of the handbook may be somewhat disappointed because the question which of the listed approaches can be considered as fruitful and why not included approaches should be less fruitful remains open. Finally, one can state that a holistic view of organizations cannot be attained - not even by means of culture and climate concepts. The number of aspects in this field is too great.


~Cited from Marcus Falke. Management Revue. Mering: 2004. Vol. 15, Iss. 4; pg. 510-513.



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