Concepts of culture and organizational analysis

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Business ・Harvard

Smircich Linda's essay "Concepts of culture and organizational analysis" focusses in the organizational analysis on the significance of the concept of culture. It also seeks to explore the different assumptions of the philosophy of culture and how the concept emerged in the study of organizations. The difficulty with research is understanding how a cultural viewpoint of an organization is to be kept and how the cultural concept is relevant to the organization. From the abstract, it is clear that the concept of culture and organization has been widely misunderstood despite extensive research of the subject based on the existing assumptions and metaphors. However, the author tackles the problem by examining culture as both a variable and a root metaphor for organizational analysis (Smircich 1983, p. 4).

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To pursue this approach, the article explores culture through the field of comparative management and corporate culture to show the link between culture and organization. In comparative management, culture is an independent variable that manifests itself in the organization through the individual attitudes and actions within the organization (Smircich 1983, p. 6). On the contrary, corporate culture shows that culture and organization are related on a larger scale. Smircich argues that “culture is a social or normative glue that holds the organization together” (1983, p. 7). The authors make an interesting view of culture as a root metaphor. The article maintains that every organization is culture itself and that the varying perspectives only solidify its significance on the organization. Symbolic, structural, cognitive and psychodynamic perspectives all treat culture as a variable in a particular organization. However, the author reiterates that culture as a cause will enable researchers to understand what comprises an organization rather than what it does to accomplish its goals (Smircich 1983, p. 16). To sum up the work, the author states that cultural analysis of the organization will help researchers better understand the concept of culture and its relationship with an organization.

The article is very confusing in the beginning due to lack of a concise introduction. Various concepts are scattered, and the flow of information from one page to another is not well organized and therefore, difficult to follow. The information is relevant to managers and sociologists concerned with how culture impacts an organization. The article is well written and the ideas well thought out, and sources are cited accordingly.

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Stephen, A., & Phillip, A. C. 1990, “Can Culture be managed? Working with “Raw material”: The case of English Slaughtermen”. Personnel Review, Vol.19, Issue 5, pp.3-13.
In the article “Can Culture be managed? Working with “Raw material”: The case of English Slaughtermen” the authors seek to determine whether the corporate culture in an organization is manageable through Human Resources (HR) practices. The article aims to ascertain the feasibility of HR to manage organizational culture to achieve strategic objectives of the organization. Is the behavior of workers in an organization deliberate or controlled? This is the question, the article wants to address. The organizational culture of a business is set by the HR through its policies and guidelines that employees must adhere. Stephen & Phillip introduce their research by exploring the issue of autonomous work groups. The article argues that the ability for work groups to make decisions about their tasks is influenced by the actions and directives of the management rather than their own will. In contrast, the authors reveal that “the values and work- related behaviors emerge from collective sense making by members of a work group” (Stephen & Phillip 1990, p. 4).

To answer, the research questions, the author uses a case study of English slaughterhouse workers at Casterton plant. The case study method is relevant to the research, because the work done by slaughter men is dirty, strenuous and highly stigmatized (Stephen & Phillip 1990, p.4). The researchers were able to visit Casterton during the study period, interact with the slaughter men and make observations of their behavior at work. This made the results of the survey valid and reliable. The results of the study showed that the slaughter men worked hard and went about their routines with minimal managerial control because they worked as gangs. The harassments, demonstrations and set pieces were aimed at improving productivity (Stephen & Phillip 1990, p. 5-7). The authors observe that “the men were strongly attached to their work; and given the right social context, would insist on its importance” (1990, p. 8). The article has practical implications for workers working on an assembly line in a way that their sub-cultures cannot be managed. The article concludes that work culture cannot be maintained by HR.
Overall article is excellent and can be read by anybody. The flow of information is well organized, and ideas are linked. However, it fails to show how the HR practices at Casterton are related to the behaviors of slaughter men to determine level of managerial control.

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Alvesson, M., & Wilmott, H. 2002, Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39(5), pp.620-640.
The article “Identity regulations as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual,” by Alvesson & Wilmott seeks to examine the regulation of identity as a form of organizational control. The research problem is that organizational control can negatively affect the identity of employees. The objectives of an organization dictate the image of employees since their identity is regulated to achieve organizational goals and objectives.

The identity employees portrayed is directly related to organization control. For this reason, some people lose their sense of self-identity when they retire because that identity was linked to their work in an organization. The work titles given to employees by the organization form their identity, and it’s a strong indication of managerial control. From the article, it’s clear that employees sometimes resist and reject the identities given to them in the pretext of developing an organizational identity (Alvesson & Wilmott 2002, p. 621). The question arises whether employees should define their own identity or conform to the identity regulation instigated through policies aimed at improving managerial control. Alvesson & Wilmott argue that “identity becomes a target of organizational control as the economic and cultural elements of work becomes de-differentiated” (2002, p. 623). This means that the identity of some employees is determined by their income levels in the organization or the idea to include more women in managerial roles or make the workplace more culturally inclusive. For instance, organizations encourage people to work in groups while those who refuse to be affiliated with any group are labeled as incapable of teamwork. Furthermore, individuals are identified by the organization according to their knowledge and skill level, morals and their rank in the managerial hierarchy (Alvesson & Wilmott 2002, p. 631). The article concludes by stating that the regulation of identity in an organization should be made in such a way that improves the self-image of workers and not demean them. The article is crucial for scholars, researchers and managers who need a conceptual framework to regulate identity in an organization.
The abstract of the article was very small and provided insufficient information on the direction of the research. It is not straightforward, and some people might struggle to understand what it's all about. It is well written, organized and sources are cited appropriately.

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Alvesson, M., & Wilmott, H. 2002, Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39(5), pp.620-640.
Smircich, L. 1983, Concepts of Culture and Organizational Analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, No.3. pp. 339-358: Sage.
Stephen, A., & Phillip, A. C. 1990, “Can Culture be managed? Working with “Raw material”: The case of English Slaughtermen”. Personnel Review, Vol.19, Issue 5, pp.3-13.

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