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Creating Organizational Culture

Posted on April 3, 2012 by Arianna

Companies have always tried to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Whether it is by providing amazing customer service like Nordstrom, or being eco-friendly like Johnson & Johnson, their ultimate goal is to be known for their behavior along with their products. The concept of organizational culture is what defines companies such as these. Although culture in an organization has always existed, it seems that now more than ever companies are at work trying to define and cultivate it. Unfortunately for many of these companies, their understanding of organizational culture has limited their progress. I, like many of these companies, have the daunting task to define my department’s culture.

My first question was obvious, “How do I create and define our department culture?”

Since I had no understanding of the concept, some research was definitely needed. John M. Invacevich, Robert Konopaske and Michael T. Matteson wrote a book titled Organizational Behavior and Management which helped grasp the concept of organizational culture. The text explains that, “Organizational Culture is what the employees perceive and how this perception creates a pattern of beliefs, values, and expectations”.

In order to create our department culture, I went to Edgar Schein’s “Three Layers of Organizational Model” for structural help. The first layer is visible artifacts and creations. These may often be difficult to interpret, but include things like a company’s office set up such as cubicles, technology, art, and even company newsletters. The second layer is the organizational value, or what is important to the leadership of a company. And the third layer is the basic assumptions made by employees in a corporation that guide their behavior.

There are three types of organizational culture: Customer-Service culture, Ethical culture, and Diversity culture.  In Customer-Service culture the main focus is obviously customer satisfaction. An example of this is Nordstrom, who rewards employees for going out of their way to provide exceptional service. Ethical culture focuses on the well being of the environment and the improvement of people as a whole – of which Johnson & Johnson is a prime example. Diversity culture encompasses and promotes diversity in employees, customers and business relationships. Zappos, the internet retailer, has applied the diversity culture, striving for diversity in each department of their company.

Though a company can have all three types of organizational cultures it is really important to focus on one culture and branch out. Since I am merely trying to define my customer service department culture, my focus has mainly been in the Customer-Service culture. I have yet to fully define it, and though it is a long process, I hope to include my employees in the creation and definition of our culture. In the end it is all about what employees believe it is.

In what ways, has your company defined and implemented its company culture? How has that worked out for you?

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