A preface - Professor Geert Hofstede & Culture
Professor Geert Hofstede was a renowned Dutch social psychologist, whose detailed research over 70 countries unraveled how culture plays an influential role over values in a workplace setting. This comprehensive study helped him form the famous 6-Dimensional Models of National Culture. By now, you may have come across his definition of culture. To recall, he defined culture as:
*“The collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.” *
Understanding Culture makes for an interesting pursuit, one which helps gather insights into human behavior itself. In earlier articles, you have read about what it is and discovered how culture awareness can be advantageous in various ways such as it helps connect with the local group of people and foreign cultures, helps avoid any embarrassments that may ensue, and so on.
For any personnel, Organizational Culture offers them deeper knowledge of their company’s cultural environment. But what exactly is Organizational Culture? How is it useful for personnel or organizations? Is it different from National Culture?
Before we go deeper into this article, here is a short recap of what Culture is.
What is Culture?
Culture is a group phenomenon, marking the strongest influence over human behavior. Brands, businesses, and organizations that work with cultural forces, rather than against them, benefit a significant strategic edge. Having a stronghold over your cultural awareness can help improve your professional or even personal journey.
With this knowledge, you can take better decisions for your personal or professional life based on practical data about a workplace or country.
Diving in-depth: Organizational Culture
Are you a CEO, an HR director or other decision-maker new to Organizational Culture and interested in getting started? Or are you tasked to find information about it on someone's behalf, a consultant who is interested in the topic, or are you simply curious to learn about it for personal growth?
These are few interesting questions you could wonder about your employees/organization. As such, delving into your Organizational Culture can provide you with valuable and unique insights to confidently take your next steps towards your goals. However, to explain the term itself can be challenging, or to put it aptly, sound somewhat vague. As a result, this aspect does not help the fact that Organizational Culture is spoken about in very different ways, depending on the source.
When going deeper into analyzing Organizational Culture, it becomes necessary to make divisions between different types. It is further divided into four different themes, as given below:
- Optimal culture
Optimal culture is the organizational culture that best supports your organization's strategy in order to be successful. It should take into account the restrictions that apply to your organization and the strategy your organization has. Restrictions such as rules, legislation, economy or other limiting factors should always play a role in designing Optimal culture. More importantly, optimal culture should always be tailored for each organization, or function of an organization. It is not advisable to try to apply the culture of another organization as the optimal culture for yours. This is because your context is unique, the founders of the organization are different, and the economical landscape is likely to be different as well.
- Actual culture
Actual culture should be the basis for all Organizational Culture change projects. It is the culture your organization or department currently has. It can be measured using Hofstede Insight’s Multi-Focus Model™, an easy-to use, systematic and data-driven tool that employs valid and objective method designed to guarantee accuracy and objectivity.
- Perceived culture
As the term suggests, Perceived culture is the culture people in the organization think it has. It is also the culture you think your organization has. You can get more insight on the perceived culture by simply asking others and this might change your perception of your organization's culture. Thanks to the subjective nature of perceived culture, however, it is not useful for aligning your culture with your strategy as you will most likely not get the complete and correct picture about your organization's actual culture. Implementing changes based on perceived culture alone, without measuring the actual culture, is one of the reasons why many Organizational Culture change projects fail.
- Ideal work environment
Like its Actual culture counterpart, Ideal work environment is measured exactly the same way, except that instead of asking questions about the current work environment, the respondents describe the Organizational Culture they would love to have.
Measuring Ideal work environment gives valuable information about the preferences of the people working in the organization. It can offer insights into how the targets for Optimal culture should be set and how difficult it will be to reach them. For this reason, it is useful to measure, even though it does not offer information about the current state of things nor should it usually be the goal your organization should strive for.
National Culture – an overview
Based on Professor Hofstede’s 6-Dimension Models, National Culture represent the cultural similarities and differences of a country (rather than individual) over another, and its impact on one’s state of affairs.
As emphasized earlier, culture is a group phenomenon. When you look at a small group of people, personality always plays an important role in one's behavior and the characteristics of National Culture tend to be less apparent. But, what about a larger group? In such a case, the larger that group becomes, the more noticeable National Culture will also be.
Let’s explain that with an example:
For instance, if you deal with a single French person, what you will notice is his/her individual qualities and traits. On the flip side, if you come across a small group of French people, it is entirely possible that they are, for instance, a group of friends who share similar individual qualities yet vastly differ from most of the nation. It is also possible that their individual qualities have very little in common and you might have difficulties spotting any similarities.
In other words, if you deal with a large number of French people at the same time, the individual qualities of each person will be less noticeable, and you will begin to see what they have in common.
Organizational Culture vs National Culture – how are they different?
As you can see from the example above, it already describes one of the key differences between National Culture and Organizational Culture. The small group of French people could be the employees of a small French organization. Now it is important to note that because these people would not represent French culture as a whole, it would be wrong to assume that the culture of their organization would be identical to French culture. Nevertheless, the company would still have a culture of some sort.
Organizational Culture is the result of many factors but tends to be more straightforward and precise to measure compared to National Culture. This is because most organizations have clear objectives and requirements with major activities within the organization designed to meet these criteria. While size of the organization and personalities of its members, especially the more influential ones, still play a large role, Organizational Culture is relatively easier to observe and define than National Culture.
When you come across the phrase ‘Organizational Culture’, the ‘groups’ that you find in Professor Hofstede's definition usually are the organizations. It therefore relates to how the members of the organization relate to each other, to their work and to the outside world. In addition, it brings about how all this is different in one organization compared to another.
In other words, it is the discussion about how this one group of people distinguishes itself from another group.
While differences between National Cultures are most apparent in the values, differences between organizations within the same nation can most clearly be seen in the practices of the organizations. This is also why Organizational Culture, unlike National Culture, can be changed by changing those practices.
- Organisational Culture - What you need to know (hofstede-insights.com)
- National Culture vs. Organisational Culture—Which One Wins? (denisonconsulting.com)
Finally, Culture is a group phenomenon that heavily influences human behavior. Having insight into your own culture allows you to hold an edge when moving abroad or communicating with foreign local cultures. Organizational culture is an extension to culture wherein it helps company personnel with valuable understanding of their work environment’s culture so they can confidently proceed towards their next goals. On the other hand, natural culture broadens over individualism, catering to the behavior and character of a larger group of people that make up a society. It differs from organizational culture because organizations come with defined rules, objectives, and regulations – rendering national culture as less-straightforward to measure compared to organizational culture. Through recognizing the similarities and differences between national culture and organizational culture, you can boldly take the next step and move towards your goals. The insights help you discover yourself, prepare for challenges you may face, and take on the journey to be all that you can be!