Discussion: Organizational Culture: Can It Be “Managed”?

Some organizational theorists would assert that an organization’s culture cannot be “managed” in the truest sense of how one “manages” the processes and activities and things that exist within an organization. David Campbell (2000, p. 28) says that an organization “is being constructed continuously on a daily, even momentary [italics added], basis through individual interactions with others. The organization never settles into an entity or a thing that can be labelled and described, because it is constantly changing, or reinventing itself, through the interactions going on within it.” At the same time, Campbell says that an organization “does have a certain character to it, such that, like driving on the motorway, not just anything goes” (p. x).

Consider the sheer multiplicity of formal and informal groups, structures, tasks, functional operations, and individual interactions that exist and occur within very large organizations; these are seemingly endless. Consider as well the potential number (and combination) of individual to individual, individual to group, and group to group interactions that are likely to occur on a momentary basis within an organization (and then, there are the seemingly endless numbers of contacts/interactions with external stakeholders as well). The possibilities are seemingly infinite—or at least they are indefinite. For this reason, organizational culture seems more abstract, fragmentary, perhaps fluid—perhaps even relative and momentary.

What is organizational culture? Can culture be managed in the same way that other systems and processes can be “managed”? Depending on your answer, what does this mean as to the use of culture as a “strategic control”?

Reference:

Campbell, D. (2000). The socially constructed organization. London: Karnac Books.

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