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EXISTING FRAMEWORKS

The review of selected research on organizational culture reveals many common elements, variables, and implications. In addition to definitions and descriptions of culture and its links to performance and competitive advantage, the research provides useful conceptual frameworks and models. Whereas some scholars have developed models of the levels of organizational culture,48others have created models representing necessary conditions to create a competitive advantage and high performance,49 or implications of organizational culture. The latter cover a wide array of elements from shared history50 and joint experiences51 to management actions,52 leadership, and human resource practices.53 Common elements, however, include defining culture and its key dimensions.54 Most frameworks tend to focus on internal organizational factors associated with the building or development of culture, including human resource practices, top management practices, and the firm's history and experiences. A few consider external factors and relate these to achieving competitive advantage.55 The models generally suggest that organizations that encourage a strong culture will tend to have strong performance. The implied mantra is "do the right thing and good results will be part of the outcome."

Among the most discussed variables in scholarly frameworks are management actions and behaviors and how they are related to organizational culture and can ultimately lead to strong culture and success. Whereas Fiol and O'Reilly stress that organizational culture is derived from management behavior patterns, actions, beliefs, propositions and values, Ulrich and Lake focus on how human resource practices (set up by managers) may influence internal aspects of organizational culture.56 They suggest that leaders who inculcate a shared mindset within the organization and encourage corresponding human resource practices may promote a capacity for change at all levels of the organization. This moves the discussion of culture from development to long-term sustainability and management. Both of these variables, management and human resource practices, are internal factors related to organizational culture. As described by O'Reilly, the norms and social realities implemented within the company, through management and human resources, may relate to a company's strategy and organizational commitment, which contribute to a sustainable competitive advantage.57 In his framework, O'Reilly states that organizational commitment, comprising compliance, identification, and internalization, need to be accepted by management and employees to encourage successful performance of a company. The multidimensional culture framework by Marcoulides and Heck is less specific in stating what influences different factors of organizational culture.58 They suggest that five interrelated variables may be associated with organizational performance: organizational structure and purpose/organizational values, which may influence task organization, worker attitudes and organizational climate, which in turn influence performance.

Although most of the frameworks focus on internal factors, Ulrich and Lake also refer to external variables that may impact the possibility of creating a competitive advantage.59 They suggest that change and competition are two external factors that could potentially influence how and when a competitive advantage emerges, implying that the road to competitive advantage is volatile and can be externally influenced. For example, significant recent changes within the mobile phone industry have knocked Nokia, the early market leader, from its top position. Such shifts in the competitive market place can delay or speed up the achieving of competitive advantage by a given organization. The actions of competitors represent another factor that can change this timing, and suggests that a strong internal culture alone does not necessarily lead to a competitive advantage.

In summary, while the research covers a wide array of elements and influences on organizational culture, it does not draw consistent or comprehensive connections with performance or the establishment of competitive advantage. Additionally, existing frameworks and models focus on isolated dimensions of organizational culture rather than on combining them to build a more complete picture of organizational culture.

 
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