Cultures and Organizations

Sep 10

One of the assigned texts for my current course in global management is Cultures and Organizations, which carries the catchy subtitle Software of the Mind. As they setup the book they naturally provide details about the quantitative methods used to analyze the data presented. This includes both the methods and the models, as well as the evolution of the same throughout the research. What’s more interesting is their take on nurture vs. nature, which is to say that they explore the relationship between genetics and social influence. At the foundation they place values, which they argue are learned extremely young. Building on this foundation of values are practices and objects such as rituals, heroes and symbols. The research focuses primarily on the statistical trend, leaving analysis of deviations to a minimum. Diluted Values & Cultural Relativism In the introductory chapter, The Concept of Culture, they highlight some of the ways in which culture change, both over time and with respect to other cultures. One concept they identify is Moral Circles, going further to define some common boundary markers for moral circles. A moral circle is a peer group within which all members have a common moral agreement. Typical demarcations for a moral circle are religion or philosophy. A very interesting observation they put forth about moral circles is that they have a tendency to expand to include more and more people, or even non-people as members. They caution that such vast circles dilute the rights and duties of all members, concluding that “Most empires have disintegrated from the inside.” In contrast to this warning about overly inclusive moral circles, they argue in favor of cultural relativism quoting Claude Lévi-Strauss as saying: “Cultural relativism affirms that one culture has no absolute criteria for judging the activities of another culture as “low” or “noble”. However, every culture can and should apply such judgment to its own activities, because its members are actors as well as observers.” In this they mean to suggest simply that while within a culture or moral circle, a group may be subjectively critical of itself, it is not as easy to be objectively critical of another group or culture. Comparison of values and norms across cultural boundaries, if it’s...

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Framing Organizations

Aug 26

Having just finished the course for Organizational Dynamics, I wanted to summarize my main take away from the course. The material covered leadership, strength assessment and four frames through which organizations can be viewed. By far the most valuable insight for me came from exploring the four frames, which are: Structural Political Symbolic Human Resources Structural The structural frame focuses on the hierarchical structure of an organization. Who reports to who, titles, roles, responsibilities. The primary argument from this frame’s perspective is that organizational issues can be solve by changing the structure of the organization. Cases in which this can work include organizations which have well defined roles based on commodity skills, where workers with those skills are widely available. Some examples might include retail or manufacturing. Political The political frame views organizations as power structures where influence is gained by forming coalitions and leverage. The primary argument from this frame’s perspective is that success in an organization depends on one’s ability to navigate the complexity of political relationships and gain power and influence to drive key decisions. Organizations in which this can work include industries where there may be multiple successful solutions to a given problem or where the value of an outcome depends on human evaluation. Some examples might include a law practice or an advertising agency. Symbolic The symbolic frame views an organization from the perspective of symbols that emotionally drive and motivate the workforce. These can come in the form of stories, myths and other objects of significance that carry special meaning. Motivation and alignment with company objectives can be powerful and effective, often compensating for deficiencies in structure. This can be especially effective in organizations that have an emotional component, such as non-profits. Human Resources The human resources frame focuses on the human needs of the workers within the organization. These may include family, entertainment, acceptance and achievement. From the perspective of this frame, an organization is most likely to be successful when the needs of its workers are met. Conversely, workers whose needs are met are more fully available to address the needs of the organization. Some examples of this type of focus include companies that provide meals, transportation and access to gym...

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