of culture in achieving Organizational Integrity,
and managing conflicts between cultures
29 April 01
Defined. Culture is, simply put,
the "way we do things around here." Culture is a bundle
of assumptions about the way the world works, beliefs, values,
symbols, languages, rituals, principles, rules, and practices
that consciously or unconsciously drives the thoughts, feelings,
and actions of the organization and its stakeholders. more
have a history and a structure, and thus can remain "the
same" over a substantial period of time despite the comings
and goings of any or even all individuals within it. They
are born of experience in dealing with pressures both external
and internal to the organization. More
is an integral part of the process of making individual
choices. It influences what the organization senses, cares
about, and is capable of dealing with.
example, an important aspect of culture is whether an employee
or society is predominantly self-focused or group-focused.
Another aspect of culture is the acceptability of differences
in power between individuals of a group. Putting the two
aspects together creates a matrix that demonstrates the
richness of cultural influence: more
low power differential. One answers to personal standards
and questions existing authority (Anglo-American).
focus, high power differential. One answers to personal
standards, but follows a sense of duty (French, German,
low power differential. One considers the group, but rejects
authority (Russian, Swedish, Chinese).
focus, high power differential. One considers the group
and follows a strong sense of duty (Mexican, Subcontinent,
Japanese, Saudi Arabian).
cultural influences complicate policy and styles of management
from practices such as quality circles to pay-for-performance
reward systems. Culture is even more important in how the
organization deals with the world around it, where many
more cultures among its affected stakeholders may dictate
that it "think globally, but act locally."
and Organizational Complexity. A complex system
is composed of parts that differ in structure or function
from one another, which communicate and enhance one another's
goals. Organizations are complex systems. They have a multitude
of tasks that need to be done, people with different capabilities
to accomplish them, formal structures and systems to support
harmonize conflict and mobilize energy, and myriad cultures
and subcultures within them and their broader communities.
differences between cultures influencing an organization
may be tribal, regional, national, or international in origin;
they may be subtle or glaring. The challenge for an organization
is to celebrate the diversity of cultures, but find enough
commonality to encourage them to communicate and enhance
each other's goals.
is a source of conflict. When individual or organizational
"ways of doing things here" conflict, the people involved
or affected will not see the same issues, care as much about
them, or be as capable of dealing with them. Leadership
must intervene to resolve these conflicts.
Systems View of Change, Culture, Compassion, Conflict and
Choice. An organization is essentially an open system
that receives input, processes it, generates output, and
is changed through feedback loops from the process itself
and the output. For the organization to be successful, its
components must be congruent "or "fit."
dynamics of organizational culture as an integral part of
the process of compassion, conflict, and choice can be captured
in a general systems model. These components and relationships
are displayed in the general systems model dEPICted below.
takes the form of pressures from the environment, resources
available, and the history of the organization.
Environmental pressures are categorized as threats, opportunities,
demands, constraints and chance. Pressures are virtually
available include human beings, materials, information,
capital, organizational capability, and time. Resources
are always limited.
history of the organization includes significant events,
key people, responses to previous crises, and core values.
History expands and contracts both the environmental pressures
and the resources available.
situation demanding a choice-or generating compassion or
conflict-becomes apparent to the organization through the
input filter of the changing thoughts, feelings, and actions
of all those involved, knowledgeable or affected. The organization
deals with this change through a transformational process
and makes choices or resolves conflicts to achieve organizational
takes the form of objectives, actual results, and desirable
results. Foremost of the organizational objectives, and
perhaps the least obvious, is the nature of the organization
itself, i.e., who it is, its "being." More obvious are organizational
performance objectives. Less obvious than either being or
performance objectives is that the organization should have
position objectives and learning objectives as well.
Position objectives answer the questions, Once the
organization has achieved its performance objectives, where
does it want to be? What does it want to be able to accomplish
objectives answer the questions, What will we learn
as we go through the process? How will we have increased
our organizational capability? What new things will we be
able to do when we are through?
the transformational process itself changes the organization's
situation, and the output changes both the process and the
situation. Feedback loops represent the impact of
the transformation process and output on the organization
itself and its environment. Assessment of organizational
success is less a matter of determining whether desired
objectives were achieved than determining whether desirable
results occurred. More
and Its Influence on Process. Culture's influence is
pervasive. As the relationship between the four components
of the transformation process demonstrate, consciousness,
culture, capability/capacity, and caring lead to either
choice or conflict.
an organization can begin any process to deal with change,
it must be conscious (aware) of the thoughts, feelings,
or actions that represent the change in its situation. Situational
awareness includes the factors in its environment, resources,
or history that have led to the situation. Culture significantly
influences what one is aware of.
a choice to be made (or for there to be an actual conflict),
someone in the organization must care. "To care," in this
sense, means to be sensitive to the situation and willing
to give the attention required to understand a need for
action: to "care about," though not necessarily to "care
for." It is not enough to be aware that a change might require
action. If no one actually cares, a situation will be lost
among the pressures and distractions that characterize organizational
in an organization is an attitude of mutual affection and
obligation, which represents the unity and health of the
organization. Culture significantly influences what one
cares about and cares for.
and capacity-Capability is the skill, knowledge, understanding
and attitudes that permit individual judgment and action.
Capacity is the structures and systems necessary to support
individuals in the exercise of their capabilities.
the capability and capacity to be conscious and to care,
the situation may pass without attention. Without the capability
to imagine and the capacity for action, the organization
may be aware of the situation and care, but be unable to
create opportunities to act.
the organization is conscious of a change, cares about it,
and has the capability and capacity to deal with it, three
output filters lead to desired output. Compassion may be
felt, conflict may arise, or a choice may be made.
is perhaps the most socially important feeling. It may or
may not be felt in any given situation, compassion is the
bridge between "caring about" and the performance output
of "caring for."
turns to ethics for guidance in answering the questions,
what is right, and what is good? However, there is no single
universal formula for making such a decision. Sometimes
the choice made will be to do nothing.
times, conflicts in vision, perception of reality, or expectations
will arise that the organization must acknowledge or resolve.
In any event, where the conditions are present for choice
or conflict, they will affect the nature and goals and objectives
of the organization. More
Resolution and Learning & Growth. Conflict arises
when there are differing visions of where the organization
should go and how it should go there. Conflict also arises
when there are differing understandings of where the organization
is and how it got there. More often, conflict arises where
visions and views of reality are harmonious, but there are
differing expectations as to the possibilities of human
drives how conflict is regarded and managed. A key characteristic
of conflict styles is whether the individuals involved are
able to separate issues from the people themselves. In high-context
cultures, issues are seen to be more concrete than in low-context
cultures. As a result, it is more difficult to separate
the people from the issue.
source of authority is also an important factor. Self-focus,
high-power differential cultures (e.g., France and Germany)
will look to a central authority to resolve conflict. Self-focus,
low power-differential cultures (e.g., Anglo-American) will
look to personal networks or mediation to resolve conflict.
cultures, conflict is to be avoided (e.g., Japanese, Korean).
In others, conflict is actively sought (e.g., Anglo-American).
In our view, conflict should be regarded as an invaluable
opportunity to learn and grow. Conflict of visions, views
of reality, and expectations should be expected-and valued.
It is perhaps the most valuable information in organizational
life. This is the case, however resolving a specific conflict
it exists, leadership must organize so that it can harmonize
conflict and mobilize the will and intellect to achieve
organizational aspirations. Leadership must intervene with
as little interference as possible. So, approaches to conflict
resolution should be more in the nature of mediation,
in which the conflict is resolved by the parties with whatever
facilitation may be appropriate, than arbitration or litigation.
Ethics should be constructive, building on what works well
toward where the organization wants to go.