Developing Corporate Culture
Corporate culture is best described as a set of significant notions and understanding, such as the values, norms, beliefs and attitudes shared by organizational members. The key focus of corporate culture is the systematic framework of shared meaning amongst the members of a particular corporation. Corporate culture has its key functions, and these may include a sense of identity, reinforcement of behavior and enhancement of commitment.
Some characteristics of corporate culture are:
- Innovation and risk, which may be described as the extent or the degree to which employees of an organization are encouraged or motivated to undertake innovated steps as well as calculated risk.
- Team orientation: certain organizations are team focused as opposed to encouraging individuality within its workforce.
- Attitude towards change.
- Rituals: Stipulates the expressive events that reinforce and support corporate standards and values.
- Market and customer orientation which is best expressed as the degree to which a firm is responsive to the market and its customers.
- Values and standards: Establishes the behaviors and performance standards considered as acceptable within an organization
Other characteristics of corporate culture may include commitment, an organizations approach to communication, openness and supervision, conflict tolerance, performance reward, organizational identity etc.
The organizational culture model used at Oyamada industries is the tribal or clan model which is associated with a tribe like environment that focuses on the consensus and commonality of objectives and values (Logan et al.). This model employed by Oyamada industries is perceived to be the most collaborative of all the corporate culture models as well as being the least competitive. Employer commitment, employee engagement and mentoring are thought to facilitate and promote empowerment and loyalty aimed at propagating productivity and business objective success. The Clan model emphasizes an open friendly environment where staff share a lot of themselves. Leaders are considered as mentors and even assume the role of parental figures. Communal loyalty and a notion of tradition are significantly present within this model. This model is deemed to meet organizational needs due to the fact that there is an emphasis on long term benefit of human resource development as well as the fact that great significance is administered to group cohesion. This model facilitates organizations to place premiums on teamwork, participation and consensus thereby meeting its projected organizational needs (Shein 9).
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The reason for the challenge experienced by HR in Oyamada industries in the Bremen plant may have been constituted by one of the disadvantages of its corporate culture model. The clan corporate culture model does not fully encourage employee diversity. The clan culture model tends to be homogeneous in nature and though its employees adopt a common belief or even demographic characteristics which propagate unionism, it does rob the organization of the element of diversity. All efforts in this type of model focuses on perceiving a problem in the same manner whereas all that would have been required to solve that problem would have been a different perspective. Another reason for difficulties at the Bremen plant is the fact that the culture clan model promotes a potential for abuse since it encourages an open friendly environment. This friendly, comfortable culture is extremely vulnerable to abuse in situations where employees use the firm’s tolerance as an opportunity to take initiatives as in the case of an Oyamade staff who allowed someone else to carry out his job function without adequate training.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions border around the elements of power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long term orientation. National culture basically relates to the deeply held values of a group concerning demographic notions which can only change slowly over the course of generations. Organizational culture on the other hand comprise of a broad set of guidelines rooted in organizational practices. Hofstede was in agreement that the altering of organizational culture could take considerable time to achieve. What is often undermined of overlooked when firms from a certain country establish plants in another country and employ citizens within that country like in the case of the Oyamada plant in Bremen, is how the underlying personal values of employees impact how the perceive the corporate culture and change efforts. An employee can learn to adapt to priorities as well as process. An individual who works for a certain organization may follow the exemplary behaviors of leaders within the firm but if these organizational processes and priorities as well as leadership traits go against deeply held national culture values of individuals within the firm then there is every chance that corporate values will definitely be undermined. This analysis is in line with Hofstede’s dimensions of individuality, long term orientation and uncertainty avoidance. What is appropriate in a stipulated national setting might be perceived as offensive in another thereby leading to conflicts.
If we are to analyze organizational climate conduciveness of Oyamada industry drawing from our understanding of Japanese and Germen employment relations then it is obvious the Oyamada industry based on its corporate culture model places emphasis on humane working environments which operate in a family like fashion where commitment and loyalty are paramount as opposed to the Germen notion of cooperate culture that is basically founded on individualism and competition. Oyamada industry aimed to provide employee with safe and fulfilling environments with ample opportunities to lean which is typical of the clan modelled corporate structure.
In terms of how one might account for both the differences in opinion over the operation of the workers council, I would say in my opinion that the notions of the national culture of the Germen workers council did not agree with the notions of the Japanese oriented clan organizational culture model, a case of social identity based conflict. Conflicts with the way the management handled its quality assurance meetings were not in line with the perceptions of the employees as such they perceived the meetings not be important.
The changed attitude of Japanese senior management towards the works council can be expatiated upon from an understanding of culture differences. An issue that seemed important to the senior managers didn’t seem as important to the works council as such the council undermined the importance of such an issue, raising the point that the workers welfare was more important. Management presumed that the union was being obstructive and biased.
Corporate environment of the industry could be improved basically if there was extensive understanding of national culture and organizational culture concepts and how mitigation of both of them conflicting could approached. I would recommend that the firm develop a means of honest communication and trust. The firm should clearly and often communicate the true state of affairs to its employees. I further recommend that the firm should empower employees for better execution as well as provide the right tools for effective collaboration. Above all, a clear understanding of culture difference would play an integral role in avoiding further conflict within the organization as well as help resolve whatever ongoing conflicts already exist.
Communication strategy is based on the assumption that organizational communication management is practiced as a function of strategic management (Gordon). It affords organizations the ability to adapt to environments through the attainment of balance between socially acceptable attitudes and commercial imperatives. Communication strategies help organizations identify as well as manage stakeholder issues in a bid to ensuring that corporate communication missions, aims and objectives are in line with stakeholder and societal norms and values.
In identifying stakeholders within an organization, the traditional view of any firm will aid is insinuating who a stake holder is. Stakeholders basically are individuals who the firm has binding financial obligations with. However, stakeholder theory states that there are fundamentally other significant parties that could be considered stakeholders of a firm. These could include government bodies, trade associations, political groups, trade unions, members of the community where the firm resides, employees and customers (Freeman 2010 p.47) Within the Oyamada industry all the above stated parties are deemed stakeholders. But if we are to further classify them then we would understand that there are internal stake holders: those who the firm has financial obligations with and the external stakeholders: Unions, community residents and customers.
With the context of the Oyamada industries the most suitable approach in managing the stakeholders in this scenario would be the both the multi-fiduciary approach due to the fact that it considers managements obligations of trust and synthesis approach which considers stakeholders as a group which management owes ethical responsibility.
In terms of pitfalls that could have been avoided in the firm’s internal communication structures. They could have been avoided if management of Oyamada industry had set up stakeholder communication strategies that bordered on trust and ethical obligations rather than trying to defend its corporate culture. Conflicts could have been significantly avoided if the management had communicated a clear understanding of culture differences to its stakeholders.
I would recommend the following approaches in corporate communication which could have been used to mitigate the problems faced by the industry:
- The development of deliberate communication goals: The firm’s key management priorities should be reviewed to culminate a series of communication objectives and themes that would be focused on narrowing culture, vision and reputation gaps.
- Set efficiency gaps to supplement communication objectives
It is important that managers acknowledge and actively monitor the concerns of all legitimate stakeholders. Furthermore, it is essential that the openly listen and understand respective stakeholder concerns and contributions. Managers should make it an organizational strategy to adopt modes and processes that are sensitive to the concerns of each stakeholder constituency. It is essential for corporate culture adopted by firms to recognize the interdependence of efforts and compensation amongst stakeholders. There should be a level of equitable distribution of the advantages and disadvantages of corporate activities between them, taking into consideration each’s respective vulnerabilities and risk. Lastly it is paramount that managers acknowledge the potential conflict between their corporations’ legal and moral obligations and their own role as corporate stakeholders. Conflicts should be addressed through open strategic communication and appropriate reporting.
Freeman, E.R. Strategic Management: A Stakeholder approach Cambridge University Press 2010.
Gordon, C “Cashing in on corporate culture”, CA magazine, January–February 2008
Logan, D., King, J., & Fischer-Wright, H. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. HarperCollins. 2009.
Shein, Edgar. Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 9. 1992