IntroductionCulture iscommonly thought of as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a givengroup has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with itsproblems of external adaptation and internal integration” according to EdgarSchein’s (1985: 9) most commonly accepted dichotomy of the definition of theterm. In the literature, it is widely acknowledgedamongst mainstream viewsthat organisational culture leads to higher performance and is thereforeportrayed as a form of competitive advantage for firms: it can differentiate anorganisation from its competitors and become a key source of organisationalsuccess.
Indeed, mainstream views supporting this argument present on one side,a “one best culture” formula that firms should adopt in order to succeed suchas Peters and Waterman (1982). On the other side, others advocate for a more contingentapproach to the debate, such as Handy (2009) and Deal and Kennedy (1982), wherethe “right” culture for an organisation depends on internal and externalvariables. Whether a strong culture is desirable or it should find the appropriateculture for its organisation, these perspectives have their own limitations andthis essay aims to present a more critical view on culture. Indeed, corporate culturecan affect a company’s performance under certain circumstances. However, it canalso “undermine decision making as it may encourage conformity, group thinkingor inability to adjust and lead to failure”.
This essay argues that performance is likely to be better for companiespossessing cultures that are both strong and able to adjust sufficiently wellto its environments. A “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” culture The distinctionbetween strong and weak culture is often said to be what characterises the performanceof a company. Strong cultures emerge when the degree of commitment toorganisational values is high and these are widely shared by the employees ofthe organisation (David A. Buchanan, Andrzej Huczynski, 2017: 124). According toDenison (1984), “The strength ofcorporate culture is directly correlated with the levels of profit in a company”.Indeed, strong cultures are believed to generate motivation in employees andtherefore increases the responsibility felt in motivated employees for theorganisation’s success.
Sempane et al. (2002) underline the necessity to incite organisationalculture to ensure motivation in order to achieve the company’s goals. Moreover,strong cultures unite staff through common values and goals and increase asense of belonging amongst the organisation. Strong corporate culture directsattitudes and actions in an organisation: it harnesses loyal, committed andhardworking employees who are able to behave in a way consistent with organisationalpurposes and goals (Deal and Kennedy, 1982; Peters and Waterman, 1982) however thereare limitations to the “one size fits all” school of thought. Companies such as Apple, Google or Disney arecommonly thought of as “strong culture companies” and serve as evidence for thewidely-accepted assumptions that strong cultures lead to higher performancethan weaker ones (David A. Buchanan, Andrzej Huczynski, 2017). However,according to Chris Grey (2009) strong cultures with widely shared values do nottell us anything about the values themselves and the ethics around them.
(Exampleseen in class here). Moreover, this ideology is furthered by David A. Buchananand Andrzej Huczynski, (2017) who stress that “Company success, measured in financialterms, depends on a great many factors other than culture and a weaker culturemay have other competitive advantages (such as technological lead or productappeal)” leading to higher efficiency and performance. These various perspectives emphasise the needto question the very nature of strong cultures and their values as well as takeinto account different factors that constitute competitive advantages forcompanies.