Organizational Culture Putting the Organizational Culture Concept to Work

By Olson, Ryan | The Behavior Analyst Today, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Organizational Culture Putting the Organizational Culture Concept to Work


Olson, Ryan, The Behavior Analyst Today


The concept of organizational culture (OC) is a potential candidate for every organizational psychologist's conceptual toolbox. Organizational clients consider OC to be critical for recruiting and retaining employees, and academic literature on the topic implicates cultural variables as being highly relevant during organizational change initiatives. The notion that the shared learning experiences of organizational members may have beneficial or harmful effects on performance improvement or behavior change interventions should be intriguing to any professional who specializes in such technologies. In this regard, the OC concept may help a performance improvement specialist or behavioral specialist to consider important aspects of organizational complexity. However, traditional approaches to this topic tend to be descriptively focused, emphasize the power of private behavior, and do not necessarily point the organizational practitioner in fruitful directions. For these reasons, it may be useful to supplement the OC concept with the total performance system concept and the perspective of selection by consequences. This type of conceptual focus may help the specialized fields of applied behavior analysis, organizational behavior management, and human performance technology make better use of the OC concept when the goal is organizational, process, or individual and group performance improvement. Key Words: Organizational Culture, Organizational Change, Performance Improvement, Behavior Analysis, Systems Analysis, and Selectionism

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PUTTING THE ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE CONCEPT TO WORK

By the time we reach adulthood, chances are that we have developed preferences for the types of organizations we would like to join, work at, or patronize. These preferences are obviously influenced by convenient access to the organization and the type and quality of services, products, and other benefits available to members or patrons, but these preferences are also based on other things. One of those "other things" may be summarized by the concept of organizational culture (OC).

Beyond the argument that OC can promote loyal patronage and membership, it is sometimes implied that different types of cultures are associated with excellent or deficient organizational performance, with the type of performance depending upon the type and strength of the culture under scrutiny (Daft & Noe, 2001). This notion should be especially interesting to scientists and practitioners interested in organizational change and performance improvement, including people who would identify with the fields of applied behavior analysis (ABA), organizational behavior management (OBM), or human performance technology (HPT). However, rather than adding a useful concept to the organizational practitioner's tool box, the OC concept runs the risk of functioning only as a post hoc explanatory fiction when things go really well or really bad for a company. To accomplish something more than this, the OC concept must be used in a selective and measured fashion when change or improvement is the goal.

Is Organizational Culture Worthy of Your Conceptual Toolbox?

OC is an important concept within the broad fields of industrial and organizational (1/0) psychology and organizational behavior (OB), with introductory 1/0 and OB textbooks dedicating sections or entire chapters to the topic (e.g., Daft & Noe, 2001; Muchinsky, 2003; Robbins, 2003). Daft and Noe (2001) reported that a sample of CEOs from fortune 500 companies believed " ... organizational culture to 0be the most important variable for attracting and retaining talented employees, which is an important contributing variable to overall organizational excellence" (p. 585). Surveys like this one, conducted by Fortune magazine, illustrate high corporate interest in organizational culture, with this particular group of CEOs ranking the concept at the top of their list of variables affecting recruitment and retention success. …

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