Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three
 Chapter Four
 Chapter Five

   

Chapter Three - Additional Resources

INVESTIGATING THE ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE OF AN ORGANIZATION/INSTITUTION

1. Purpose

  • To present an overall and in-depth picture of the organizational culture(s) and subcultures of the organization, including the prevailing cultures and subcultures within it;
  • provide an indication of the strength of the organizational culture(s) at the organization;
  • make suggestions and recommendations about the organizational culture of, and its development at, the organization.

2. Research Questions

  • What are the major and minor elements of organizational culture in the organization?
  • What are the organizational cultures and subcultures in the organization?
  • Which (sub)cultures are the most and least prevalent in the organization, and in which parts of the organization are these most and least prevalent?
  • How strong and intense are the (sub)cultures in the organization?
  • What are the causes and effects of the (sub)cultures in the organization?
  • How can the (sub)cultures be improved in the organization?
3. Focus

Three levels of organizational cultures will be examined:

  • underlying values and assumptions
  • espoused values and enacted behaviours
  • artifacts.

Organizational culture concerns, values, assumptions, beliefs, espoused theories and mental models, observed practices, areas of conflict and consensus, the formal and hidden messages contained in artifacts, messages, documents and language, the ‘way we do things’, the physical environment, relationships, power, control, communication, customs and rituals, stories, the reward system and motivation, the micropolitics of the organization, involvement in decision making, empowerment and exploitation/manipulation, leadership, commitment, and so on.

4. Methodology

Organizational culture is intangible yet its impact on a organization’s operations is very tangible. This suggests that, whilst quantitative measures may be used, they are likely only to yield comparatively superficial information about the organizational culture. In order to probe beneath the surface of the organizational culture, to examine the less overt aspects of the organizational culture(s) and subcultures, it is important to combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies for data collection. A mixed methodology will be used for the empirical data collection, using numerical and verbal data, in order to gather rounded, reliable data. A survey approach will be used to gain an overall picture, and a more fine-grained analysis will be achieved through individual and group interviews and focus groups.

In order to establish reliability and validity to the project a full literature search will be undertaken of the topic.

5. Instrumentation

The data gathered will be largely perception based, and will involve gathering employees’ views of the (sub)cultures. As the concept of organizational culture is derived, in part from ethnography and anthropology, the research will use qualitative and ethnographic methods.

One of the difficulties anticipated is that that the less tangible aspects of the organization might be the most difficult on which to collect data. Not only will people find it harder to articulate responses and constructs, but they may also be reluctant to reveal these in public. The more the project addresses intangible and unmeasurable elements, and the richer the data that are to be collected, the more there is a need for increased and sensitive interpersonal behaviour, face-to-face data collection methods, and qualitative data.

There are several possible instruments for data collection (set out below): questionnaires, semi-structured interviews (individual and group), observational data, documentary data and reports will constitute a necessary minimum, as follows:

  • questionnaire surveys ; there are several commercially available instruments, each of which measures different aspects of organizational culture, in particular:
  • the instrument by Harrison and Stokes, which is well respected and very useful for looking at overall cultures and providing a general picture in terms of role, power, achievement and support cultures, and in terms of examining the difference between existing and preferred cultures;
  • the Organizational Culture Inventory, which provides a comprehensive and reliable analysis of the presenting organizational cultures.

Questionnaires, using rating scales, will catch articulated, espoused, enacted, visible aspects of organizational culture, and are useful for measuring (e.g. extent of sharedness of culture, congruence between existing and ideal, strength and intensity of culture).

  • semi-structured qualitative interviews for individuals and groups ; these are useful for gathering data on the more intangible aspects of the organizational culture, e.g. values, assumptions, beliefs, wishes, problems. Interviews will be semi-structured, i.e. with an agenda given and with open-ended questions. As face-to-face individual interviews might be a little intimidating for some groups, group interviews might be useful. In all of the interviews the important part will be the supplementary question ‘why’.
  • observational data ; these can be used to comment on the physical environment, and can then be followed up with interview material to discover participants’ responses to, perceptions of, messages contained in, attitudes to the physical environment. Artifacts, clothing, shared and private spaces, furniture, notices, regulations etc all give messages to participants.
  • documentary analysis and additional stored data ; these tend to report the formal matters in the organization, and are useful for what they include and what they exclude.
6. Sampling
  • the questionnaire will be given to all employees who are willing to participate;
  • the semi-structured interviews will be conducted on a ‘critical case’ basis, i.e. with participants who are in key positions and who are ‘knowledgeable people’ about the activities and operations of the organization.

It will be possible to stratify the sampling for the survey instruments, in order to examine how perceptions of organizational culture vary according to the characteristics of the sub-samples. This will enable us to chart the levels of congruence or disjunction between the responses of the various sub-groups.

It will be important to decide the nominal characteristics of the sampling which we wish to use in the data analysis, e.g. age, level in the organization, departments, sex, ethnicity, nationality, years of working in the organization. It is important to have as inclusive a sample as possible.
 

LEVELS OF CULTURE

 

 

INSTRUMENTS

EASY TO UNCOVER

 

TANGIBLE

 

SUPERFICIAL

NON-PARTICIPANT OBSERVER

ARTIFACTS

 

OBSERVATIONAL DATA

 

DOCUMENTARY DATA

 

Qualitative data

 

ENACTED VALUES

(BEHAVIOURS)

 

SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRES AND NUMERICAL MEASURES

 

Qualitative data

 

 

 

 

 

UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS

QUALITATIVE & ETHNOGRAPHIC DATA

 

INTERVIEWS (GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HARD TO UNCOVER

 

 

INTANGIBLE

 

 

DEEP

 

 

PARTICIPANT OBSERVER

 

FACE-TO-FACE

7. Parameters
  • the data will be collected on a ‘one-shot’ basis rather than longitudinally;
  • a multi-method approach will be used for data collection.

8. Stages in the research

There are five stages in the research:

Stage One: Development and operationalization, including:
  • a review of the literature and commercially produced instruments;
  • clarification of the research questions;
  • clarification of methodology and sampling;
Stage Two: Instrumentation and the piloting of the instruments:
  • questionnaire development and piloting;
  • semi-structured interview schedules and piloting;
  • gathering of observational data;
  • analysis of documentary data;

Because of the limited number of senior staff, it may not be possible to conduct pilot semi-structured interviews with them, as this will preclude them from the final data collection.

Stage Three: Data collection, which will proceed in the following sequence:

Administration of the questionnaire ® Analysis of questionnaire data to provide material for the interviews ® Interviews will be conducted concurrently.

Stage Four: Data analysis and interpretation:

Numerical data will be analyzed using SPSS, which will also enable the responses from sub-groups of the organization to be separated for analysis. Qualitative data will be analyzed using protocols of content analysis.

Stage Five: Reporting

A full report on the findings will include conclusions, implications and recommendations.

9. Ethics and Ownership

Participation in the project will be on the basis of informed consent, and on a voluntary basis, with rights of withdrawal at any time. Given the size and scope of the cultural survey, it is likely that key people in the organization will be able to be identified, even though the report is confidential. This will be made clear to the potential participants. Copies of the report will be available for all the employees. Data, once given to the researcher, are his/hers, and s/he may not use them in any way which will publicly identify the organization, though they may be used for subsequent academic publications; the report is the property of the researcher.

10. Time Frames

The project will be completed in five months:

  • the first month for a review of the literature;
  • the second month to develop the instrumentation and research design;
  • the third month to gather the data;
  • the fourth month to analyze the data;
  • the fifth month to complete the report.
 
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