Organizational Cultures

The organization was born ever since the human beings started to cooperate with each other. Whether it was in the Stone Age when people had to work together to hunt for prey or in Ancient Times to build the pyramids, they had to get organized. Nowadays we can talk about four main types of organization cultures. Some of them have already been known for long time but there are some which were created to suit the needs of contemporary organizations.

Power Culture

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This culture is known as one of the oldest. It stems from cultures developed in Ancient Greece. It would be best pictured as a web. If this culture had a patron god it would be Zeus. The next circle would be set of gods such as Dionysus, Ares, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus. Then half-gods/heroes would follow including Bellerophon, Jason, Theseus and Hercules. The last circle would be inevitably citizens of Greece and other people. Basically, the culture depends on a central power source, with rays of power and influence spreading out from that central figure. Although they are connected by functional or specialist strings, the power rings are the most important as they are the centres of activity and influence. What’s worth to mention, the power culture is concerned as political organization in which decisions are taken very largely on the outcome of a balance of influence rather than on logical grounds.

Power cultures tend to be very proud and strong. The degree of their strength will depend in obvious way on personality of the leader. He or she has to be power-orientated, politically minded and risk-taking. One has to keep in mind that no matter how strong personality the leader has, he or she needs to be very careful when the organisation expands. Certainly the leader of such culture has to delegate power to some extent to suborganisatations (smaller spiders). Therefore, the new leaders of new webs have to be carefully chosen as the culture itself put more faith in individuals than in committees. This may lead to well-organised form of organisation as well to poorly effective ones.

The existence of power culture in organisations will depend on the number of factors. Assuming the ownership is centralized, we will have a classic example of power culture. For instance many firms and founder-dominated organisations will have this type of culture as the choice of head is very clear. The leader will be one of the oldest and most dominating. Also in mergers there is a need for strong leaders operating in power culture who can deal with new organisation.

In terms of technology, the power culture will suit the need organisation of non-continuous discrete operations, the one-off job and unit production. Quick changes in technology will also apply to power culture organisations. As far as goal and objectives are concerned, the firms of this sort of culture will be concentrated on the results such as maximising profit to a greater extent than its competitors. The power culture organisations will also arise in case of threats or danger (e.g. acquisitions and mergers) and individual skills of its members will be crucial.

Taken all above into account, the organisation based on power culture will be most often created under pressure of the environment forces. This will include small firms emerging in the market and mergers of any kind. Role culture The role culture is also known for ages and is often compared to bureaucratic ones. However, bureaucracy has already gained pejorative meaning so term ‘role’ is wider used. It is often pictured as a Greek temple. In Ancient Greece, the patron god would be Demeter, god of agriculture. In this culture, there is assumed set of rules and procedures based on predictable and stable environment. The strength of role culture rest in its pillars of functions and specialities. It is worth to say that the role or job description is often more important than the individual who fills it. Position power is more important than personal one.

Size is one of the leading factors which push the organisation towards a role culture. This is mainly due to the fact that large organisations need to be more formalised. The technology is obviously the next one. One can find the role culture in the organisations that need routine, programmable operations and high cost, expensive technologies, where the cost of breakdown is high. Apparently, this can be found in the mass producers where there are clear economies of scale. Also tasks with a high degree of interdependence call for systematized coordination and obviously lead to role culture.

They will exist in markets where coordination and uniformity are more important than adaptability. The goals in the role culture firms are more easily monitored. They can be set as for instance producing high quality of good or service. The maximising profit will not be the only aim to reach. People in organisations of this type of culture will be those of low tolerance for ambiguity and high needs for security. They will be also more willing to establish their own identity at work and will not possess such interpersonal skills as people in power culture. The role culture organisations can be met in quite stable industries such as automobile and oil industries, life insurance companies and retail banking.

Task culture

The next culture is not that old as previous ones. It is more appropriate in our “Matrix” times where we put more emphasis on getting job done than on creating style and principles as the Ancient Greeks did. The shape of culture would be represented as a net, where some strands are thicker than the others. The biggest advantage of the culture is adaptability. Project teams or task forces are formed on specific purpose and can be changed at any time.

The net organization works quickly since each group ideally contains within it all the decision-making powers required. Members of the organization are therefore granted high degree of control over their work and easy working relationships within the group with mutual respect based upon capacity rather than age or status. Thus the organization works more efficiently but the control is more difficult. Most of the projects are given to trusted people but little day-to-day control can be exerted over the methods of working or the procedures without violating the norms of culture.

This type of culture will certainly be needed in new organizations where flexibility and adaptability are crucial to survive. In terms of technology, the task culture organizations will be using the same as power ones – non-continuous discrete operations, the-one job and unit production. The technologies will be also changing at very high speed. As for goals, the growth and fast execution of the projects will best suit task culture firms.

Such firms will be operating in fast changing market. Its structure will be certainly orgasmic and diversified. Consequently there will more impact on individual skills of people than in role culture. The choice of this culture in the organization will be preferred by most managers at the middle and junior levels. The examples of the task culture will be found in the world of internet – web design firms, web developers etc.

Person Culture

The last type of culture is the most unusual one. If one were to find the patron of the culture in Ancient Greece, Dionysus would be the one – the god of the self-oriented individual and first existentialist. In this culture it is assumed that the individual is the central point. The consequence of this implication is simple. If a group of individuals decide that it is in their own interest to band together in order the better to follow their own bents and that certain facilities would help, then the resulting organization would have a person culture. It is not needed to add any super-ordinate objectives for these people. Therefore the structure of this culture is highly minimised and can be reflected as a galaxy of individual stars.

The psychological contract states that the organization is subordinate to the individual and depends on the individual of its existence. The individual can leave the organization but the organization has the power to evict the individual. But although it would be rare to find an organization where the personal culture predominated, you will often encounter individuals whose personal preference is not for this type of culture but who find themselves operating in a more typical organization.

Specialists in organizations such as consultants in hospital often feel little allegiance to the organization but regard it rather as a place to do their thing with some accruing benefit to the main employer. This type of culture is created in the organizations where strong personality comes along with the unique skills. Individuals of the organization are not easy to manage. This is why only independent specialists belong to this group e.g. architects’ partnerships.


All of the above types of organizational cultures do not exist in their pure form in any organization. The creation of the culture in the organization will be determined by one of the main factors such as ownership or objectives. Therefore the organization will be pushed to one of the cultures. However it will be always possible to convert one type of organization to another. It is true on the grounds that the form of organizational culture depend only on people who are part of it and on the truth that the only constant is change itself.