Managing Organizational Culture

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Each and every organization has a unique culture, which can be seen through the values, beliefs, and ways in which the organization goes about doing things. As Slack and Parent discuss in the text, beginning on p. 275, there are 4 characteristics that nearly every organization has in regards to the organizational culture. These characteristics are stories, myths, symbols, and rituals. Stories are narratives told among employees and to new employees, they often present history of the sport organization. They also may help depict organizational goals and the way in which employees should act. Myths often have a similar effect as stories, as they will often times tell the story of the origins of the organization. Symbols can be used to depict the meaning of a sport organization to its members and the public. A logo or company slogan is often what people identify an organization with (i.e. Nike's "Just Do It" campaign). Language is often developed within a sport organization, and it is unique to that specific company. I see the language component quite a bit in my role with the University of Minnesota baseball program. The coaches and staff use language specific to the game of baseball that may not mean a lot to outsiders, but to the organization this language is at the core of everything we do. For example, when our assistant coach yells "Molitor" during a base-running drill, the players and coaching staff understand that this is a specific way to round third base that was designed after the running style of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

Another important aspect of this chapter was the discussion of thick and thin cultures. "A thick culture is one in which the members of the sport organization agree about the importance of certain values and employ them in their daily routines" (Slack & Parent, 280). Employees are often recruited into the organization because their values and work-behaviors seem to fit the pre-existing culture. In contrast, in a thin culture we don't usually see common values throughout the organization. This leads to a difference of values and beliefs throughout the many different components and areas within the specific organization. Once again, in reference to the University of Minnesota athletic department, I believe that there are aspects of both thin and thick culture within the organization. Employees are in fact hired because their values and work-ethic are similar to that of the current employees. As Joel Maturi discussed in class last week, he as the head of the department looks for people who not only are excellent at what they do, but also people who will believe in the mission of the athletic department. There is evidence of a thin culture too because with 25 different intercollegiate athletics programs at this university, each one has certain beliefs and a specific culture.

One of the more important parts of this chapter about organization culture is the last section in the text regarding creating, managing, and changing a sport organization's culture. As is the case with any organization, a sport organization's culture is not created overnight. The founder or current leader of an organization has a large role in establishing and maintaining the culture of the organization. The text gives the example of the vision that Phil Knight set for Nike, which was to produce good quality shoes at a reasonable price for U.S. athletes. This vision is still holds true for Nike, and all of the organizations goals and values, which essentially create the foundation for culture, have been based off of Knight's early vision. The next idea introduced was the five ways in which Schein believes you can manage a sport organization's culture. These mechanisms are 1) what leaders pay attention to, measure, and control, 2) leader reaction to critical incidents and organizational crises, 3) deliberating role modeling, teaching, and coaching by leaders, 4) criteria for allocation of rewards and status, 5) criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement, and excommunication. All of these mechanisms are based on the assumption that the organization wants to maintain the culture that currently is in place. The final part of this section is the idea of changing a sport organization's culture. Changing the culture of a sport organization in my opinion is a change in the way in which stakeholders think in terms of their values, beliefs, and the way in which they carry out their daily activities and responsibilities. Changing staff and other factors does not necessarily mean a change in culture because the staff could still hang on to old values, while putting on a face to management that they are on board with the new culture. I believe that in order to truly change the culture of an organization, a new leader needs to be established and he/she needs to implement a new vision. Look at things that helped the organization succeed in the past and use those aspects to help guide the change.

Questions: 1) Is a thick or thin culture more effective within the professional sports industry, or does it simply depend on the specific organization? 2) How would you specifically go about introducing a change in culture to an organization if you were a new leader, such as Joel Maturi was at the University of Minnesota in 2002?

3 Comments

When analyzing the difference between thick and thin cultures I think that a thick culture is more effective in an organization especially in large and complex organizations. It focuses on the shared values of the organization through daily routines. Also they value slogans, stories, and the frequent use of rituals. I think this type of culture allows the employees of the organization to enjoy their work while still maintaining seriousness in achieving organizational goals. The organization also recruits their employees based on whether or not they will fit in with the culture of the organization. I think this is important and it also shows the organization cares about their employees. Employees actually enjoy their work which will result in hard work and dedication towards the organization. First I would develop a plan which would involve specific steps the employees would have to take in order to effectively change the organization. I would then back my plan up with reasons why the organization needs change. I know it would take a lot of time and effort in order to do so.

I would first like to comment Parker for his excellent examples from his experience within University of Minnesota Athletics. I am writing in response to Parker’s first question about culture within the professional sport industry. I believe that a thick culture is a crucial part of any professional sport organization. As Parker mentioned in his blog, “A thick culture is one in which the members of the sport organization agree about the importance of certain values and employ them in their daily routines" (Slack & Parent, 280). I think it is essential for all members of a sport organization to believe in the same values and employ them in their routines each and every day. We have talked time and time again in class about how a leader should inspire the entire organization to work toward the same goals. In order to achieve those goals, I think everyone should have similar methods to achieve those goals. Going off of Parker’s example with the University of Minnesota Athletic Department, if only some members value academic success and the rest of the members value athletic success, it will cause great conflict within the organization and the conflict won’t necessarily be good. Also, it will be very difficult for the athletic department to achieve their goals.

As Parker said in his blog each and every organization has unique culture. I have to agree with him wholeheartedly. Stories, myths, symbols, and rituals all change from organization to organization. In response the first question, I would say that generally a thick culture would be more effective within the professional sports industry especially because most professional sports have large and complex organizations. Although because I say generally a thick culture works best it very could depend on the specific organizations and the leaders within it. In response to the second question, I would have to take several measures to introduce a change in culture within an organization if I was its new leader. I would have to first get the upper management on board with me and come up with a mission statement that would guide us through the process of making decisions. I would also have to work at communicating with as many people that I could within the organization, like Joel Maturi. It would be important for me to acknowledge everyone in the organization to make them feel like the vital members they are. Those would be my first steps.