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Business organisations and their environments: Culture

Introduction

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In very broad terms, ‘culture’ refers to the prevailing norms and values which guide the way people behave in a society or in an organisation. Culture at the level of an organisation is referred to as organisational culture, and culture at the level of a society is referred to as national culture.

Organisational culture refers to an organisation's own values, beliefs and learned ways of doing business. This is reflected in its structure and in the people who work in the organisation. The culture of an organisation is derived from its aims and purpose, its past, its present and its current ways of managing its people and resources. Because every organisation is unique in terms of these features, each will have a culture that is unique. Analysis of culture is important within an organisation because, as we will see in this unit, it impacts on everything the organisation does. But very often these values and beliefs are not explicit and people take them for granted. This ‘taken-for-grantedness’ is what frequently makes culture problematic in organisations. People assume that everyone views things in the same way. But as you will see as you work through this unit, nothing could be further from the truth.

National culture, in turn, is the culture that exists outside the organisation at the level of a society or country. National culture is made up of the societal values and belief system of a country and is influenced by several factors, including its languages, religions, gender roles, age profiles of its population, socio-economic groups and government policy.

The aim of this unit is to look at aspects of both national culture and organisational culture. As you will see, these are closely related to each other.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course Business organisations and their environments (B201). [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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