DonnaM » Blog Archive » What is culture?

What is culture?

I attended an Intranet conference recently. Almost every speaker commented that their organisation had an unusual or particular culture that they needed to consider in designing the Intranet.

Initially I thought this was good – it sounded like they were learning about their users and considering them in the design.

Then I started to think more about it and started to worry. How did they know what their culture was? How do you measure culture? What are the important aspects? And can someone who has been part of an organisation for a long time know about the organisation’s culture.

I have been asked about the culture of my last workplace. I don’t know what their culture was – I think I was too much a part of it and too close. However, as a newcomer to my current employer, I can notice broad differences in the ways people work and communicate. But are these differences enough to label one place as having a particular culture?

Hmm…needs more thought.

4 Responses to “What is culture?”

  1. James Robertson Says:

    Identifying culture is not easy, but I think it can be done. As you say, it is particularly tricky for long-term insiders, who are part of the culture themselves.

    In the Area Health Service project, the strongest feedback I received from the client was regarding my success at identifying and documenting the corporate culture.

    What I found most effective were “stakeholder interviews”, with a structured series of questions looking at the way staff worked.

    The questions were the easy bit though. The much harder task is to win the trust and respect of the participant in an hour, and allow them to be comfortable enough to speak their minds honestly.

    Then you really get to the heart of the matter…

  2. PeterV Says:

    In large organisations it may also become possible to measure culture using questionaires, similar to the way Hofstede and co do their cultural research. For now, that’s still a dream for the future though…

  3. Mike Says:

    Look to the office furniture industry for tools in researching culture. These folks are deeply concerned about culture in the workplace because it directly impacts the success or failure of their products. My last job as a full-timer was with one of the “big three” of these companies. As part of the process of designing a new building for themselves, they were also experimenting with a study/questionaire process to determine the culture/workstyle of particular workgroups. It became important to us as employees because how you answered determined whether you got a permanent cube, or were basically a floater with laptop and file storage on wheels. My only concern with the process is that it was all self-reporting, and I doubted it’s accuracy. Much of it was also dependant upon your work environment, which was naturally going to change as part of the move to the new building.

  4. damas sesejah Says:

    i think all these writers didnt go directly on how how to measure organization culture ,there are some kind of thought similarities but both there are affecting with the past thing by depending from making refferences instead of making observation of what u are going to pontray to mass