Organisational culture

I promised everyone an organisational analysis of the GandD’s company. You’ve probably already worked out that I’m a bit of a fan of soft systems methodology (Peter Checkland). NO, you probably haven’t, after all, I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before. Well, I am, because it tries to deal with complex problems.

OK. Back to organisational models. You can think of an organisation as made up (like Gaul) of three interdependent parts. These are:

  1. Systems: the functions that are carried out
  2. Structure: the layers in the hierarchy
  3. Culture: the norms and values of the environment in which you operate

Systems and structures are pretty straightforward. Most people can say what they do and where they stand in a hierarchy. Culture is a bit more complicated.
This is because the culture of an organisation arises from its history and previous purposes, as well as its current ones. It can also change according to the people who are in post.

The notes |I have refer to four types of culture:

  1. Power
  2. Role
  3. Task
  4. Person

You’ll have probably worked out  (oh, I was wrong last time when I said that)… Maybe you’ve worked out that GandD operate a power culture. They have it, and they want to keep it. One of the weaknesses of a power culture is that it is static. Information flows to and from the hub, but it doesn’t tend to move much between departments horizontally. Also, the owners of power don’t tend to want to train up successors.

GandD have each other, and they’ve pretty much split the company between them. You can think of them as the left and right hemispheres of the brain. There’s a lot of communication running between them, but they have one to one communication with each part of the body. They see their company very much like that. They can’t see why Ian would need to chat to Jeanette or Jeanette would want to chat to me, because you don’t get hands talking to ankles, or ears chatting to livers: except of course, you do. There isn’t just a nervous system running through the body, there are other ways messages are carried, most obviously in the blood. You can think of gossip as all those molecules being transported about, from lungs to heart to liver to pancreas to skin…

I’m quite enjoying this analogy. And then you can have new people coming in like blood transfusions, and how your muscles behave differently when they’re tired, and how the placebo effect works and, well, anyway, I think I’d better stop there before I go too far.

Oh, did I mention it’s Nick’s show this weekend? I don’t know who sneaked onto his computer when he’d gone out to get some coffee and changed all the system sounds to snatches off music from The Wizard of Oz, but they did a very thorough job. Even now, you’re never quite sure if “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” is suddenly going to come pouring from his speakers when he’s compiling a library.

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