The Impact of Organisational Culture on Teams

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The Impact of Organisational Culture on Teams


Modern day organisations are impacted by many factors which may include the external business environment, government regulations, and internal interpersonal interactions. However, none has the more significant cultural impact of the internal operations of the organization than organizational culture its self. Culture poses the greater challenge in organisation operations because it encompasses behavioral expectation which are more difficult to monitor. Overall organisational culture is best viewed as a collection of values, organisational principles, products presented, markets served, strategies applied, global cultures, languages, public assumptions, leadership styles, behavioral norms, symbolisms, habits, and belief systems that bring groups together for a common cause. It also includes a range of emotional interactions which result as a consequence of connection to the organisation. Every organisation is a culture with subcultures unto itself. They have ways of operating that differ in their approaches that bring products or services to market. Their social and psychological environments contribute to the emotional well being of society and the national groups that interact within the confines of the organisation existence. This paper presents a discussion on organisation culture.

The Impact of Organisation Culture on Teams

Before one can consider the impact of organisation culture (OC) on teams, it is best to provide a definition to aid in its understanding. Organisation culture is a set of shared behavioral norms and values that influence interpersonal interactions, decision-making, and resource allocations (Kotter, 2012; Silber & Kearny, 2012). Kotter (2012) suggests that few individuals understand the dynamics of OC, or how to put in motion a plan to change it. As a result, many fail at the attempt to initiate OC change (Kotter, 2012).

Bolman and Deal (2008) discuss organisation culture as the adhesive substance that connects the organisation structure to the unification of people for the mutual accomplishment of goals. They assert that cultural values are linked to symbols, rituals, playful humor, and other specialised symbols that contribute to its existence. These researchers argue further that management practices are undeniably culture initiated. Additionally, emotional healing and conflict resolution is conducted within the confines of cultural norms.

Bolman and Deal (2008) present examples of organisations such as AT&T, Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, and others as demonstration of the cultural transactions which take place within them. They discuss the emotional consequences explained by one executive as one moment euphoric and at other times depressed. Coca Cola’s discussion is on the introduction of a new product concoction that impacted its revenues and how they were forced to revert to the original formulation. Delta experienced success as a privately held organisation only to experience failure as it was transformed into a public one.

Bolman and Deal (2008) speak of the emotional experiences that remained after Enron collapsed. The impact was felt throughout the organisation and trickled over into the public area. Where Enron succeeded as an independent entity, it failed in its acquisition prospects because its significant growth impaired its abilities to sustain an ethical culture. Enron ignored the cultural values that drove its success. The aforementioned examples serve to present the impact that culture imposes upon organisations as a social group form.

Differentiating Workgroups from Teams

Workgroups. Katzenbach and Smith (2003) believe it was important to distinguish workgroups from teams because they differ in operation and outcomes. Work-groups exist to follow the task-driven instructions of a single leader. All within the group operate as individuals who fulfill the requirements of assigned tasks. The individuals within the workgroup perform according to skills relevant to the task assigned. For example, an administrative assistant (individual) works in a department (workgroup), but is assigned to limited tasks, such as, typing documents or serving coffee or greeting corporate guests (Katzenbach & Smith, 2003).

Teams. In contrast, teams work together towards a common goal (Katzenbach & Smith, 2003). Teams do not operate from task relevant assignments. They use their skills and competencies to complete all tasks that complete the mission of their coming together. They can be dissolved after initiatives are completed and be reassigned to work on other projects relevant to individual competencies and skills. For example, an application systems designer has computer programming skills and knowledge of designing business applications; work assignments are not limited to computer programming alone (Katzenbach & Smith, 2003).

Additional Notes on Workgroups. Katzenbach and Smith (2003) make it clear that workgroups are prevalent within the organisation and function independent of common goals. Workgroups function best in top-down organisation structures. Focus remains on individual performance. Members in workgroups compete with other members in pursuit of personal accomplishments.

Leadership Affect on Organisation Culture

Leadership Behavior. Scholl (2003) posits that leaders model the behaviors and attitudes duplicated throughout the organisation. According to Morill (2008), OC is a modern day concept with roots in social movement theory and the sociology of culture. Kitts and Trowbridge (2007) posit that research concerning the logistics of OC emergence and maintenance is lacking. They assert further that Human Resource transactions, such as, recruitment and turnover, make any attempt at OC maintenance, a significant challenge.

Fear as Motivator. Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) affirm from their research that fear becomes the norm when cultural behaviors are challenged. Open confrontation of unhealthy behaviors warrants retribution. One example in which challenges can and do arise is a hospital setting, which requires the washing of hands for sanitary reasons. Consider that a nurse aide is in a patient room when a surgeon enters the room and fails to follow the hand-washing norms. Given the surgeon’s esteemed status, the aide witnessing such becomes intimidated and fails to mention the hand-washing rules (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, & Switzler, 2013).

OC Characteristics. According to Silber and Kearny (2010), OC comprises three characteristics which easily identify them, namely, artifacts, espoused values, and accepted norms. Artifacts are considered to be the more obvious culture differences, such as, nationality or dress codes. Espoused values are what management consider to be important, such as, a motto that says “the customer is always right”. Accepted norms are values and belief systems that are taken for granted, such as, the concept of innovation requiring creativity (Silber & Kearny, 2010).

Affect of Organisational Culture

Impact of OC on Teams. According to Rosenblatt (2011), work values come from the globalized concept of desired behaviors and relevant group beliefs. Rosenblatt (2011) believes that the values of the organisation are derived from the broader interfaces and environmental characteristics within a social system, such as, individual cultural values and collectivism (codified behavioral patters). Rosenblatt (2011) discusses the concept of codified behavioral patterns as a function of belief systems that are transferred from group to group in a globalized manner. As a result, they become embedded with the organisation rules and regulations.

Impact of Teams on OC. Lucas (2010) asserts that individual cognition influences team interactions. Every person processes information according to that which has been assimilated from the global environmental group. Additionally, individual learning styles influence how information is adopted. As a result, the belief patterns of individual members is transferred via the interpersonal relationships to the team as a group.

According to Lucas (2010), cognition affects the recollection of information and transmits it to thought processes. This transmission in turn affects the perceptions of individual members. How the members view the processed information is the direct result of past interpersonal interactions. As a result, the individual members respond to one another based upon the levels of confidence the information has provided.

Culture Alignment Issues

Behaviors. Silber and Kearny (2010) discuss behaviors within the context of cultural alignment as it relates to task completion. These researchers assert that how behaviors are manifested within the OC group identifies where the challenges lay. They use an example of how answering of the phone impacts the customer service provided. Silber and Kearny (2010) suggest that vocal intonation and attitude impacts how the customer perceives the organisation. As a result, the organisation leadership must determine if the resulting outcomes align with the intended goals and objectives.

Katzenbach and Smith (2003) assert that teams impact the organisational culture by engaging in the behaviors that drive performance to the next level. Teams can resist change by not adopting the same value or belief system that management embraces. The wrong attitudes affect performance which in turn affects the organisations goals and objectives (Katzenbach & Smith, 2003).

O’Donnell and Boyle (2008) assert that behaviors and attitudes are complex and not always clearly interpreted. Some issues associated with the difficult of aligning the culture for success include but are not limited to: presenting a compelling vision for change; understanding the leadership mission; influencing the beliefs and values of culturally diverse individuals; communication of conflicts and how to address them; incorporating a compensation and reward system; ensuring adequate training and development opportunities; technological tools for communication transmission; removal of non-compliant team players (O’Donnell & Boyle, 2008).

Role Considerations

Leadership Role. Bolman and Deal (2008) suggest that the role of a leader is to ignite the passion (intrinsic motivation) of the individual team members to participate in the organisation mission. Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) posit that leadership calls for influencing team member behavioral changes to meet organisation goals and objectives. Mitchell and Boyle (2009) assert that leaders help connect the emotional attachment of team members to the vision, hence, inspiring the desire for aligning behaviors to the mission. Joshi, Lazarova and Liao (2009) draw upon the principles of social identity theory to explain the relationship between leaders and followers. These researchers assert that leaders are effective in direct proportion to their ability to influence and connect the perception of follower identity to their cause.

Team Role. Lucas (2010) asserts that individuals bring to the team their cognitive processing abilities and past influences. Additionally, team members are required to exert various levels of risk in direct proportion to the group obligations. Katzenbach and Smith (2003) declare that team members challenge and encourage each other. Team members share a common respect of the goals to be achieved as a group.

Need and Appropriate Role of Teams

Katzenbach and Smith (2003) declare that business opportunities and or threatening competition can create a need for teams at all levels of the organisation. External environmental changes, such as, government regulations, international and or local business competition, and or new technology contribute to organisation needs. Teams provide an element of social engagement that contributes to the commercial and managerial aspects of the work. Teams can engage in social functions that enhance and sustain organisation performance (Katzenbach & Smith, 2003).

Need and Appropriate Role of Leadership Teams

Keller and Aiken (nd) found in their research that seventy percent of change management teams failed and remain so by modern day standards. Their research also shows that teams everywhere are still struggling to become high performance teams. Only a very small group of teams have been able to succeed. Schyve (2009) declares that executive level oversight groups could be formed to strengthen weak work ethics or to help teams acquire the necessary skills to move them forward.

Culture Support of Teams

Executive Level Teams. Carillo (2015) declares that executive level teams are responsible for driving the logic of the organisation vision. They empower, encourage risk, allocate resources, and ensure that stakeholder assets are protected, and used appropriately. Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) insists that these teams have a crystal clear vision of what is to be accomplished. Additionally, they are well versed in emotional intelligence and competent enough to help others feel their cause.

Change Management Oversight Teams. Naranjo-Gil (2015) posits that change management oversight teams execute and implement strategic organisation change initiatives. They mediate the negative and positive aspects of change on the psychological well being of the organisation. They measure the change results to those intended by the strategy. They politically navigate formal structures and informal to ensure that friction is minimized, hence, avoiding derailing of change initiatives (Naranjo-Gil, 2015; Katzebach & Smith, 2003; Silber & Kearny, 2008).

Executive Working Groups. McGuire, Palus, Pasmore, and Rhodes (2009) and Hambrick (1997), insist that the culture must be matched to the organisational purpose. Development of new belief systems must be cultivated; leaders must change themselves in the process; beyond the technology, cognitive abilities must be well developed; collaborative effects must be fostered and perfected; joint decision-making must be a public event.


The goal of this paper was to discuss the impact of organisation culture on teams. Hence, the intended goal has been achieved via the presentation of various topics that impact organisation culture in teams. The following topics were discussed a) the impact of organisation culture on teams; b) differentiating workgroups from teams; c) leadership affect on organisation culture; d) affect of organisational culture; e) culture alignment issues; f) role considerations; need and appropriate role of teams; g) need and appropriate role of leadership teams; h) culture support of teams. Additionally, a few examples of organisations which experienced success and failure was presented as a way to demonstrate the emotional power and affect of culture on the results achieved.


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