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Practical Application: Comparing Strong vs. Weak Organizational Cultures

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Culture in a business can be a very important quality. Here you will be provided with an opportunity to assess a business culture, identifying strong and weak characteristics.

Organizational Cultures

Think about your current place of employment. How would you describe the culture? Is it even important to analyze a company's culture?

In short, the answer is a definite yes. A company's culture can have drastic effects on its success. Here we will be discussing the system of values and beliefs that determine how each employee behaves, which is termed organizational culture.

You have learned about this concept in the lesson Strong Vs Weak Organizational Cultures: Examples & Differences, which argued that a key factor in having a strong organizational culture is for a company to have employees who buy in to the core values of that organization. Here are some traits common in a company with a strong organizational culture:

  • Precision in daily tasks
  • Specific methods to measure success of employees
  • High production accuracy
  • Clear guidelines

On the other hand, here are the traits common in a company with a weak culture:

  • Employees not committed to values
  • Little to no guidance
  • Inconsistency
  • Unclear company goals

Now let's read about two different companies and analyze the organizational structure of each.

Scenario: Company 1

Fred's Hardware is owned by Fred McCaffrey. Fred has owned the business for 25 years. His mission statement is to provide the highest quality tools with the highest quality experts available to help the customer. This mission statement is displayed in the store in three different places. Fred also has monthly staff meetings, which include discussing how each employee is achieving that mission statement.

When hiring new employees, Fred ensures that each candidate understands the tools and materials the store provides and has worked with them in the past. Furthermore, he encourages his employees to complete training in new tools or home improvement techniques. Fred consistently provides raises or bonuses for employees who complete a certain number of professional development trainings.

Right now Fred's Hardware employs 12 employees. Fred is clearly the boss, but the store lacks a clear hierarchy of authority if Fred is absent. When there is a customer complaint or problem, the employees do not have any power to address the issue. Usually, they just write down the complaint or issue and leave it for Fred to handle when he returns to the store.

Analysis

Now that you have read about the hardware store, jot down your responses to the following questions.

  • What traits in Fred's Hardware show a strong organizational culture?
  • What traits show a weak culture? What is a way the weaknesses could be addressed?
  • What are the advantages of having a strong culture in Fred's Hardware? Are there any weaknesses?

Be sure to write down your thoughts on these analysis questions before reading on.

First, you should have recognized that Fred's Hardware has a mostly strong organizational structure. Fred has a clear mission statement, which is displayed around the store. His employees are committed to having the knowledge necessary to help the customers, as seen in the professional development opportunities. Fred even provides an incentive for employees to continue their education in the home improvement field. Fred is clearly heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. He is a role model for his employees.

The one weak organizational trait is the lack of a chain of command. A clear assistant manager or a system that outlines how employees are to handle difficult situations should be developed.

The hardware store has several advantages to having a strong culture. One is providing the customers with the support they need. His employees are well trained and can help customers with a wide variety of home improvement projects. This ensures customer loyalty.

On the other hand, a disadvantage is that Fred is the sole decision maker. This makes for high consistency, but little innovation or original thought.

Company 2

GardensRUs is owned by Glen McGuire. Glen's store focuses on gardening and outdoor landscaping. He supplies plants, flowers, bushes, trees, and all the tools necessary to attend to anything outdoors. He even has employees who can be hired to complete landscape jobs at a customer's property. The store also has equipment that can be rented out.

The employees at GardensRUs are mostly on their own. Some of them are knowledgeable about the plants available, but few are adept at handling the equipment and tools. Most can answer questions from the customers or at least find someone who can.

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