CULTURAL APPROACH

TO ORGANIZATIONS

CLIFFORD GEERTZ AND MICHAEL PACANOWSKY

Enthnographers observe, record and analyze, and conduct a lot of participant observation. Need a lot of raw material to interpret.

Princeton anthropologist Clifford Geertz views cultures as webs of shared meaning. Geertz describes us as "animals suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun". Culture is shared meaning, shared understanding and shared sense making

Geertz's work has focused on Third World cultures, but others have applied his ethnographic approach to organizations. In speech communication, University of Colorado Professor Michael Pacanowsky has applied Geertz's approach in his research of organizations.

Culture as a metaphor for organizational life.

Organizations as machines, as living organisms, as brains, as psychic prisons. (Morgan,1986)

The interest in the culture metaphor for organizations stems from our recent interest in Japanese corporations.

Corporate culture has several meanings:

  1. The surrounding environment that constrains a company.
  2. An image, character, or climate controlled by a corporation
  3. Pacanowsky argues that culture is not something that an organization has, but something that an organization is.
  4. The elusive nature of culture prompts Geertz to label its study "soft science".

As an ethnographer, Pacanowsky is particularly interested in imaginative language, stories, and nonverbal rites and rituals. i.e. Students, Support Staff, Sessionals, Instructors, Professors, Associate Deans, Deans, Vice-Presidents, President.

 

 

 

 

Metaphors: taking language seriously:

  1. Widely used metaphors offer a starting place for assessing the shared meaning of a corporate culture.
  2. Metaphors are valuable tools for both the discover and communication or organizational culture .i.e. Investment Bankers are "sharks" or very "cut-throat". The University of Calgary seen as an "Ivory Tower".

The symbolic interpretation of story: Stories provide windows into organizational culture.

Three types of organizational narratives:

 

  1. Corporate stories carry out the ideology of management and reinforce company policy:
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  3. Personal Stories: are those where company personnel tell about themselves, often defining how they would like to be seen in the organization.
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  5. Collegial stories are positive or negative anecdotes told to others in the organization. Management doesn’t usually sanction these but collegial accounts pass on how the organization "really works". The use of "stars" to describe the really successful dealmakers.

 

 

 

 

 

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SOURCES:

Wood, Julia. (1997) Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction Wadsworth Publishing Company.

McClish, Glen. (1997). Instructor's Manual to Accompany EM Griffin's A First Look at Communication Theory McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Morgan, Gareth. (1986). Images of Organizations. Sage Publications. Newbury Park. California.

Griffin, EM. (1997) A First Look at Communication Theory. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

FILMS:

SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

THE FIRM

OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN

G.I. JANE "OPENING SCENE".