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Anthropologist Clifford Geertz views cultures as webs of shared,meaning, shared understandings, and shared sense making. Geertz’s work has focused on.

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Presentation on theme: "Anthropologist Clifford Geertz views cultures as webs of shared,meaning, shared understandings, and shared sense making. Geertz’s work has focused on."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Anthropologist Clifford Geertz views cultures as webs of shared,meaning, shared understandings, and shared sense making. Geertz’s work has focused on third world cultures, but his ethnographic approach has been applied by others to organizations. In the field of speech communication, Michael Pacanowsky has applied Geertz’s approach in his research of organizations 2

3 “Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun” Geertz is referring to the influence of culture on human beings. Geertz is saying humans have the ability to create and modify their cultures, but their cultures serve to define the world around them. 3

4 In order to travel across the web toward it’s center, outsiders must discover the common interpretations that hold the web together. To become an integral member of the web we as outsiders need to understand the common culture of a business to become part of it. 4

5 Introduced theory: Culture as a metaphor of organizational life Culture as a root metaphor was undoubtedly stimulated by western fascination with the economic success of Japanese corporations in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Our industrial leaders travelled to the far east to study their methods of production, what they discovered was their superior output and quality was not so much technology driven. It was a shared culture among the workers and loyalty to the corporation. 5

6 The Japanese methods of production that our leaders went to the Orient to study weren’t solely their ideas or based on their culture. Edward Deming – The father of the Quality Evolution In the 1950’s in Japan, he taught top management how to improve design through various methods. He is regarded as having more impact on Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage. 6

7 Now corporate culture means different things depending on who you ask. Some use the term to describe the environment that limits a companies freedom of action. 7

8 Others look at it as image, character, or work environment 8

9 Pacanowsky believes in Geertz symbolic approach and considers culture as more than a single variable in organizational research. Culture is not a piece of the puzzle, it is the puzzle. An organization becomes what it is based on the people who work within the organization 9

10 Introduced theory What Culture is; What Culture is Not Geertz admits that the concept of culture as “Systems of Shared Meaning” as somewhat vague and is difficult to grasp Geertz and his colleagues do not distinguish between high and low culture The elusive nature of culture prompts Geertz to label its study as a “Soft Science” 10

11 Culture is not whole or undivided Geertz points out that even close knit societies have subcultures within their boundaries. The sales and accounting departments might eye each other warily: Accountants are number crunchers or bean counters Salesmen are fast talkers and glad hander's You may also have those seen as slackers and brown noser’s All of these groups may or may not look at another groups non work activities as being normal or important as they do their own 11

12 Pacanowsky views the web of organizational culture as the residue of employee performances The very actions by which members constitute and reveal their culture to themselves and others. Job performance may play only a minor role in how a corporate culture is created People get the job done. Not only by performing the actual steps required to complete a task. They talk, joke, pick on each other, while doing the least amount of work required to not get in trouble with superiors 12

13 Introduced theory: Thick Description: What Ethnographers Do Ethnography – Discovering who people within a culture think they are, what they think they are doing, and to what end do they think that they are doing it. Social discourse – Thick descriptions are powerful reconstructions, not just detailed observations 13

14 Most Ethnographers realize that their task is to: 1.Accurately describe talk and actions, and the context in which they occur 2.Capture the thoughts, emotions, or purpose to what people say and do 3.Assign motivation, intention, or purpose to what people say and do 4.Artfully write this up so readers feel they’ve experienced the events 5.Interpret what happened: Explain what it means within this culture 14

15 Thick description starts with a state of bewilderment -What is going on -The only way to reduce this feeling is to observe as if you were a stranger in a foreign land 15

16 Introduced theory: Metaphors: Taking Language Seriously Metaphors can be a starting place for accessing the shared meaning of a corporate culture Example: Lattice Organization One on one communication is more important than traditional top down communication No one group is more important to the outcome than another Everyone is free to talk to another employee in another department 16

17 Introduced theory: The Symbolic Interpretation of a Story Stories provide windows into organizational culture. Pacanowsky suggests three types of narrative that dramatize organizational life 1.Corporate stories – Carry the ideology of management and reinforce company policy 2.Personal stories -Those that the company personnel tell about themselves, often defining how they would like to be seen within the organization 3.Collegial stories – Are positive and negative anecdotes told about others in the organization 17

18 Introduced theory: Ritual: This is the way its always been and always will be Einstein described lunacy this way – Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome Said differently – If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will get what we always did Staying with what has always worked – The fear of change 18

19 Introduced theory: Can Management be an Agent of Cultural Change The popularity of the cultural metaphor when it was first introduced to the corporate world in the 1980’s was undoubtedly due to business leaders’ desire to shape interpretation within the organization Symbols are the tools of management 19

20 Executives don’t operate forklifts or produce widgets; they cast vision, state goals, process information, send memos, and engage in other symbolic behavior. If they believe that culture is the key to worker commitment, productivity, and sales, the possibility of changing culture becomes a seductive idea Creating favorable metaphors, planting organizational stories, and establishing rites would seem an ideal way to create a corporate myth that would serve managerial interests 20

21 But once corporate culture exists, can it be altered by a manager? Geertz regards shared interpretations as naturally emerging from all members of a group rather than consciously engineered by leaders. Shared meanings are hard to dispel. Symbol watchers within a company quickly discount the words of management if they don’t square with performance. But even if culture could be changed, there remains the question of whether it should be Managers who regard themselves as agents of cultural change create bull-in-a-china-shop fears for ethnographers who have ethical concerns about how their corporate analysis might be used 21

22 Is the Cultural Approach Useful? The cultural approach adopts and refines qualitative research methodology of ethnography to gain a new understanding of a specific group of people A crucial part of that understanding is a clarification of values within the culture under study. 22

23 Today the cultural approach to organizations isn’t as important to interpretive scholars as it was in the 1980’s. This may be because many researchers trained in organizational communication are hired as consultants by corporate managers looking for change Geertz would regard this quest to alter culture as inappropriate and virtually impossible. This purist position exposes him and his admirers within our discipline to criticism from corporate consultants who not only desire to understand organizational communication but also want to influence it 23

24 Sources: A First Look at Communication Theory - Eight Edition ANSWERS.COM Wikipedia – Biography of W. Edwards Deming 24


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