Organizational Cultures: Toward a Complex Approach for the Understanding of Cultures in Postmodern Organizations

By Fabrizio Maimone and Sara Mormino.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of the nature of organizational cultures, by adopting the complex systems theory (Stacey 1996, Tsoukas 1998, Thiétart and Forgues 1995). Traditional structural-functionalism (Pettigrew 1979, Schein 1990) presumed that culture was a consistent and isomorphic entity. Culture has been described as a whole, homogeneous set of norms, values, assumptions, paradigms, practices, symbols, artifacts, etc.. Kunda (2006) and Martin (1992) among others, argued against the assumptions of structural-functionalist theory, affirming that organizational culture is very far from being a monolithic coherent system. Martin (2004) described three theoretical perspectives on organizational cultures a) integration b) differentiation and c) fragmentation, proposing a multiple and subjective approach to the study of cultural phenomena. This paper compares postmodern theories with qualitative research outcomes and proposes a complex approach to explain some paradoxes of post-fordist organizations (Rullani 1998, Strati 1997). The model described in this paper assumes the complex nature of organizational culture. According to this approach, organizational culture is not a monolithic system, nor a mere puzzle of inconsistent traits, but some kind of multidimensional universe, where isomorphism and variety, stability and change may co-exist. So then, we can assume that organizational culture is a dynamic system, characterized by the co-existence of equilibrium and dis-equilibrium. Organizational emergent phenomena can facilitate cultural hybridization and the creation of new cultural traits. Stressing the consequences of the analysis proposed by Martin (2004), we argue that the level of analysis (macro, meso or micro) and the instruments we use to investigate the nature of the phenomenon can influence the way we interpret the nature of culture and therefore may favorite an integrative (structural-functionalistic) or dis-integrative (postmodern) narrative (Tsoukas and Hatch 2001) of organizational culture.

Keywords: Organisational Culture, Organisational Change, Complex Systems Theory, Integration, Differentiation, Fragmentation, Postmodern Organization

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp.179-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 807.877KB).

Dr. Fabrizio Maimone

Senior Researcher, CRESEC, LUMSA University, Rome, Italy

Fabrizio Maimone is assistant professor at LUMSA University of Rome, Italy, and visiting fellow at Canberra University, Australia. He has a MA in International Politics and a PhD in Communication Sciences and Complex Organizations. He teaches Organizational Communication and General Sociology at LUMSA University of Rome and Communication Management at LUISS Business School, LUISS University of Rome. He is author of essays, chapters and articles on organizational climate and culture, organizational communication, intercultural communication, organizational creativity and knowledge management.

Dr. Sara Mormino

Phd, CRESEC, LUMSA University, Rome, Italy

Sara Mormino holds a MA in Business Communication and a PhD in Communication Sciences and Complex Organizations at LUMSA University of Rome. She teaches Teamworking and Professional communities management at LUMSA University of Rome. And then she collaborates with LUISS Business School, LUISS University of Rome. Her research interests concern professional communities, communities of practices, organizational communication, knowledge management. She works as consultant in training and development projects.

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