Just like the structure of an organisation, its culture is not something lasting and ultimately given once and for all. Many researchers prefer to talk about organisational culture as a process (Salzer, 1994; Eisenberg & Riley, 2001) to emphasize the organisation’s mobile, on-going and creative dimensions (Miriam Salzer-Mörling, 1998: 21). According to Edgar Schein (1992: 211), the values and perceptions of the founders and leaders in organisations are a central source in the forming of its culture.
The modern organisation theory emerged during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Even though the industrialism have developed into a knowledge based creative economy requiring different organisational models for companies to be competitive, most companies today are still organised with traditional hierarchical models. There seems to be a lag in the necessary change. Management boards are crowded with senior managers (mostly men) who grew up in a society trimmed for military preparedness, trained in mobilising labour to perform services and manufacture goods by using the structural management perspective from the era of “Taylorism” and Weberian bureaucracy. The organisations in the industrial age were structured to produce outputs, not to achieve relevant outcomes. This is still clearly reflected in the manner in which todays company structures are organised, and how its human resource is used. In the society we now live in – a globalised high-speed economy with educated citizens trained in democracy and customers well-informed by the Internet – Management Innovation is needed to revamp organisations in order to fit more effectively with the demands of our time.
The leadership of an organisation can hardly alone create the organisational culture with a top-down perspective. The management prefers to see cultural creation as leadership focused and usually pursues an integration perspective in order to describe the culture as consistent, that there is a consensus view of reality. But the management might not receive information that exposes flaws in the organisational culture, simply because the hierarchical, informal subcultures can be difficult to detect. Hierarchical cultures creates differences in status and power, and builds barriers in communication, integration, coordination and learning in the organisation (Heide et al. 2005: 89ff.).
In addition to management, the Human Resource (HR) and Communications departments in a company have a great influence on the strategic and operational work with the company’s organisational culture. I would argue that these services are necessary to integrate in close cooperation with management in the work on strategies, policies and tools for the development of a good organisational culture. Henning Bang (1999: 64ff.) defines a number of categories in which organisational culture is expressed:
- Behavioral expressions (actions, behaviors, expressed emotion)
- Verbal expressions (stories, myths and legends, language, jargon and humor; stated values, norms and beliefs)
- Material expressions (objects and things, physical structure and architecture)
- Structural expressions (rituals, procedures and ceremonies, recruitment, reward and career system)
These are all issues managed in the daily work of a company’s HR and Communications departments. The HR department is responsible for the recruitment processes, issues related to staff and team building. The Communications department deals with the company’s brand strategy. A management tool that without support and application at a management level, will not have its intended impact on the organisation. The “Brand Manual” defines and explains the organisation’s core business model, its actors, its mission, the brand concepts, and communication platform with tuned messages, etc. It conveys an educational programme which aims to join various organisational departments and individuals in a methodical way of communicating to implement the company’s mission and vision. In the conceptual content of the brand manual, a “tip of the iceberg” are the guidelines for creative communication expressed in graphics, text, presentations, and spatial design. The goal of a trademark is to become a “mark of being”. It is obvious that the communication department’s work in the company crosses the HR and management issues. However, to my experience, it is still unusual that companies bring these teams together in order to work integrated in a methodical, organisational approach.
As mentioned earlier, most organisations are structured on a hierarchical basis, a “command-and-control” approach that can be traced back to the roman legions. Within the hierarchy, managers focus on activities, elements, or units that perform certain activities and over which they can exert some direction and control. Each of these separate fiefdoms, or silos, is focused on what it does best but not necessarily on the customers, or users, the organisation ultimately serves (Schultz, Don E. 2003: 51). A problem for the Communications department, having the internal orgnisation as an internal customer parallell to the end-customer, is that each silo has little cross functional interaction that helps align the various elements to benefit customers. The firm is, in essence, inwardly focused towards the management and most likely suffering from bottlenecks. Employees are taught that success is based on the efficient completion of various activities or tasks, not whether customers are happy or satisfied.
Unsuited to siloed organisations, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) thrives in organisations that revolve around the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, the customer is at the center. All functional activities, elements, and units are directed toward and focused on providing customer benefits, filling customer needs, or satisfying customer requests. The key goal of the firm is to serve and satisfy the customer and build loyalty and ongoing flows of income (be it political support or monetary resources) from those customers (Schultz, Don E. 2003: 51).
Once the firm adopts the concept of becoming customer centric, there is suddenly a need for total integration of the various functional groups within the firm. Integration at all levels becomes the norm rather than the exception.
By understanding the power of the heterarchical organisation and its effective way of processing information and delegating responsibility (and thus driving motivation, learning, creativity and innovation) several successful companies have achieved customer focus by moving from a strictly functional organisational structure to one based on processes and outcomes. Communications, PR and marketing moves from being a separate functional group next to accounting, production, R&D, logistics and operations in the company, to acting as a supplier and supporter of the cross-functional teams and groups that fit and furnish the capabilities, resources, and processes needed by the entire organisation to serve customers and users properly (Schultz, Don E. 2003: 354). The trick is to mobilise cross-disciplinary teams in the organisation. This can be done for example in planning work processes of the company as described in the diagram below.