We have a host of authors within our book by Kersten and La Venture 1 that exposes the various definitions of organizational culture. There is a theme that emerges based on shared core values, beliefs, and principles. This hints at behavior and how that behavior is communicated to a greater audience (p. 2-3). That behavior exists within and outwit the company. It governs the day-to-day operations and the lives that work within that community. Yes, a community. Marriott views their associates as a greater family.
Yet, as I decipher these words, I am left with one thought, one word. Service. Servant leadership is a common phrase we hear about the university, and incorporate it in our culture.
The definitions of organizational culture are incomplete without the inclusion of servant leadership or service.
You may be thinking: But it is all apart of that definition, when you argue for that commonality of themes within organizational culture.
Yes, and no.
Service is inter-woven and stands alone. Why? Maybe it should be the overriding concept? See still in a heated debate.
Maybe if we address behavior. Behavior is action. Behavior is developed with immersion with in a unique place. That place has three environments–physical landscape (natural/man-made environment), economic and socio-cultural. Everyone is a product of their own three environments. A host of variables will define those environments and shape how your beliefs are formed from the roots of those variables. Core values remain, but the breadth and depth of those values shifts and adapts, matures and grows over time. Some of those core values will stick with you and others you will shed with maturity, personal growth and reflection.
You bring these dynamics into any company.
Each individual of a society makes up the culture. I am getting away from service and need to bring it back. We will get to culture shortly.
Warning, service has a broad definition. For this argument, service is the want to do something for someone else. Not just because we have to, but because we want to. It is the right thing to do. We have within our hearts the want to help. And that does have its hang ups. We are after all human and considerably flawed.
Some have this ability to help more than others. They have this innate compassion to such a degree that it is second nature. No questions are asked. Deep down we all do, but we are stymied by our own fears.
That is why I want to call it a service heart. Some would label it as the heart of service. But several colleagues and I have been gnashing on changing that. I’m sure that phrase has been around for a bit. And anyone can develop a service heart.
We have come to that conclusion that that phrase incorporates those core values. In tourism, we have a lot of choice in products. Some similar, some different. What creates competitive advantage now and in the future will be the service. The human element. People will want to return because of the people helping them fulfill their expectations. Because we want them to return ‘home’ to us again and again. Thus, our behavior is paramount to fulfilling the expectations of our stakeholders. All of them.
So, at the heart of organization is a culture. We should hold commonality, without the lost of identity. That is something that isn’t really articulated within our first readings. Identity. We each bring our own sense of self to the work environment. I have posed this question before. How do we retain our own sense of self in a workplace that may or may not have the same common values as our own. Today, we are seeing disparity in our society. Not all of us possess the same beliefs. We have our own unique cultural attributes that we bring into a workplace. How do we mesh this divergence? Some are not always the same. Should we or should we not ask people to change that culture to conform (shudder) to that workplace culture? Do the mission and vision of a company posses the flexibility to handle various cultural nuances?
Acculturation exists in tourism. Simply defined, it is the moment when two or more cultures meet and something happens. You can either have assimilation of one culture with another. Yes, there may or may not be dominance of one over another. The second may be nothing happens. Or friction. There is too much difference that problems occur. Could we now extend this concept into the workplace because of the diverse backgrounds of our employees.
So, maybe I should hint at diversity. Diversity, in its simplest terms, is about the difference in a workplace. It identifies that difference and should be embraced. We can all contribute to our workplace. Yet, the definition is limiting to us in trying to understand that difference and how to handle it. It doesn’t get to the heart of everything. It doesn’t offer strategies. Laws aren’t strategies. There is still some mysticism with diversity. If we extend diversity and marry it with the concept of cultural intelligence, especially when working in a global world, we can develop strategies and broader, better behaviors to handle that diversity. Remember these are my interpretations of my own readings and research. Don’t take it as face value. What kind of Socratic professor would I be, if I didn’t ask you to think for yourself. Read, digest, understand and reflect.
Culture today is so much greater, broader in definition than what some might think.
This is when I tell you that I hate definitions. I think they are limiting. I don’t think they encompass the expanse of variety that exists. Yes, we need a foundation on which to start. But how many of us stop and do not explore the many layers, the breadth and depth of those definitions. Culture is one of those definitions. That is why later on in the semester we will be examining Cultural Intelligence.
The discussion continues…
1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).