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I think therefore I am (Descart). or am I?. So what is culture?. ? (How) Can culture be managed?. There can be a number of views about culture.

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so what is culture
So what is culture?


(How) Can culture be managed?

there can be a number of views about culture
There can be a number of views about culture.
  • Culture has no physical presence, it is not hands on and cannot be seen, touched or smelt. Culture is a phenomenon, existing only in the mind of those individuals who believe in it –
  • But when believed the framework of behavioural rules that is known as culture has power
  • A common form of behaviour amongst employees
  • Values that employees have in common (a sense of being, of identity, of purpose)
  • Values that one cohort of employees pass down to the next
forming a culture
Forming a culture

Functionalists believe in a society formed by social structures

Made up by norms, values and rules that formed patterns of behaviour

Structures that in turn become real in their consequences (W I Thomas)

Durkheim uses the term ‘social solidarity’ to describe how people achieve social order

Social solidarity was achieved by collective standards and rules of behaviour that make the ‘social glue’ that holds society together

Social solidarity/order flows from consensus

The existence of shared norms, values and rules

A collective conscience

A culture

Once established cultures appear to take on a life of their own

Develop to provide understanding for members

Each generation passes on these norms, values and rules to the next (tradition)


A collective way of living/being can be termed a ‘culture’

Cultures can be macro – gender, ethnicity, class

Cultures can be micro – family, work, teenagers

Each generation has the ability to change their culture

People have a choice if they comply or not

Choice is not always made under circumstances that they control (Marx) -need to belong (Maslow)


Individuals who believe they have no place in society or its structures – do not share the same norms and values – are said to be alienated - a situation that Durkheim saw as ‘anomie’

Mayo’s study at Hawthorn argued that “anomie” might be a useful concept for analysing workers who were being de-skilled by factory work

  • Workers did not think they belonged –
  • The Hawthorne experiment made them think they were important
  • They belonged and therefore they were happier and worked harder.


these "artifacts" are at the surface, those aspects (such as dress) which can be easily discerned, yet are hard to understand;

Espoused Values:

beneath artifacts are "espoused values" which are conscious strategies, goals and philosophies

Basic Assumptions and Values:

the core, or essence, of culture is represented by the basic underlying assumptions and values, which are difficult to discern because they exist at a largely unconscious level. Yet they provide the key to understanding why things happen the way they do.

"A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems”

“The basic tacit assumptions about how the world is and ought to be that a group of people share and that determines their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and, their overt behaviour" (Schein, 2004 : 36).

(Baigent 2009)

Incredibly difficult to change a culture once it has been established and has a tradition

Because it is the agreed patterns of behaviour in a group/organisation

people are not cultural dopes

People are not cultural dopes

Culture mediates all human behaviour, sociology is the study of how this works (Bourdieu 1992:10)

Objective in that there are rules. Subjective, because rules can be changed and interpreted.

For example a bureaucracy appears to have a propensity to reproduce, a life of its own but it is no more than the sum total of actors routines - their habitus which allows them to operate in the field that is bureaucracy.

People who are not aware of the culture are lost – they watch for clues of how to act (Goffman).

We construct our actions based on our knowledge and experience

Practicing/practising culture is exactly that

More than following the rules it is understanding and interpreting the rules

To gain skills

conscious action
Conscious action?
  • One difficulty is that people do not enjoy being told that they operate under such restrictions
    • People believe they are individuals who act as they wish,
    • This can render culture invisible
    • Managers can fail to recognise cultural power
    • Despite this people will act according to their experience off the world around them by either fitting in or resisting.
    • Do they know they are doing this
conscious decisions
Conscious Decisions?

Result of a collaboration on a large or small scale – a collective conscience (Durkheim).

It is there, it the result of history and tradition and yet because it is the result of struggle it can be changed

People rarely think consciously about culture – it can be accepted

Yet we are thinking individuals who make choices

But rarely do we make these choices under conditions of our own choosing (Marx)

“We might have called this book “doing culture” instead of “practicing culture” but it would have made culture seem much easier to do than it really is. It takes practice” (Calhourn and Sennett 2007: 7).

  • My thoughts are that we know we should fit-in and we probably do this most of the time – this is our conscious action
  • The joining of structure and action – structuration (Giddens)
public services operate in a complicated dynamic

Public services operate in a complicated dynamic

Key stake holders – with potentially competing interests



Chief Officers/Senior Managers

Local Politicians

Operational Managers

The workforce

Representative bodies

Audit Commission

formal public service culture
Formal Public Service Culture

Weberian Bureaucracy

  • Resilient to attack (Military model)
  • Written rules (orders) for everything
  • A clear chain of command – everyone knows the job above/below
  • No room for entrepreneurs
  • An iron cage of rationality

Chief Officers and the workforce a similar view

  • Public service ethos
  • To provide an efficient service to help the public

Espoused Values:

conscious strategies, goals and philosophies

Basic Assumptions and Values:

the core, or essence, of culture is represented by the basic underlying assumptions and values, which are difficult to discern because they exist at a largely unconscious level. Yet they provide the key to understanding why things happen the way they do.

public service formal culture
Public Service Formal Culture

Government set the rules/targets

Policing committee


Lay People

Chief Constable

Make a Policing Plan to fit with Government’s wishes

Set the Mission Statement

Establish the Core Values

Expect managers to implement these structures

Expect workforce to follow these structures

npm modernisation
NPM - Modernisation

Change in formal culture

  • to make experts more accountable
  • to make public services more efficient by involving the community/citizen
    • Smoking, obesity fitness
    • Speeding, drinking, drugs
    • Prevention of crime and fire

First managers reluctant to change

Formal culture changes

Increasing gap between managers & workers

Informal culture keeps the original culture

at least two cultures
At least two cultures

The official culture laid down by Chief Officers (organisational culture)

The unofficial culture(s) operated by those who do the job (occupational cultures)

Often confused as one culture – a single title

But in practise the result is that people make choices about how to behave

People want to belong (Durkheim)

Groups look to leaders (Adair)

People respond to concern (Mayo)

People have needs (Maslow)

Change can be transformational or transactional (Burke)

People want to prove themselves right (Weber)

power of the workforce
Power of the workforce

Workers united can never be defeated

Formally organised through their trade union

Informally organised through their group/culture

Managers hold a collective line?

Group think by managers?

there can be a number of views about public service culture
There can be a number of views about public service culture.

its just out there

values that one cohort of public servants pass down to the next

a common form of behaviour amongst public servants

a public service ethos to serve and protect

values that officers, managers, constables, firefighters, soldiers etc. have in common

something people sign up to because it provides for your needs, a sense of belonging, identity, purpose

these arguments almost make as if culture has a life of its own
These arguments almost make as if culture has a life of its own
  • As a result, it is often the culture rather than individuals that is seen as responsible for how cultural values get put into practice
  • Formal police culture may appear to have strength, power and authority, but this is due to a combination of group ownership, tradition and history, not because it actually exists.
  • Police culture is a structure – accepted/constructed by the individuals who operate within it
  • Because the culture has to be put into action by individuals, there is space for those individuals to act differently
government requirements
Government requirements

As a public service the fire and police service is supposed to treat people ‘equally’

The government have set targets for how this may be achieved – putting particular emphasis on community action and equality

An institutionally conservative fire and police service has been slow to take the government seriously.

Despite being disciplined services there are competing interest for how they operates

it is sometimes possible to forget that
It is sometimes possible to forget that:
  • People in the fire and police services have minds of their own
  • Frequently group behaviour acts like a snowball – almost forcing people to put their own values on hold as they to give up some free will to join in with the group
  • People in the fire or police services make a choice when they join in on cultural practices
  • However choice is not always made under circumstances that the individual would choose (Marx)
is there a choice about unofficial conservative fire or police service culture
Is there a choice about unofficial (conservative) fire or police service culture
  • Christian: Well it’s the tradition. They need to be able to fit-in ..without being lairy and start telling you .. how to do it.
  • Ian: Just keep your head down and keep your gob shut for a little while and see what happens.
macpherson w 1999 the stephen lawrence inquiry london hmso

Macpherson, W. (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, London: HMSO.

We heed this warning, but upon all the facts we assert that the conclusion that racism played its part in this case is fully justified. Mere incompetence cannot of itself account for the whole catalogue of failures, mistakes, misjudgements, and lack of direction and control which bedevilled the Stephen Lawrence investigation.

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture and ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”

informal culture of the public servants who provide the service

Informal culture of the public servants who provide the service

Want to deliver their service to the public – some ways of doing this parallel the formal plan – some do not

Take ownership of service delivery - think they know best how to deliver their service

Resistance to change

They have a concept of what makes a good firefighter/police officer/soldier

Fit newcomers in

Work life balance difficult - work is pleasure – isolation from public

The construction of identity through their work (masculinity)

The union

at least two cultures1
At least two cultures

The official culture set by the chief officer:

  • Transformational/transactional
    • mission statement
    • official rules
    • core values

The unofficial culture

  • conservative – the view of people who believe they know best
  • operating on the watch
  • operated by managers
thank you

Thank you

How does the informal culture reproduce itself?

Why does the informal culture have so much power/authority?