Based on your reading of the textbook chapter, describe and give an example of an assumption in your organization. This should be a belief that is “taken for granted”, about “the way we do things here”.
In responding to question 2 this week, be careful not to confuse assumptions in the contemporary sense with the anthropological meaning as it is ascribed to it in culture studies. In the contemporary definition, an assumption is a belief that something is true or accepted as true, often without proof. For example, “In my company, people assume that you can leave early on Friday” or “An assumption is that if you work hard you will be recognized”.
In organizational culture, as described by Schein, basic assumptions are much deeper than that. Basic assumptions are generally around the nature of something.
For example, a basic assumption around the nature of humans:
“Humans are inherently evil. They will tend to cheat or lie if they can get away with it”.
Or, a basic assumption around the locus of control:
“Nature controls us. So it doesn’t matter what I do, whatever will happen, will happen.”
Read the explanation carefully before responding:
Schein describes some assumptions around core problems organizations face:
1. External adaptation and Internal Integration
This are the core problem groups and organizations are faced with : survival in and adaptation to the external environment and integration of the internal processes to ensure the capacity to continue to survive and adapt.
Do we control our environment or does the environment control us?
All groups develop norms around these categories and if these norms get external tasks done while leaving the group reasonably free of anxiety, the norms become critical genetic elements of the culture DNA.
2. Reality and Truth
All kinds of society are based on deeper assumptions on general abstract issues.This is how people relates to reality and truth, time and space, human nature and how people should relate to each other. Reaching consensus for instance is a process of building a shared social reality. There are many different criteria for determining truth, from belief and morality (pure dogma and right / wrong dichotomy) to pragmatism (scientific method).
Is there an actual truth? Is reality objective or subjective?
3. Time and Space
Anthropologists have noted that every culture make assumption about time. Schein identifies three types of organization depending on their time orientation : past, present and future.
Is time monochronic and polychronic?
Monochronic is a view of linear time that can be split, wasted, spent etc … This is typical of the western rational cultures. Some culture in Southern Europe or Middle East view time as polychronic, a kind of medium defined more by what is accomplished than by a clock, within which several things can be done simultaneously. In polychronic cultures, relationships are viewed as more important than short-run efficiency and may leave monochronic managers frustrated and impatient.
Space has both a physical and a social meaning and feeling about distance have biological roots. This ends up in different levels of distance (intimacy, personal, social, public) whose length may differ depending on the culture. Also space includes a symbolic value through different allocations (executives at the top of the building, managers with dedicated office etc …). This is one of the reason why the introduction of new communication technologies (email, collaborative spaces, social networks) causes anxiety : it forces to the surface assumptions that have been taken for granted in terms of relation to space.
4. Human nature, activity and relationships
Are humans inherently good or evil?
Douglas Mc Gregor has well known framework on this subject known as Theory X (managers believe people are lazy and must be motivated and controlled) and Theory Y (people are basically self-motivated and need to be channeled and challenged). The latter assume it is possible to design organizations that enable employee needs to be congruent with organizational needs. This is the dimension of organizations seeking to grow and to dominate their market.
Do we control nature or does nature control us?
There is the Doing orientation whereby nature can be controlled and manipulated, there is a pragmatic orientation toward the nature of reality and a belief in human perfectibility. On the other hand, the Being orientation where nature is powerful and human is subservient to it, an orientation that implies fatalism and enjoying what we have, here and now. This is the orientation of organizations looking for a niche, trying to adapt to external realities rather than creating markets.
In between both there is the Being-In-Becoming organization where the focus is on development rather than on a static condition. It is more on what the person is and can become rather than what the person can accomplish.