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THE CULTURAL SCHOOL OF

THOUGHT
SUMMARY

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT

SUMMARY

THE CULTURAL SCHOOL


In the cultural school of thought, developing a common perspective for the organization
is the central issue. The contribution of this school lies particularly in the insights offered into the
importance of a common company culture for the formulation, and particularly the
implementation, of a strategy. A strategy can only be successful if it is deeply rooted in the
company culture and, accordingly, the development of common values and insights is a central
issue. Strategy formation here is not bottom-up or top-down but must be approached from a
collective perspective. The conceptual breeding ground for this school of thought is
anthropology.
Culture school can be studied by two different perceptive. The first take an objective
stand on why people behave as they do, which is explained in context to social and economic
relationship. The second consider culture as a subject process of interpretation not based on
universal logic.
Tangible resources, such as machines and buildings, as well as less intangible
resources, such as scientific know-how and budgetary systems, interact with members of an
organization to produce what anthropologists call "material culture." This emerges when "human
made objects reflect, consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, the beliefs of the
individuals who commissioned, fabricated, purchased, or used them and, by extension, the
beliefs of the larger society to which these individuals belonged" (Prown, 1993:1)
In other words, blind men may better be able to sense culture than those who see all too
well! We shall use the word ideology to describe a rich culture in an organization a strong set
of beliefs, shared passionately by its members, which distinguishes this organization from all
others.
Much like the stakeholder approach to designing power relationships, there is a literature
on handy techniques to design culture, which in our opinion belongs in the planning school, as
the following quotation should make clear: "To match your corporate culture and business
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STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT

SUMMARY

strategy, different procedures should become a part of the corporation's strategic planning
process".
George Steiner, to come across "ghost myth," "organizational drama," and "misfits" is
itself a form of culture shock, although perhaps not unwelcome in the often uninteresting
literature of strategic management.
In England, Andrew Pettigrew (1985) conducted a detailed study of the British chemical
company, ICI that revealed important cultural factors, while in the United States, Feldman
considered the relationship of culture to strategic change and Barney asked whether culture could
be a source of sustained competitive advantage.
Culture and especially ideology do not encourage strategic change so much as the
perpetuation of existing strategy; at best, they tend to promote shifts in position within the
organization's overall strategic perspective.
The school show the difference between resource-based theory and dynamic capabilities,
however, one in the learning school, the other here, because of what we perceive to be an
important nuance: while resource- based theory emphasizes the rooting of these capacities in the
evolution of the organization, the dynamic capabilities approach of Prahalad and Hamel
emphasizes their development essentially through a process of strategic learning.
Every field of study has its central concept like market in economics, politics in political
science, strategy in strategic management, and so on, and culture has long been the central
concept in anthropology.
In effect, SWOT is alive and well in strategic management; it is just that the SWs
(strengths and weaknesses) have taken over from the OTs (opportunities and threats) Perhaps the
design school had it best way back in the mid-1960s with its emphasis on balanced fit!

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT

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Unexpectedly, an organization's inability to understand and reproduce its own culture


may be the best guarantee of its strategic advantage far better than any security system or legal
device ever devised! Of course that also renders it vulnerable, easily destroyed by any leader
who makes dramatic moves without being able to assess their impact on the organization.
Pettigrew put it well when he wrote that organizational culture can be seen as an
"expressive social tissue," and much like tissue in the human body, it binds the bones of
organizational structure to the muscles of organizational processes.
Another danger of culture as an explanatory framework is that it equates strategic
advantage with organizational uniqueness. Bjorkman (1989) has pointed to research indicating
that radical changes in strategy have to be based on fundamental change in culture.
We consider this work to fall into the cultural school more than any other because of its
overriding concern with adaptation in a collective context, above all the need for collective
"refraining" as a prerequisite to strategic change.
That is why they're so horribly difficult to change." Lorsch has noted that not only can
culture act as a prism that blinds managers to changing external conditions, but that "even when
managers can overcome such myopia, they respond to changing events in terms of their
culture"they tend to stick with the beliefs that have worked in the past
Here we have two groups of writers who see strategy from the inside out, in one case
with an emphasis on capability for learning, in the other with an emphasis on capabilities rooted
in culture.
Strategy takes the form of perspective above all, more than positions, rooted in collective
intentions (not necessarily explicated) and reflected in the patterns by which the deeply
embedded resources, or capabilities, of the organization are protected and used for competi' tive
advantage.

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT

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In an earlier paper, these two authors with another colleague (Waterman, Peters, and
Phillips, 1980) introduced the famous 7-S framework, which put culture (called "superordinate
goals," so that it would start with an "s"!) at the center, around which were arrayed strategy,
structure, systems, style, staff, and skills.
Critique, Contribution, and Context of the Cultural School If the positioning school has
been faulted for artificial precision, then the cultural school should be faulted for conceptual
vagueness.
The main aspect that leads to success or failure of an organization is strategy, this is a
misconception because strategy is useless without strategic management. Hence we can say that
the strategy and the strategic management of an organization can determine its success or failure.
The review of the perceptions of authors such as Henry Mintzberg has shown that strategy
formulation is very important and the way to craft the strategy is important as well in any
organization.