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Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring 2006)

ISSN 1522-0222

Managing the Library's Corporate Culture for Organizational Efficiency, Productivity, and Enhanced Service

Samuel Olu Adeyoyin

Head, Acquisition Unit
University Library
Ajayi Crowther University,
P.M.B. 1066 Oyo
Oyo State, Nigeria


Corporate culture is a key component in the achievement of an organization's mission and strategies, the improvement of organizational effectiveness, and the management of change. Culture is rooted in deeply-held beliefs. It reflects what has worked in the past. It is a pattern of shared beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and values, which may not have been explicitly articulated. Corporate culture shapes the way people act and interact and strongly influences how things get done. It encompasses the organization's goals, behavioural norms, and dominant ideologies. Culture can be expressed through the organization's myths, heroes, legends, stories, jargon, rites, and ritual.

Corporate culture can work for an organization by creating an environment that is conducive to performance improvement and the management of change. It can work against an organization by erecting barriers that prevent the attainment of goals. The impact of culture can include conveying a sense of identity and unity of purpose to members of the organization, facilitating the generation of commitment and shaping behaviour by providing guidance on what is expected.

Library managers live within the corporate culture. They must understand it as a basis for diagnosing and solving problems and for developing new policies or procedures. They may be involved in managing the culture in times of change or during crises.

Culture is manifested in the form of norms, the unwritten rules of behaviour and values, what is regarded as important, expressed as beliefs on what is best or good for the organization and what ought to happen. Values can be implicit or articulated in value statements. The value set of an organization may only be recognized at the top level, or shared so that the enterprise could be described as value-driven. Statements describing general principles of behaviour may support them. Other manifestations of culture include artifacts, the tangible aspects of an organization that people hear, see, or feel; management style, the way in which managers behave and exercise leadership and authority; organizational behaviour, the way in which people act and interact in the organization, the structure of the organization, the process and systems used in the organization; and, organizational climate, the working atmosphere of the organization. This can be described as the explicit culture and was defined by Payne and Pugh as a concept "reflecting the content and strength of the prevalent values, norms, attitudes, behaviours and feelings of a social system". Corporate culture is a system that is continuously affected by events and influences over time. These derive from the organization's external environment and from its internal processes, systems, and technology (Armstrong, 1991).

This paper is a critical analysis of managing the library's corporate culture to enhance organizational efficiency, productivity, and efficient service system. It seeks to sensitize the library managers through divergent views and opinions on how they can manage the corporate culture of their organizations, and to apply the basic principles of corporate culture management to library management. In response to the emergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that have brought changes to libraries, the paper explores the management of change in library's corporate culture, especially in this era of ICT.

Literature Review

The current interest in corporate culture began in the 1980s with the work of writers such as Allen and Kraft (1982), Deal and Kennedy (1982), and above all Peters and Waterman (1982). Academics had drawn attention to its importance much earlier, however. Indeed, Allaire and Firsirotu (1984) showed that, more than twenty years before the work of Peters and Waterman, there was already substantial academic literature on organizational culture. Blake and Mouton (1969), for example, were already arguing that there was a link between culture and excellence in the late 1960s.

Turner (1986) traced the "culture craze" of the 1980s to the decline of standards in manufacturing quality in the USA and the challenge to its economic pre-eminence by Japan. He comments that the concept of culture holds out a new way of understanding organizations, and has been offered by many writers as an explanation for the spectacular success of Japanese companies. Bowles (1989), among others, observes that there is an absence of a cohesive culture in advanced economies in the West, and that the potential for creating systems of beliefs and myth within organizations provides the opportunity for promoting both social and organizational cohesion. The case for culture was best summed up by Deal and Kennedy (1983), who argued that culture rather than structure, strategy, or politics is the prime mover in organizations.

Silverman (1970) contended that organizations are societies in miniature and can therefore be expected to show evidence of their own cultural characteristics. However, culture does not spring fully formed from the desires of management. Allaire and Firsirotu (1984) argue that it is the product of a number of different influences: the ambient society's values and characteristics, the organization's history and past leadership, and factors such as industry and technology.

Culture, as Elridge and Crombie (1974) state, refers to the unique configuration of norms, values, beliefs, ways of behaving and so on, that characterize the manner in which groups and individuals combine to get things done. Culture defines how those in the organization should behave in a given set of circumstances. It affects all, from the most senior manager to the humblest clerk. They and others judge their actions in relation to expected modes of behaviour. Culture legitimizes certain forms of action and proscribes other forms. This view is supported by Turner (1971), who observes that cultural systems contains elements of "ought" which prescribes forms of behaviour or allow behaviour to be judged acceptable or not.

Handy (1986) identifies four types of culture: power, role, task and person. He relates each of these to a particular form of organizational structure.

•  A power culture is frequently found in small entrepreneurial organizations such as some property, trading, and finance companies. Such a culture is associated with a web structure with one or more powerful figures at the center, wielding power.

•  A person culture is rare. The individual and his or her wishes are the central focus of this form of culture. It is associated with a minimal structure, the purpose of which is to assist those individuals who choose to work together. A person culture can be characterized as a cluster or galaxy of individual stars.

•  A role culture is appropriate to bureaucracies, and organizations with mechanistic, rigid structures and narrow jobs. Such cultures stress the importance of procedures and rules, hierarchical position and authority, security and predictability. In essence, role cultures create situations in which those in the organization stick rigidly to their job description (role), and any unforeseen events are referred to the next layer up in the hierarchy.

•  Task cultures, on the other hand, are job- or project- oriented, with the onus on getting the job at hand (the task) done rather than prescribing how it should be done. Such types of cultures are appropriate to organically-structured organizations where flexibility and teamwork are encouraged. Task cultures create situations in which speed of reaction, integration, and creativity are more important than adherence to particular rules or procedures, and where position and authority are less important than the individual contribution to the task in hand.

Handy (1986) believes that it is these last two forms of culture, role and task, which are most frequently found in organizations. Handy's categorization of types of culture is useful for giving a picture of different organizational cultures. It serves to highlight both the difficulty of clearly defining cultures and the profound implications of the cultural approach to organizations. These implications fall under four main headings:

1. Deal and Kennedy (1983) argue that behaviour, instead of reacting directly to intrinsic motivators, is shaped by shared values, beliefs, and assumptions about the way an organization should operate, how rewards should be distributed, the conduct of meetings, even how people should dress.

2. If organizations have their own identities, personalities, or cultures, are there particular cultural attributes thatare peculiar to top performing organizations?

3. Sathe (1983) argues that culture guides the actions of an organization's members without the need for detailed instructions or long meetings to discuss how to approach particular issues or problems, and reduces the level of ambiguity and misunderstanding between functions and departments. In effect, it provides a common context and a common purpose for those in the organization. This is only true when an organization possesses a strong culture, and when the members of the organization have internalized it to the extent that they no longer question the legitimacy or appropriateness of the organization's values and beliefs.

4. One of the most important implications is that as Barratt (1990) observed, "values, beliefs and attitudes are learnt, can be managed and changed, and are potentially manipulable by management." O'Reilly (1989) is one of those who clearly believes this is the case. He argues that it is possible to change or manage a culture by choosing the attitudes and behaviours that are required, identifying the norms or expectations that promote or impede them, and then taking action to create the desired effect.

Managing Corporate Culture

Because corporate culture is based on taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs, it can be an elusive concept. There may not be a single culture, but a number of cultures spread throughout the organization, and this does not make "managing" the corporate culture easier. There is no such thing as a "good" or "bad" culture, but only cultures that are appropriate or inappropriate.

The strength of culture clearly influences its impact on corporate behaviour. Strong cultures have more widely-shared and more clearly expressed beliefs and values than do weak ones. These values will probably have been developed over a considerable period of time and they will be perceived as functional in the sense that they help the organization achieve its purpose.

Culture is learned. Schein (1983) suggests that it is learned in two ways. First, there is the trauma model, in which members of the organization learn to cope using defense mechanisms. Second, there is the "positive reinforcement" model, where things that work become embedded and entrenched. Learning takes place as people adapt to and cope with external pressures, and as they develop successful approaches to carrying out organizational goals. The nature of those goals largely determines the way it goes about its business, and this in turn affects the way the corporate culture develops and is manifested within the organization. Against this background, organizational members, with the values, philosophy, beliefs, assumptions, and norms of top management playing a dominant role, create corporate culture.

This view of the creation of corporate culture is applicable to the library and its employees in this age of electronic library. For developed and industrialized nations, the use of ICT is not a problem. But the story is not the same in the developing world; there is a technology gap being developing nations and the rest of the world. The developing world is faced with the serious challenge of nosediving economies resulting in large-scale poverty. Few developing countries are thinking seriously about issues such as digital libraries and the skills required for staff members in those libraries. In a recent survey conducted on the ICT literacy level among the staff of Anglophone and Francophone West African university libraries, Adeyoyin (2005) reported that the professional librarians in the university's of Senegal are ranked highest in West Africa, while Ghana ranked next. According to Schein, the way technologies are handled in the organization goes a long way in determining the corporate culture and its ability to cope with external pressures, this ICT literacy gap must be closed.

According to Armstrong (1991) approaches to managing corporate culture and achieving cultural change in the library are:

•  Reorganization to facilitate integration, to create departments or jobs which are responsible for new activities or to eliminate unnecessary layers of management. Some libraries have created ICT units. Other departments such as cataloging have reorganized to integrate the use of ICT, and specialists such as system engineers are recruited to enhance the smooth running of the ICT operation.

•  Organizational development to help the organization respond to change.

•  Communication to get the message across

•  Increase the identification of staff with the firm and therefore enhance their commitment. This could be helped as easily as by creating a library website with staff pictures, departments, and job titles.

•  Provide the opportunity for all levels of staff to become more involved in the organization's affairs. Participatory management will help to improve the corporate culture. The sense of belonging will result in the increase in library's productivity.

•  Generate ideas from staff to develop the business, improve the levels of customer service, and increase productivity.

•  Training can help form new attitudes about customer service, quality, managing and motivating people, or productivity; to increase commitment to the firm and its values; to review and challenge assumptions, and to improve skills or teach new skills.

•  Recruitment of new employees to fit the desired culture or to reinforce the existing culture.

•  Performance management to ensure that managers, supervisors, and staff are aware of their objectives and are assessed on results, and that performance improvement programmes consisting of self-development, coaching, counseling, and training are used to capitalize on strengths or overcome weaknesses.

•  Reward management to enhance the cultural assumption that rewards should be related to achievement

Library and Corporate Culture

The library is an organization that has existed for centuries and has formed its own particular culture, which has not been static. In many cases, a parent institution or organization's objectives determine the library's purpose and functions. The library as an organization where professionals, paraprofessionals, and other specialists work with a common objective, that is, making information available to library patrons. The professional librarians are the key actors in creating library culture, and they have principles, rules, and guidelines for service, while being guided by professional ethics.

Cooperation among staff is a vital ingredient for a healthy corporate culture. Cordial and cooperative interaction among staff enhances service. Gone are the days when librarians hide behind counters, wearing long faces and snubbing the innocent patron who is in desperate need of information. Librarians need the charisma of a good public relations officer. Public relations revolves around image making. A good corporate culture will present a good image for the library as an organization where the information needs of its internal and external public are always met.

Changing Corporate Culture

Culture is not static. As the external and internal factors that influence culture change, so culture will change. However, cultural change will be slow, unless there is some major shock to the organization (Burnes, 1991). This in itself may not be a problem, if other factors also change slowly. In addition, like Handy (1986), Allaire and Firsirotu (1984) argue that, to operate effectively and efficiently, an organization's culture needs to match or be appropriate to its structure. As Handy (1986) commented "experience suggests that a strong culture makes a strong organization, but does it matter what sort of culture is involved? Yes, it does. Not all cultures suit all purposes or people. Cultures are founded and built over the years by the dominant groups in an organization. What suits them and the organization at one stage is not necessarily appropriate for ever - strong though that culture may be."

For a variety of reasons, organizations may find that their existing culture is inappropriate or even detrimental to their needs. In such a situation, many organizations have decided to change their culture. Many writers advocating culture change, including Peters and Waterman (1982) with their seven steps to excellence, take a very prescriptive line. Others appear to underestimate the difficulty involved in changing culture. There are other writers, however, who while sharing the belief that culture can be changed, take a more considered view. One of the more influential, Schein (1985), believes that before any attempt is made to change an organization's culture, it is first necessary to understand it. Schein's approach is to treat culture as an adaptive and tangible learning process. His approach emphasizes the way in which an organization communicates its culture to new recruits. It illustrates how assumptions are translated into values and how values influence behaviour. Schein seeks to understand the mechanisms used to propagate culture, and how new values and behaviours are learned. Once these mechanisms are revealed, he argues, they can then form the basis of a strategy to change the organization's culture. The work of Schein (1985), Schwartz and Davis (1981), Cummings and Huse (1989) and Dobson (1989) provide organizations with the guidelines and methods for evaluating the need for and undertaking cultural change. Schein's work shows how an organization's existing culture can be revealed. Schwartz and Davis' shows how the need for cultural change can be evaluated and the necessary changes identified. Finally, the work of Cummings and Huse (1989) and Dobson (1989) shows how cultural change can be and is implemented.

Library and Change in Corporate Culture

Deal and Kennedy identified five reasons to justify large-scale cultural change:

•  If your organization has strong values that do not fit a changing environment

•  If the industry is very competitive and moves with lightning speed

•  If your organization is mediocre or worse

•  If your organization is about to join the ranks of the very largest organizations

•  If your organization is small but growing rapidly.

Of these five reasons enumerated by Deal and Kennedy, only number three does not apply to the present situation of the library, because mediocrity has never been our problem.

Librarianship has strong values which may not always fit the changing environment. Demands for access and availability may be thwarted by our desire to preserve and protect materials. Even with interlibrary loan and interlibrary cooperation, there is still a gap in meeting the demands of the library clienteles across the continents, especially in the developing nations of the world. Users are sometimes restricted from accessing some materials because of their sensitive nature and more importantly, the preservation of such materials for future generations.

The wind of change has definitely blown in the information world with the emergence of ICT in the world of information provision. The electronic library has revolutionized the concept of information provision so much that the old ways are speedily fading out. ICT brought a sudden change into the information world and librarians were almost caught napping, especially in the developing nations. Our old values do not fit a changing environment, and a large-scale cultural change among the librarians is necessary, in order to join the electronic age.

There was no competition in the days of papyrus, clay, and tablet, because civilization was at its infancy and there was no need for a global image of the world as the world population was small. But the world is now a global village. Information is vital to the existence of human race and it forms the fulcrum around which the world economy, social, and political activities revolve. The global acceptance of the Internet for shopping, marketing, buying and selling, mailing, charting and communicating, advertising, displaying, campaigning, launching, exhibiting, and so on, shows the crucial role information plays in the existence of human society. There is a higher level of awareness among about what information can do.The difference between a rich man and a poor man is information. One is well informed, and he becomes knowledgeable and therefore powerful and rich. The difference between success and failure, between the winner and the loser, is information. Even the Bible attests to it, saying, "my people perish because of lack of knowledge". Information brings knowledge, and when knowledge is properly utilized, it brings power. It may not be wrong to assert that Hitler and Mussolini embarked on their suicide mission during the Second World War because of lack of the knowledge that humans are created equal and there is therefore no superior race. The availability of other sources of information places the library in a competitive market. The increased speed of the computer and the many operations it can perform within seconds propel the information industry with lightning speed. The second reason is therefore part of the need for large-scale cultural change.

The fourth reason is a very important on for the library. The information industry is a global industry. All the libraries in the world put together is a considerable number. All established to give access to information. The use of computer have made the information industry one of the largest in the past decade. Libraries have already joined the ranks of the largest organizations in the world.

The fifth reason brought to mind one of Ranganathan's five laws: the library is a growing organism. As the population increases, collections increases, and with ICT, the growth is unprecedented. The rapid changes of the past two decades were so amazing that predictions of the early days of computers in the libraries were far short of capturing what is going on today.

One of those who sounded cautious note regarding the feasibility or advisability of culture change was Schein (1984, 1985). Although he believes that culture can be changed, he also argues that there is a negative side to creating (or attempting to create) a strong and cohesive organizational culture. Shared values, particularly when they have been successful in the past, make organizations resistant to certain types of change or strategic options, regardless of their merit. Salaman (1979) points out that while there may be a strong or dominant culture in an organization, there are also subcultures, as in society at large. These may be peculiar to the organizations or may cut across organizations. Examples of latter are professional groups, such as accountants and lawyers, who have their own cultures, which extend beyond the organization.

Uttal (1983) is another who expressed caution with regard to the difficulties and advisability of culture change. In particular, he observed that even where it is successful, the process can take anywhere from six to fifteen years. Meyer and Zucker (1989) went further, arguing that while managing cultural change may result in short-term economic benefits, in the longer term, it may result in stagnation and demise.

Though Schein and other writers question the advisability of culture change and strong cultures in some situations, there are also writers who believe that culture cannot be changed or managed at all. Meek (1982) commented that "culture as a whole cannot be manipulated, turned on or off, although it needs to be recognized that some organizations are in a better position than others to intentionally influence aspects of it... culture should be regarded as something an organization 'is', not something it 'has': it is not an independent variable nor can it be created, discovered, or destroyed by the whims of management." In a similar vein, Filby and Willmott (1988) also questioned the notion that management has the capacity to control culture. They point out that this ignores the way in which an individual's values and beliefs are conditioned by experience outside the workplace, through exposure to the media, through social activities, as well as through previous occupational activities.

A further factor in the case against the feasibility of managing and changing culture is the ethical dimension. Van Maanen and Kunda (1989) argued that behind the interest in culture is an attempt by managers to control what employees feel as well as what they say or do. Their argument is that culture is a mechanism for disciplining emotion, a method of guiding the way people are expected to feel. Seen in this light, an attempt to change culture can be conceived of as Taylorism of the mind. Frederick Taylor sought to control behaviour by laying down and enforcing strict rules about how work should be carried out. Van Maanen and Kunda argue that cultural change programmes attempt to achieve a similar end through a form of mind control.


Culture helps account for variations among organizations and managers, both nationally and internationally. It helps to explain why different groups of people perceive things in their own way and perform things differently from other groups. However, all members of staff help to shape the dominant culture of an organization, irrespective of what senior management feel it should be. Culture is also determined by the nature of staff employed and the extent to which they accept management philosophy and policies or pay only "lip service". It is therefore necessary that library managers live within the corporate culture. Understand it as a basis for diagnosing and solving problems and for developing new policies or procedures. And they may well be involved in managing the culture in times of change or during crises.

The type of activity the organization carries out largely determines the way it goes about its business, and this in turn affects the way the corporate culture develops and is manifested within the organization. Against this background, organizational members, with the values, philosophy, beliefs, assumptions, and norms of top management playing a dominant role, create corporate culture. Also, according to Schein, the way technologies are handled in the organization goes a long way in determining the corporate culture of that organization and its successful adaptation to and cope with external pressures, the library managers should make it a point of duty to develop successful approaches and mechanisms to handle the ICT by working towards providing an enabling environment for the usage and management of the new ICT in the libraries in order to enhance their corporate culture.


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