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Adrian Raynor

I really like the three part division of culture you propose here. The third one for me is the real powerhouse, and helps me to relate leadership to complex processes of relating, and to see that our intuition about how leaders really do affect things whilst still being part of them can work. It is so important that leaders are culture shapers, and this suggests why.

Chris Rodgers

Hi Adrian,

Many thanks for your comment. It's rewarding to know that my conception of organizational culture makes sense to you and that it is helpful to your thinking.

I hope you find other posts of interest on the blog.

Regards, Chris

Bas Reus

Hi Chris. Great blog.

The duality of culture as articulated and culture as experienced can be compared to the Community of Practice theories from Etienne Wenger I believe. His duality of reification vs participation to negotiate meaning is quite alike.

What do you think?

Chris Rodgers

Hi Bas,

Many thanks for your intriguing question re this post and your kind remarks about the blog as a whole.

Interestingly, I’ve only recently come across Etienne Wenger’s work. But I find that much of what he writes resonates strongly with my own thoughts on organizational dynamics. I’ve reflected on your suggestion that there appear to be parallels between his “reification-participation duality” in the negotiation of meaning, and my notions of the culture-as-articulated and the culture-as-experienced. I agree.

Indeed, when we talk about “culture” itself we are reifying (or “thingifying”, as I call it) what is a mental and social construct - see Leading is a ‘doing word’ at http://bit.ly/JCPeL. And it is a construct that is born out of Wenger’s notion of participation. We often hear people blame “the culture” when things go wrong. That is, it tends to be seen as something tangible and spoken of as if ‘it’ can do things in its own right. The downside of this is that it can divert our attention away from what’s going on in the here and now. This causes us to lose sight of our own and others’ parts in the ongoing process of interaction. And it is through this that outcomes actually emerge - including those that are brought together as the culture-as-articulated. At the same time, of course, the idealized design of this formally articulated aspect of culture provides a context and formal ‘frame’ within which the day-to-day sense-making interactions (participation, again) take place. So, as Wenger points out, and as I mention in the final sentences of the ‘thingifying’ post, reification has an important facilitative role in this ongoing sense-making (participative) process.

I would like to end with three more important points of clarification.

First, some of the reifications that emerge from the local sense-making process will be rife in the shadow-side conversations but will be undiscussable ‘in the open’. The perceived political dynamics of the organization might be one of these, for example. Although this makes them no less powerful in the process described above, these will be part of the culture-as-experienced, rather than the culture-as-articulated.

Secondly, not all of the aspects of the culture-as-experienced will be reified. Much that is experienced will remain tacit. Or it will be felt but not expressed in language.

Thirdly, as discussed in the main post, taken-for-granted patterns of assumptions emerge from the ongoing sense-making process. So “deep culture” is both an outcome of participation and a shaper of it. This is therefore a mirror image of the relationship between participation and reification but deals in the currency of taken-for-granted assumptions rather than formally stated designs.

Thanks again for stimulating further my interest in Wenger’s work.

Bas Reus

Chris, you make some important points indeed. It's been a while since I completely read the communities of practice book of Wenger, so I might not be complete in this comment.

Some discussions are politically of nature, and therefor occur not in the open. They occur on the boundaries of the practice while the practice is not shared. But they can evolve and move more to the core of the practice as well. They move from peripheral participation to into full participation.

I can recommend reading more on boundaries, the peripheries shared practices. And to myself as well ;)

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