Organizational Culture - Harley-Davidson vs. Marquette University's Student Safety Programs
"Culture is the tangible expression of our human experience.  Our culture includes the art we make, the clothes we wear, and the language we speak.  It includes the institutions we create, the religions we practice, the rituals we perform, and the concepts and beliefs through which we view and interpret our world.  Culture is the fabric that holds together and identifies a society.  It is passed from one generation to another, yet it is always in flux, changing as it interacts with new ideas and other cultures." 
(Ponlop, Dzogchen (2010-11-05). Rebel Budda (p. 47). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.)

I really love the above quote because I think it really defines what organizational culture is.   Culture is basically the personality of an organization.  Examples of culture are stories, clothing (uniforms), language (jargon), art, music and values.    You can tell the culture of an organization by looking at the arrangement of furniture, what the organization brags about, what members wear, etc.  Culture is something that is difficult to express distinctly because you cannot see it but everyone knows when they sense it.   You can tell the culture of an organization by looking at the arrangement of furniture, what the organization brags about, what members wear, etc.  Below is a video about Harley-Davidson and it definitely gives the watcher clues about the culture of Harley-Davidson.  You should look closely at what they are wearing in the video and listen carefully to what they are saying.  Although this video is really aimed at the riders of Harley-Davidson,  a lot of the employees that work for Harley-Davidson also own Harley's.   In addition, the employees of Harley-Davidson are the ones that are creating the clothing lines and marketing their products so they also have to believe in the video's message as well.      
The video, Harley-Davidson: Live by it, said that they [Harley-Davidson] believe in going their own way, bucking the system, sticking it to the man, freedom, dust, refusing to knuckle down to anyone and black.  They believe that life is what you make it and they don't care what anyone else believes. The people in the video have tattoos, long hair and  they look rigid.  

This next video, Same Stance, New Generation, shows a lot more about the culture within Harley-Davidson.  In this video, the employees of Harley-Davidson are the stars and they discuss how products are developed with the organization.  
In this video, you hear "our brand is the heartbeat of our company." This quote really says a lot about the culture at Harley-Davidson.  The brand is important not only to the customers but also the employees of Harley-Davidson.  In the video, you see the clothes that people are wearing.  Harley-Davidson employees aren't dressed in suits every day, they wear Harley-Davidson clothing, they are supporting their brand even while conducting business.  

There are seven central concepts about culture that professors Ken Thompson (DePaul University) and Fred Luthans (University of Nebraska) highlight.
  1. Culture = Behavior: Culture is a word that can be used to describe the behaviors that represent the general operating norms in your environment.  Culture is not usually defined as good or bad, although aspects of culture can support progress and success and other aspects can impede your progress.  
  2. Culture is learned: People learn to perform certain behaviors through either the rewards or negative consequences that follow their behavior.  
  3. Culture is learned through interaction: Employees learn culture from interacting with other employees.  Most behaviors and rewards in organizations involve other employees.  
  4. Sub-cultures form through rewards: Employees have many different wants and needs.  Sometimes employees value rewards that are not associated with the behaviors desired by managers for the overall company.  
  5. People shape the culture: Personalities and experiences of employees create the culture of an organization.  
  6. Culture is negotiated: One person cannot create culture alone.  Employees must try to change the direction, the work environment, the way work is performed, or the manner in which decisions are made within the general norms of the workplace.  Culture change is a process of give and take by all members of an organization.  
  7. Culture is difficult to change: Culture change requires people to change their behaviors.  It is often difficult for people to unlearn their old way of doing things, and to start performing the new behaviors consistently.  Harley-Davidson has been trying to change the culture within their manufacturing plants and it is not an easy task.  

There are also four different types of culture identified by researcher Jeffrey Sonnenfeld: Academy, Baseball Team, Club and Fortress culture.  
  • Academy Culture: Employees are highly skilled and tend to stay in the organization, while working their way up the ranks.  The organization provides a stable environment in which employees can develop and exercise their skills.  Examples are universities, hospitals and large corporations.
  • Baseball Team Culture: Employees are "free agents" who have highly prized skills.  They are in high demand and can rather easily get jobs elsewhere.  This type of culture exists in fast-paced, high-risk organizations such as investment banking and advertising.
  • Club Culture: The most important requirement for employees in this culture is to fit into the group.  Usually employees start at the bottom and stay with the organization.  The organization promotes from within and highly values seniority.  Examples are the military, and some law firms.
  • Fortress Culture: Employees don't know if they'll be laid off or not.  These organizations often undergo massive reorganization.  There are many opportunities for those with timely, specialized skills.  Examples are savings and loans and large car companies.  

I believe that Harley-Davidson has academy culture.  A lot of their employees stay with the organization and work their way horizontally (department to department or team to team) and vertically (promotions within the organization) within Harley-Davidson.  

Organizational culture is really important today in every part of the organization.  When organizations are hiring, they try to find someone with the knowledge, skills and abilities that the positions requires but also someone who would fit in with the organization and work well with their coworkers.  Below, Ann Rhoades, founder of People Inc., discusses organizational culture and how it affects hiring new employees. 

Be sure to check out my next post about conflict in the work place!
Gilsdorf, Jeanette W. "Organizational Culture." Organizational Culture. Advameg, Inc., 2012. Web. 01 May 2012. <>. 

 Heathfield, Susan M. "Culture: Your Environment for People At Work." Human Resources., 2012. Web. 01 May 2012. <>.  

McNamara, Carter. "Organizational Culture." Free Management Library. Authenticity Consulting, LLC., 2000. Web. 01 May 2012. <>.
Menck, Jessica Claire. "Week 2, Lesson B Lecture Notes." 25 Jan. 2012. Lecture.    
Ponlop, Dzogchen (2010-11-05). Rebel Budda (p. 47). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition. 

Ziegler, Angie. "Harley-Davidson Leadership." 4 Apr. 2012. Lecture.  
4/17/2013 07:59:43 pm

Is there any companies with great culture change, as Harley-Davidson


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    I am a Junior at Marquette University enrolled in the College of Business Administration's Organization and Behavior (MANA 3001) class.  This blog is a way of applying concepts I am learning in class to the outside world.


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