What determines a company's work culture? Answer that and you can be a great manager

OB is the foundation on which management education is built. Management is called the bastard science because it does not have a single original concept and everything is borrowed from other sciences, predominantly social sciences.

Nandini Vaidyanathan May 12, 2014 13:09:27 IST
What determines a company's work culture? Answer that and you can be a great manager

For the last eight years, I have been offering a purchase course in entrepreneurship in business schools across the world. I make it a point to offer this course only in their last semester/ trimester so that all their basic management concepts are in place.

One thing I have noticed is the school lays emphasis on finance, marketing, HR, operations but rarely gives primacy to a subject called Organisation Behaviour, or OB, as it is popularly called. All schools offer this course either in the first or second term and the teacher is usually someone who has never seen the inside of a corporate.

As an academician, the teacher mouths all the platitudes without ever making it real time, so much so, even if he is a good teacher, he still fails to drive home the importance of the concepts that are taught in the course. Add to this the fact that bulk of the class has an engineering background with no knowledge of social sciences. In fact, they have even a certain amount of derision for this course! And when I see them blustering through the corporate centrifuge, I know their OB teacher did not do justice to the subject.

Studying human behaviour in organisations
To my mind, OB is the foundation on which management education is built. Management is called the bastard science because it does not have a single original concept and everything is borrowed from other sciences, predominantly social sciences.

OB is defined as a science that studies what people think, feel and do in organisations. In other words, it is the study of human behaviour inside organisations.

The amazing gamut it covers are individual values that owners and employees bring to the workplace, their emotions and attitudes, how they motivate themselves and others, how they design the processes of decision-making, and how consensus and conflict resolution are a critical piece of this design, how behaviour is influenced by perception and how behaviour can be modified by learning, how high performance teams can be built without subjecting them to stratospheric stress levels, the importance of cultivating effectively communicating teams that talk and listen in equal measure, the role and reach of power in defining the hierarchical dynamics within the office, the necessity of identifying relevant leadership, why every employee should be trained in the art of negotiation, and why one should accept that change is the only constant within the organisation.

All of this go on to create what is called organisation culture, which is nothing but the way people do things within the organisation, the structures, systems and processes that foster this culture and determine its efficacy for the organisation.

Motivating people to become high performers
Now tell me, is there anything in what I have highlighted above that is not relevant for a management student aspiring to become a manager in an organisation or an entrepreneur wanting to start off on his own? The pity is that here is a course that can give you the best equipment, build your strengths from within and get you so ready for your corporate/entrepreneurial journey from the word go, yet, it is given the short shrift by both teachers and students.

The bigger tragedy is that the courses that are given importance to, like marketing, HR, operations and finance are themselves built on the foundation laid by OB. Marketing is all about emotions and perception management of your customers. Finance preaches ethical practices, and good corporate governance practices. HR is all about motivating people to learn to become high performers. Operations are all about implementing the organisation's vision in the market place.

Why then this step-motherly treatment to OB? Is it ignorance, carelessness or is it simply that we are stuck in a time warp? Are we saying, this is how we have been teaching management since the British introduced it in India and therefore, continue to do it even when times and climes have changed? I think as Alice would have said, the time has come to design management education around the core precepts of OB! Why only management education, in fact I would go as far as to say that every employee in your organisation should go through a crash course in OB during his/her induction phase.

Nandini Vaidyanathan teaches entrepreneurship, mentors entrepreneurs [www.carmaconnect.in] and has authored the bestseller, Entrepedia.

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