Understanding Organizational Culture and Group Dynamics: Reframing the Normative Orientation of the Role of Information Professionals within Organizations

Understanding Organizational Culture and Group Dynamics: Reframing the Normative Orientation of the Role of Information Professionals within Organizations

Doralyn Rossmann (Montana State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-601-8.ch012
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The field of library and information science will benefit from a greater understanding of the function of individuals in relation to organizational culture and group dynamics, including how individual experiences underlie the culture of an organization. Understanding how these factors can shape successful human resources management will help today’s information science and management organizations in their recruitment, development, and retention efforts. It is suggested here that, while MLIS curricula and library organizations have traditionally focused on leadership as a function of management, a reorientation towards development of leadership skills at all levels of the organization will have a positive effect on organizational culture and group dynamics. In development of this concept, this chapter provides an overview of traditional approaches to understanding organizational culture and group dynamics and how these are applied in the information and library science literature and curricula; explores an alternate normative orientation towards the understanding of organizational culture and group dynamics as a function of all individuals in an organization and not just management; identifies ways in which information professionals and organizations can use this knowledge to recruit, develop, and retain employees in the information sciences profession; and explores future research directions in these areas.
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Organizational Culture and Group Dynamics Defined

Understanding the field of organizational culture requires a background introduction into a broader field of study: organization theory. According to Tompkins (2005), “organization theory is the study of how and why complex organizations behave as they do. Specifically, it is the study of formal structures, internal processes, external constraints, and the ways organizations affect and are effected by their members” (p. 1). This broader field of study has three subsets: the branch of organization theory, the branch of organizational behavior, and the branch of management theory. The organization theory branch uses a macro perspective which looks at the organization itself and its structures. The organization behavior branch of study uses a micro perspective approach and looks at individuals and groups and how they interrelate. Management theory focuses on the subset of management in organizations (Tompkins, 2005). Each of these branches of organization theory provide different insights into how organizations and the individuals within them operate and mutually influence each other. The primary focus of this chapter is on the organizational behavior branch which emphasizes an understanding of how individuals and groups within organizations have an influence on each other and on how organizations function.

In addition to looking at organizational culture, this chapter addresses a closely-related concept: group dynamics. Macgowan (2009) defines group dynamics as “the internal and external forces that affect processes and outcomes in groups” (¶5) and it consists of four groups: “(1) communication and interaction, (2) interpersonal attraction and cohesion, (3) social integration (power, influence, norms, roles, status), and (4) group development” (Macgowan, 2009, ¶5). These aspects of group dynamics mutually influence organizational culture. Understanding these relationships helps inform approaches information organizations can take in adjusting their practices to work most effectively within these cultures.

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