Saturday, August 1, 2020

An Organization's Observable Artifacts Can Tell You About its Espoused and Enacted Values

All organizations have values and beliefs that tie them together into a single bounded rationality. Some companies may be more focused on industrial values while others have more interest in philanthropy. Values that are accepted by the organization as central to their mission often create artifacts. These artifacts can give deeper insight for executives into what an organization is and how it functions internally.

 Just like in the ancient world artifacts can tell you an awful lot about an organization and what values it holds dear. Becoming aware of an organization’s observable artifacts can also tell you about an organizations culture or how artifacts become part of the way in which people communicate.

Let’s think of two examples. The dove symbolizing peace and the anvil symbolizing work strength. The dove’s history was premodern and associated with fertility. The anvil symbolizes strength, earth, virtue and martyrdom.  They both have different values and when they are used they become artifacts of an organization with high symbolic meaning to the members.

As human beings we create all types of symbols that help us understand certain values and beliefs to keep us aligned to groups. Symbols are collective representation of our values in society. It hardly makes a difference if we are discussing a company, society or social group.

Knowing which values organizations pronounce as important through their espoused values helps to determine their official belief systems. Further analysis of their enacted values can shed light on unofficial culture of the organization. When the espoused values and enacted values are in alignment you have a highly motivated organization.

If you want to understand an organization from the inside and outside. We can look at its official communication and at its unofficial communication to gain greater insight. If people volunteer, then this is something that is important to the organization. If they use something like an anvil to represent aspects of their workplace then it is more focused on strength and building things (i.e. products).

Every organization has multiple artifacts that come to represent the beliefs of the society in which we work and life. The official ones tell us about explicit values while the unofficial ones tell you more about how the organization functions from the inside. Knowing the difference can help you understand organizational culture and how symbolism in marketing can be created for greater effect.

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