Book Review Khademian "Working With Culture"

1230 words - 5 pages

Khademian's book, "Working With Culture", is similar to Selznick's Leadership in Administration, in that both focus on the less technical aspects of public administration (structure and hierarchy) and instead look at problems that arise "between the lines" so to speak - that of people within the organization, and more specific to her work; the idea of culture within an organization. While this is not something that has been unknown, in fact it has been brought up in almost all of the works we have read so far, what is specific to the work we previously read, by Selznick, and Khademian's is an understanding of culture as something that does exist, not by mere chance as Cook and Wilson took it, but as something that should be acknowledged, and if reform is to be made within public administrations, culture has to be taken into account and be thoroughly understood. As Khademian makes clear throughout Working With Culture, the culture of an organization can have a major affect on success and job performance.What we have seen in all of the books thus far, is a focus on public administration as something that first and foremost needs to be understood, and secondly, within that understanding, progress can be made. The focus of Khademian's book is understanding culture and combining this effort to bring about a merit-based type of management for administration that allows for performance measurement. As she states: "As the endless efforts to restructure government and individual programs suggest, attention to structure and process alone might not be enough to enhance the quality and effectiveness of public programs" (Khademian, page 15). What is needed then, besides the banal views of structure and job performance, is people-based thought, and recognition of culture. What is being questioned in Khademian's work, and elements of this idea were also found in Selznick, and in Cook, is the notion that the power in an organization is not always as clear as a leadership chart that denotes hierarchy. The real power in an organization can be found in the culture. This is because it holds "more real" to the employees within the administrative culture itself: it dictates their dress, influences promotions and employee relations, has a "real" impact on the way that employees work on tasks, and also influences "group-think" and the way that ideas are accepted or rejected. Although subtle, the culture of an organization, according to Khademian can give a sense of the operations of an organization, to an "average" person, that is much clearer and apparent then studying organization charts and methodologies. Culture is "the informal, the symbolic, the subtle yet nevertheless critical factors that drive the way the job gets done" (Khademian, page 22). And if it can be clearer to an "average" person entering an organization, it also does the same for employees (new and old) as they go about their work.If culture can be understood, the value that the organization gains is...

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