What is Organizational Culture?
Basically, organizational culture is the personality of the organization. Culture is
comprised of the assumptions, values, norms and tangible signs (artifacts) of
organization members and their behaviors. Members of an organization soon come
to sense the particular culture of an organization. Culture is one of those terms
that's difficult to express distinctly, but everyone knows it when they sense it. For
example, the culture of a large, for-profit corporation is quite different than that of a
hospital which is quite different that that of a university. You can tell the culture of
an organization by looking at the arrangement of furniture, what they brag about,
what members wear, etc. -- similar to what you can use to get a feeling about
Corporate culture can be looked at as a system. Inputs include feedback from, e.g.,
society, professions, laws, stories, heroes, values on competition or service, etc. The
process is based on our assumptions, values and norms, e.g., our values on money,
time, facilities, space and people. Outputs or effects of our culture are, e.g.,
organizational behaviors, technologies, strategies, image, products, services,
The concept of culture is particularly important when attempting to manage
organization-wide change. Practitioners are coming to realize that, despite the best-
laid plans, organizational change must include not only changing structures and
processes, but also changing the corporate culture as well.
There's been a great deal of literature generated over the past decade about the
concept of organizational culture -- particularly in regard to learning how to change
organizational culture. Organizational change efforts are rumored to fail the vast
majority of the time. Usually, this failure is credited to lack of understanding about
the strong role of culture and the role it plays in organizations. That's one of the
reasons that many strategic planners now place as much emphasis on identifying
strategic values as they do mission and vision.
Some Types of Culture -
There are different types of culture just like there are
different types of personality. Researcher Jeffrey Sonnenfeld identified the following
four types of cultures.
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 development and exercise their skills.
Examples are universities, hospitals, large corporations, etc.
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,