Organisational culture is an obvious concept, but it wasn’t really something I had considered in depth until I read Chapter 12 of the B628 course book. My only knowledge of organisational culture was the observation that all organisations do things a little bit differently to each other.
It’s much more complex and far-reaching than that. Organisational culture can shape the norms and practices of the people working within an organisation almost as much as national or ethnic culture. Similarly, there is shared learning from shared history laid down by the ‘founding fathers’ of the organisation.
There are three levels of organisational culture, categorised by Schien (1992):
Behaviours and artifacts: the most visible signs of culture, such as logos, architecture, interior design, company cars, etc.
Espoused beliefs and values: the less visible signs of organisational culture, including ideas, principles, and standards.
Underlying assumptions: invisible truths that are taken for granted, such as the assumption that all employees will be motivated by money, all employees can improve their performance, etc.
Schien also goes on to argue that there are seven dimensions of organisational culture:
- The organisation in relation to its environment
- The nature of human activity
- The nature of reality and truth
- The nature of time
- The nature of human nature
- The nature of human relationships
- Homogeneity versus diversity
According to Schien, organisational culture can explain behaviour that is sometimes hard to understand, and can appear irrational. Furthermore, once a culture has grown, it plays a part in determining the succession of leadership, and is therefore self-perpetuating!