1. What is Organizational Culture?

‘An organizational culture is the collection of traditions, values, policies, beliefs and attitudes that constitute a pervasive context for everything we do and think in an organization.’ (McLean)

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. Culture is one of those terms that’s difficult to express distinctly, but everyone knows it when they sense it. 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 someone’s personality. Corporate culture can be looked at as a system. The process is based on our assumptions, values and norms: our values on money, time, facilities, space and people. Outputs or effects of our culture are: organizational behaviors, technologies, strategies, image, products, services, appearance, etc.

Organizational cultures are (being) influenced by several factors: history, primary function and technology, goals and objectives, size, location, management and staffing and the environment. This leads to different types of culture which can be summarized into different categories. Different theories are written about types of culture. Most of the time they consist out of four categories, like the theory of Jeffrey Sonnenfield. Jeffrey Sonnenfield[1] describes four types of culture:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, advertising, etc.
  3. Club Culture: the most important requirement for employees in this culture is to fit into the group. Usually employees start at the bottom and stay with the organization. The organization promotes from within and highly values seniority. Examples are the military, some law firms, etc.
  4. Fortress Culture: employees don’t know if they’ll be laid off or not. These organizations often undergo massive reorganization. There are many opportunities for those with timely, specialized skills. Examples are savings and loans, large car companies, etc.

So to conclude: organizational culture is the collection of traditions, values, policies, beliefs and attitudes. Different factors influence the (establishment of) an organizational culture, which can be categorized into (four) different types of culture.


[1] http://www.managementhelp.org/org_thry/culture/culture.htm

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~ by nhtv8 on October 1, 2008.

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