Organizational Culture

A number of definitions of organizational culture have been offered; however, if managers and employees are consulted they may simply respond that culture is “how we do things around here”.  There is obviously truth to such a statement but it would be a mistake to ignore the breadth and scope of the issues that are influenced by an organization’s cultural norms and values—how activities within the organization are carried out, how members communicate with one another, who is accepted into the organization and who is ostracized, and what is the organization’s overall morale.  The culture of a particular organization is created and maintained by its members, particularly the founders and senior managers, based on a variety of influencing factors—both external and internal—and they are also the ones who can change and transform the culture when they are convinced that such actions are necessary in light of the then-current environment that the organization is facing.

Organizational culture should not be underestimated and, in fact, in most cases it is a more influential force than any other set of internal laws—rules and procedures—applicable to the members of the organization.  Research has indicated that the culture of an organization has a strong influence on how the organization tackles problems and questions, sets strategy and creates the structures that determine the work activities and relationships of organizational members and also on how members behave when carrying out their organizational activities.  There is also evidence that organizational culture plays a big part in defining the competitive position of the organization in its environment and the way in which the organization is perceived by external stakeholders.  Organizational culture is an important determinant of the level of risk-taking that a firm is willing to tolerate, and organizational culture can itself become a core competency for an organization and can be used to distinguish it from competitors in the minds of customers and prospective members. There is no single culture that is universally appropriate for all organizations and there is clearly substantial diversity with respect to the dominant cultural attributes among successful and effective organizations.

The Sustainable Entrepreneur’s Library of Resources for Organizational Culture consists of one Part.  The Part provides an introduction to the complex topic of organizational culture and includes a broad array of definitions of organizational culture and a discussion of the significant role that culture plays in the day-to-day operations of the organization.  Several commonly recognized elements of organizational culture are defined and described including values and norms and cultural forms (i.e., stories, ceremonies, language, symbols and rituals).  Various determinants of organizational culture are discussed including the personal and professional characteristics of organizational members, organizational ethics, property rights, organizational structure, control systems and power structures.  Two of the chapters in the Part focus on identifying the dimensions of organizational culture and describe various proposed models or typologies of dimensions of organizational cultures.  The Part also includes a discussion of how differences in organizational culture between parties to a merger should be identified and managed in ways that will enhance the chances the combination of human resources following the merger will be successful.  Also covered are socialization processes; subcultures; managing and reinforcing cultural characteristics; and evaluating and transforming organizational culture.  The Part also covers cross-cultural organizational culture research: comparing and contrasting organizational cultures in different countries.  More and more work is being done on studying organizational culture in countries other than the US, which was the focus point of research and commentary for organizational culture, identity and climates throughout the early years of interest in those areas.  This work has been particularly interesting in that it has shed light on the applicability of the dimensions and typologies of organizational culture described elsewhere in the Part to diverse localities around the world.


Organizational Culture: A Guide for Sustainable Entrepreneurs

Project Articles on Organizational Culture



Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture

Schein’s Organizational Culture and Leadership

Chapters or Articles in Books

Carpenter Chapter on Organizational Culture

Culture, Values and Work-Related Values

Durkheim and Organizational Culture

Knowledge-Intensive Firms

Understanding Operating Cultures

Articles in Journals

Configuration Model of Organizational Culture

Corporate Sustainability and Organizational Culture

Cultural Differences in a Cross-Cultural Context

Denison’s Organizational Culture Model



Core Dimensions of Organizational Culture

Corporate Culture and Organizational Effectiveness

Organizational Culture & Performance

Organizational Culture and Values for Corporate Sustainability