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last updated 9/25/2013
Bases of Organizational Culture adapted from
I.M. Levin (1999) “The Five Windows into Organizational Culture,” OD Journal, 18:1, 83-94.
Organizational Culture is both revealed and created by the elements described below. These elements tell members, esp. new members, what’s real and what’s not; they provide a social map of the organization.
1. Leadership can influence organizational culture, especially in the beginning.
a. What is remembered about the founders forms a basis for culture?
i. What they attended to
ii. How they responded to critical incidents/crises
iii. How they allocated resources
iv. How they “role-modeled”
v. What they valued and rewarded, esp. in personnel
b. What do current leaders value and reward?
c. What are considered the organization’s best achievements?
d. How has leadership responded to recent key events?
e. Who do they see as role-models? Themselves?
2. Norms and procedures form the base for organizational culture and help reinforce it. [ But they must be interpreted to be understood. ]
a. What are unwritten rules of conduct?
b. How does one succeed in the organization?
c. What are considered taboos?
d. What do formal rules, strategies and goals convey about the organization’s view of the world?
e. Who communicates with whom, about what, and in what manner?
f. What values are implied by norms and practices
3. Stories and legends tell members how to interpret organizational life.
a. What kinds of stories about the organization get told? What is the “moral?” What is the “tone?”
i. What is heroic?
ii. What is evil?
iii. What crises were averted? What blunders made?
b. [ Types of stories to listen for – rule-breaking and the result, rising to the top, firings, boss reactions to events, esp. success and mistakes, how to deal with obstacles, values enacted. ]
4. Traditions and rituals are recurring symbolically significant activities in an organization which convey meanings to members.
a. What kinds of traditional events or rituals occur? What values are implied?
b. Does the substance of the event illustrate beliefs or values
c. [ types of rituals and rites: rites of passage, joining, degradation, enhancement, renewal, integration, termination ]
5. Symbols are linguistic (words) and meaningful artifacts that reveal aspects of the organization’s world-view and value system.
b. Office design
c. Organizational charts, titles, etc.
e. Slogans, jargon
f. Metaphors – expressions commonly heard which imply the organization (or its parts or functions or members) is something else
i. examples: army (war, battle); team; sport; game; politics; family; prison; territory disputes
Discussion Questions for Thursday: