Organizational Communication

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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.

a.      Attire

b.      Office design

c.      Organizational charts, titles, etc.

d.      Logos

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:

  1. For each of the five bases of culture, come prepared to describe one example of that base in operation at Monmouth College and one example from an organization other than Monmouth College (could be a student group).

  2. How would you describe the culture of Monmouth College?  What are its key features?

  3. How would you describe the management approach of Chet and MC Consulting?  Mechanistic features?  HR features?  Cultural elements and bases?