What is Organizational Culture?

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss organizational culture

Before we can explore the factors that influence organizational culture, we must first understand and define organizational culture. Take a moment to consider your thoughts on organizational culture. Is organizational behavior and organizational culture the same thing? Do they have things in common or are there correlations between the two? Once you have written down a couple notes on the topic, review the video below.

Is organizational culture what you thought it was? Let’s explore further the different components of organizational culture.

Organizational culture sets the tone for an organization. It depicts acceptable behaviors and defines the appropriate way to act. Culture is formed by an organization’s values and beliefs which are infused throughout the organization from upper management through entry-level employees. Culture sets the stage for everything an organization does and helps to outline their operational procedures. Since there is such a wide variety of industries and organizations, there is no exact right or wrong type of culture to have. Organizational cultures will differ from business to business just as the organizational culture within family units can be dramatically different from one family to the next.

So if there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all culture for an organization, how does organizational culture impact a company’s success? In order to dissect this, we first need to discuss the varying degrees of company culture. While every organization has a culture all their own, some cultures are stronger or weaker than others. A company with a stronger culture, centered around their values and mission, tend to be more successful than companies with a lackluster approach to their values and goals. It is not enough to simply establish a mission, values and goals; instead, these components must be integrated into every daily process and ingrained within every member of the organization.

Practice Question

Imagine a sports team where each player is focused on their own preferred way of doing things. If everyone on the team is operating differently, will they be successful in a game? Most likely not. If each player is focused on their own objective as opposed to the mission of the team, it is evidence of a weak culture. To help strengthen the culture, the coach needs to bring the team together and realign everyone to the team’s mission. While there will still be players responsible for different roles, by communicating a game plan and guiding the team along the way, the coach has the opportunity to strengthen the culture and overall success of the team. But it doesn’t end there. Culture is not something that can be changed quickly. It requires constant follow-up and follow-through in order to both change and maintain culture. Organizational culture needs to be nurtured and valued throughout an organization in order to establish a strong and healthy culture.

Before we explore external factors that influence organizational culture, it is important to mention that a strong culture can be a bad thing for an organization if it is built on a corrupt foundation. Just as positive values and goals should be infused in an organization, bad habits and condoned bad behavior can permeate into the culture of an organization. If not handled in a quick and timely manner, unethical or corrupt practices may become part of an organization’s culture.

Organizational culture incorporates how a company operates on every level. In order to truly understand an organization’s culture, you must be able to dissect each component. The first step to a deeper understanding of organizational culture is to define and understand external and internal factors that influence organizational behavior. Let’s get started by exploring external factors and the role they play in establishing culture.


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