A brief literature review on organizational culture

By Helena Mullock
March 5, 2014

organizational cultureAccording to Azhar (2003) organizational culture is the combination of important assumptions that are shared in common by each members of an organization and are often unstated. Organizational culture is basically made up by two major common assumptions: values and beliefs. Values are the assumptions that have been forwarded by the leaders of the organization and considered to be ideals that are desired by all the members of an organization. Beliefs on the other hand are the assumptions about the reality and created by experience.

Robbins (1986) on the other hand, defines organizational culture as a uniform perception of an organization which has common characteristics. Organizational culture, according to the author is something descriptive and effectively it can distinguish one particular organization from another. It can also integrate individuals and groups of organization systems.

Organizational culture is also defined by Rousseau (2000) as a set of commonly experienced stable characteristics of an organization which shows the distinctive features of an organization which differentiates it from others. Similar to the definitions of Azhar (2003) that has been stated above, Rousseau (2000) also define the organizational culture as set of norms and values that are shared by individuals and groups across the organization. Organizational values and beliefs refer to the common ideas about what the shared goals of an organization are, what types of behaviour should the members of an organization follow in order to achieve the common goals of an organization. These organizational values in turn form out the standard norms and guidelines for the organization that makes it distinct from others.

Organizational culture is also defined by Schein (2004) as a pattern of shared assumptions that have been accepted by a group of individuals as they solve their problems. Because they have used these assumptions to solve their problems and it worked effectively they accepted these assumptions as valid and thus they teach these assumptions to the newly joined members of the organization as standard ways of thinking, perceiving and approaching towards the problems. Organizational culture is a phenomenon that is shared by the members of an organization and operates unconsciously.

In order to understand the full complexity of organizational culture, a number of researchers made attempts to recognize and examine the components of the organizational culture. One of the inseparable components of organizational culture is the values that are shared and held by the individuals of an organization. Hofstede (2006) on the other hand explains the organizational culture in the form of onion that contains a number of layers and values that make the core of the organizational culture.

Importance of organizational culture to the success of the organization has been stressed by numerous researchers. For instance, according to Azhar (2003) corporate culture can determine the success of the organization, in other words, good companies are distinguished from bad ones based on their corporate cultures.

The author further states that successfully managed companies usually have distinctive cultures based on which they are responsible for successful implementation of their strategies. Each organization has its unique culture that has powerful influence in the employees of the organization and the management team and therefore, it can be one of the most effective means of improving the overall performance of the organization.

Although it is something intangible, it plays a significant role in the shaping the success of the organization and has great influence on the employees. It is difficult to say that the organizational culture guarantees the success of the company but the companies with strong corporate culture always have more chances to become successful than their competitors (Jarratt and O’Neill (2002).

The importance of the organizational culture is also highlighted by Schein (2004) who stated that the culture can serve as strength as well as weakness to the organization. For example, if it serves as strength then it facilitates communication among the members of the organization, facilitates the process of decision making and control and creates commitment and cooperation within the organization. On the other hand, when there are many subcultures exist in an organization and only few values and behavioural norms are shared across the organization and the traditions are rare. In organizations that are characterized with these traits the employees are more likely salary earners rather than being members of the organization and therefore, they have less commitment and responsibility in their performance.

The elements of the organization that have weak corporate culture include: bureaucracy instead of entrepreneurship and creativity, unwillingness to adapt best practices from outside of the organization, politicized organizational environment and hostility to change (Kotter and Heskett, 1992). In addition to that, Rousseau (2000) also states that it is important for the organization to recognize the fact that the organizations do not improve in a vacuum environment and they need human interaction to support the improvement and development which can be achieved only by following the effectively accepted and equally shared values by each individual members of an organization.



Azhar, K (2003), Business Policy and Strategic Management, NewDelhi, Tata McGraw-Hill.

Hofstede, G. (1980) “Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work related Values”, Beverly Hill, Sage

Hofstede, G. (2000), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work Related Values. Beverly Hills, CA, Sage Publications.

Jarratt, D., O’Neill, G (2002) The Effect of Organizational Culture on Business-to-Business Relationship Management Practice and Performance, Australasian Marketing Journal 10 (3)

Kotter, J.P and Heskett, J.L (1992), Corporate Culture and performance. New York: Free Press.

Robbins, S.P (1986), Organizational Behaviour: Cases, Concepts and Controversies. Prentice Hall, New Delhi.

Rousseau, D. M. (2000), Assessing organizational culture: The case for multiple methods. In B. Schneider (Ed.), Organizational climate and culture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schein, E.H. (2004) 2nd ed, Organizational Culture and Leadership . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Category: Culture