Factors Causing Cultural Change: a brief literature review

By John Dudovskiy


Factors Causing Cultural Change

Literature review has identified a set of factors that are able to trigger cultural changes. These factors causing cultural change have been found as leadership change, technological developments, mergers and acquisitions and others. Discussions of each of these factors in greater details are provided below.


1. Leadership Change

Authors such as Beer (2012), Christopher (2012) and Morgan (2012) agree that changes in top level management can result in changes in organisational culture. According to Beer (2012), initially, organisational culture is set by the founder of the organisation, but the initial culture set by founders might be subjected to changes due to the impact of a wide range of factors. At the same time, Beer (2012) acknowledges that this argument relates to private sector organisations at a greater extent compared to public sector organisations.

Nevertheless, Beer (2012) and Christopher (2012) argue that change at organisational leadership causes changes to organisational culture to a certain extent. Christopher (2012) further reasons that the extent to which organisational culture is subjected to change to due to change in leadership depends on a set of factors such as the difference between the new and old strategy to achieve organisational objectives, personal traits and characteristics of a new leader etc.


2. Technological Developments

The extent of technological developments that have especially accelerated during the last two decades have been found as a major factor causing cultural changes by Maude (2011)  and Davel et al. (2013). Maude (2011) mentions the instances of using mobile phones in public to illustrate the impact of this factor. Specifically, according to Maude (2011) while it was perceived to be a rather rude behaviour to engage in lengthy conversations in mobile phones in public places such as public transport only twenty years ago, nowadays such behaviour is generally perceived to be normal.

Walshe and Smith (2011) discuss the issue of technological developments impacting organisational culture within the settings of healthcare organisations in particular. Walshe and Smith (2011) argue that emergence of possibility of making online appointments to see practitioners instead of having to call or physically attend healthcare organisations have caused substantial changes in the practices of healthcare organisations with inevitable implications on organisational culture.


3. Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions as triggers of organisational culture have been mentioned by Moran et al. (2011) and Christopher (2012).  It is important to note that mergers and acquisitions mainly relate to private sector organisations, nevertheless analysis of impact of mergers and acquisitions to organisational culture contributes to the scope of the literature review.

Moran et al. (2011) consider an initial period after a merger or acquisition to be the most challenging for employees at all levels due to the possible clash of cultures in relation to various organisational processes. However, Moran et al. (2011) consider this issue to be temporary and state that a hybrid culture may evolve after certain period of time once merger and acquisition is completed.

According to Christopher (2012), the level of effectiveness of organisational leaders play critical role in shaping the impact of mergers and acquisitions in organisational culture. In other words, Christopher (2012) argues that leaders need to be actively communicating with employees at all levels, as well as, other organisational stakeholders explaining inevitable impact of mergers and acquisitions on organisational culture, and trying to make this impact positive.


4. Changes in External Environment

Primecz et al. (2011), Velo (2012) and Morgan (2012) specify changes in external environment as factor that may cause organisational cultures to change. Primecz et al. (2011) argue that changes to external environment that may trigger changes in organisational culture may relate to changes in political, economic, social, technological, environmental, or legal external factors, abbreviated as PESTEL analysis.



Beer, L.A. (2012) “Essential Concepts of Cross-Cultural Management: Building on What We All Share” Business Expert Press

Christopher, E.M. (2012) “International Management: Explorations Across Cultures” Kogan Page

Davel, E., Dupuis, J.P. & Chanlat, J.O. (2013) “Cross-Cultural Management: Culture and Management Across the World” Taylor & Francis

Maude, B. (2011) “Managing Cross-Cultural Communication: Principles and Practice” Palgrave Macmillan

Moran, R.T., Harris, P.R. & Moran, S.V. (2010) “Managing Cultural Differences: Leadership Skills and Strategies for Working in a Global World” Routledge

Primecz, H., Romani, L. & Sackmann, S. (2011) “Cross-Cultural Management in Practice: Culture and Negotiated Meanings” Edward Elgar Publishing

Velo, V. (2012) “Cross-Cultural Management” Business Expert Press

Walshe K. & Smith, J. (2011) “Healthcare Management” Mc-Graw-Hill International

Category: Change