Organizational Culture (pp. 359-380)

Schein’s Framework

Author: Edgar Schein


Edgar Schein

According to Edgar Schein (1992), organizational culture exists at three levels: artifacts, values, and basic assumptions.  Artifacts are physical components that represent the overall character and image of the institution: symbols, behavior, language, the physical environment, social environment, and technological output (Bess and Dee, 2012).  Values, unlike artifacts, are not tangible.  Values represent the feelings expressed within the organization such as loyalty, trustworthiness, and customer service.  According to Schein (1983), five basic underlying assumptions exist in organizational culture:

  • The organization’s relation to its environment

  • The nature of reality and truth

  • The nature of human nature

  • The nature of human activity

  • The nature of human relationships


Bess, J.L. & Dee, J.R. (2012). Understanding college and university organization: Theories for effective policy and practice (2 vol). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Schein, E. (1983). The role of the founder in creating organizational culture. Organizational Dynamics, 12, 13-29.

Schein, E. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schein, E. (1996). Three cultures of management: the key to organizational learning. Sloan Management Review, 38, 9-20.

Positivist Research

Authors: Daneil Denison, Terry Deal and Allan Kennedy, John Kotter and James Heskett

The positivist perspective on organizational culture asserts that culture is an independent variable that can affect several dependent variables such as institutional effectiveness, employee satisfaction, student retention, employee turnover, and efficiency (Bess and Dee, 2012).  The stronger the organizational culture, the more effective the institution (Deal and Kennedy, 1982).  Organizational effectiveness depends on the relationship between culture and the environmental conditions (Dension, 1990; Kotter and Heskett, 1992).


Bess, J.L. & Dee, J.R. (2012). Understanding college and university organization: Theories for effective policy and practice (2 vol). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Deal, T. & Kennedy, A. (1982). Corporate cultures: the rites and rituals of corporate life. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Denison, D. (1990). Corporate culture and organizational effectiveness. New York: John Wiley.

Kotter, J. & Heskett, J. (1992). Corporate culture and performance. New York: Free Press.

Cultural Typologies

Authors: William Bergquist, Robert Birnbaum, J. Smart and R. Hamm

Higher education researchers offer several models for culture in colleges and universities.  Collegial culture refers to shared governance and decision making at a particular institution (Berquist, 1992; Birnbaum, 1988; Smart and Hamm, 1993).  Bureaucratic culture, also known as managerial or hierarchy culture refers to the structure of roles, rules, uniformity, and hiearchy (Berquist, 1992; Birnbaum, 1988; Smart and Hamm, 1993).  Political or negotiating culture is characterized through its reliance on compromise, negotiation, and bargaining among organizational members.  Anarchical culture is identified by controlled chaos; the institution is often in conflict (Birnbaum, 1988; Cohen and March, 1974).  Developmental culture reflects organizations that encourage human growth and development, investing in professional development and lifelong learning (Berquist, 1992).  Market culture is one where organizations compete with like institutions in order to gain a competitive advantage (Smart and Hamm, 1993). 

Typology of Organizational Culture

Internal Focus

External Focus



  • Cooperation

  • Participation

  • Cohesion

  • Loyalty


  • Creativity

  • Risk taking

  • Change

  • Growth



  • Efficiency

  • Predictability

  • Harmony


  • Competition

  • Achievement

  • Winning

Table adapted from Smart and Hamm, 1993.


Bergquist, W. (1992). The four cultures of the academy: Insights and strategies for improving leadership in collegiate organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bess, J.L. & Dee, J.R. (2012). Understanding college and university organization: Theories for effective policy and practice (2 vol). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Birnbaum, R. (1998). How colleges work: the cybernetics of academic organization and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cohen, M. & March, J. (1974). Leadership and ambiguity: the American college president. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Smart, J. & Hamm, R. (1993). Organizational culture and effectiveness in two-year colleges. Research in Higher Education, 34(1), 95-106.

Smart,, J., Kuh, G.D., & Tierney, W.G. (1997). The roles of institutional cultures and decision approaches in promoting organizational effectiveness in two-year colleges. Journal of Higher Education, 68, 256-281

Click here for more information on organizational culture.

Volume 1-Chapter 11 (pp 381-399)

·         Tierney’s Framework for Studying Organizational Culture

This reflects how organizational members define and perceive the organization’s environment, mission, and leadership. It also considers how organizational information is disseminated, how the organization makes decisions, and how people learn their roles within the organization.


Tierney, W. G. (1988). Organizational culture in higher education: Defining the essentials. The

Journal of Higher Education, 2-21.

·         Subcultures in Relation to Dominant Culture

o   Enhancing subculture: A subculture that supports the values of the dominant culture

o   Counterculture: A subculture whose values contrast with those of the dominant culture

o   Orthogonal subculture: A subculture that has its own culture and supports the dominant one.

o   Resource

§  Del Favero, M., & Bray, N. J. (2010). Herding cats and big dogs: Tensions in the faculty-administrator relationship. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 477-541.

·         Critical Theory and Organizational Culture

Critical Theorists feel that those in authority positions can shape the culture of the organization, which is how positivist researchers feel. Still the critical theorists fear that the values and privileges of top management may become the sole voice of the organization and ignore any other alternate voices.  Therefore, ideology (the values, beliefs, and assumptions of the dominant class of people) is important to the critical theorists.


Brookfield, S. (2001). Repositioning ideology critique in a critical theory of adult learning. Adult

Education Quarterly, 52(1), 7-22.

·         Postmodern Perspectives on Organizational Culture

Postmodernists feel that organizational culture is inconsistent and ambiguous. Still some postmodernists feel that with the advances in technology and new attitudes about work that organizational members will be freed from their oppressive culture.


Kuo, H. M. (2009). Understanding relationships between academic staff and administrators: An

organisational culture perspective. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 31(1), 43-54.

·         Analyzing Organizational Culture via the Three Perspectives

Joanne Martin looked at organizational culture from the view of each perspective:

o   Positivist: Focused on integration which stresses shared values and suggests that organizational leaders want to establish a shared consensus among the entire organization.

o   Social Constructionist: Focused on differentiation which stresses cultural differences within an organization. Differentiation analyzes the relationships and qualities of subcultures.

o   Postmodernist: Focused on fragmentation which stresses ambiguity and the feeling that the organizational culture is never stable.


Martin, J. (2003). Meta-theoretical controversies in studying organizational culture. TSOUKAS, H.; KNUDSEN, C. The Oxford handbook of organizational theory: metatheoretical perspectives, 392-419.

·         Four Dimensions of Organizational Context

Renato Tagiuri established four perceptual dimensions of organizational context:

o   Ecology: This is the physical environment in which work occurs. The size, age, and conditions of the facilities in which employees work affect ecology.

o   Social milieu: This is the human dimension of an organization.  Organizational morale, how satisfied employees are with their jobs, is a vital measure of social milieu.

o   Social structure: This is the element of organizational design. How employees view the decision making process is a vital measure of social structure.

o   Culture: This is the majority way of thinking within the organization. This is impacted by values, assumptions, and artifacts.


Ghoshal, S., & Bartlett, C. A. (1994). Linking organizational context and managerial action: The dimensions of quality of management. Strategic Management Journal, 15(S2), 91-112.

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