Essentials of Defining Organizational Culture

An organization's culture is reflected in what and how things are done and who is involved in in getting things done. A "central goal of understanding organizational culture is to minimize the occurrence and consequences of cultural conflict and help foster development of shared goals" (p. 26). Understanding the culture of the organization can aid the decision maker with choosing between several alternatives to solve a problem.

Organizational culture advocates for leaders to

"-consider real or potential conflicts, not in isolation, but on the broad canvas or organizational life;

-recognize structural or operational contradictions that suggest tensions in the organization;

-implement and evaluate everyday decisions with a keen awareness of their role in and influence on organizational culture;

-understand the symbolic dimensions of ostensibly instrumental decisions and actions; and

-consider why different groups in the organization have varying perceptions about institutional performance." (p. 27)

A study of organizational culture examines the individual and organizational use of time, space and communication (p. 40).  This chapter provides the framework to perform an examination of an organization’s culture. Tierney (2008) provides eight factors to consider when evaluating an organization’s culture. By examining these factors organization leaders can change the factors that are at odds with the culture they are trying to establish.


Organization’s definition of environment; what is the attitude towards the environment?


How is mission defined, articulated, used for decision making and is there organizational agreement?


How are new members socialized and what do they need to survive?


What is it, who has it, and how is it shared?


How are decisions made, who makes them and what happens if a bad decision is made?


Who are leaders, what is expected of leaders, who are informal leaders?

For more information regarding an administrator's view of organizational culture and how their perceptions impact the organization see

General information about organizational culture can be found at

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