Organisational Culture definition

The collective behaviours, values, actions, beliefs, desires and prospects of a group of human beings working in a defined environment. Ravasi and Schultz (2006) define organisational culture as a set of ‘shared mental assumptions’ that guide behaviours in the workplace.

The term grew out of discussions around organisational climate in the 1960s and 1970s and corporate culture in the 1980s – nowadays people discuss organisational culture in relation to different types of organisation, including NGOs, schools and churches, although there’s a heavy focus on corporations.

Edgar Henry Schein, a former professor at the Sloan School of Management, identified three levels of organisational culture: artifacts and behaviours, espoused values and assumptions. He also said that organisational culture is the most difficult organisational attribute to change.

Critics of the term organisational culture say that organisations do not have a unilateral culture and there exist many important sub-pockets of culture which may form along ideological or geographic boundaries. These critics also suggest that attempting to change culture in a unilateral way can negatively affect motivation, productivity and engagement in the workplace.