Theories of the Nature of Organizational Culture

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Today’s patterns of social hierarchy and structure, in general, is impossible to imagine without the notion of organizational culture. When speaking of any organization as a unit that needs to find common ground in order to cooperate, the idea of culture implementation may be seen as one of the most beneficial solutions. However, considering the widespread adaptation of organization culture throughout enterprises, it has now become rather complicated to define which interpretation of this notion is the most appropriate in the context. In order to address the following issue, this paper will critically review some of the most notorious theories concerning the nature of the organizational culture. In terms of the review, the following aspects will be addressed:

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  • The definition of culture as a complex social phenomenon.
  • The approaches to the definition of organizational culture.
  • The factors that affect the process of formation, shaping, and change within the organizational structure context.
  • Influence of organizational structure on the overall performance.
  • The interrelation between organizational structure and innovation.

Definition of Culture

The notion of culture has now become a rather rhetorical concept in modern society due to the fact that its interpretation is not only highly individual but can rarely be objected. This being said, it is safe to assume that one of the major challenges when tackling the issue of organizational culture is the assessment of the interpretation of culture itself. Over the years, culture has been defined through a variety of prisms, with researchers paying attention to such factors as environment, cognition, and socio-political considerations.

To begin with, it is necessary to outline some of the most widespread ideas concerning the decoding of the term ‘culture.’ For example, Hofstede views culture as a collective endeavor, which is formed for the sake of distinguishing one group from another (Salzman, 2019). Thus, it means that culture is deeply integrated into the process of socialization, making individuals feel rather connected with their socio-cultural surroundings. The major argument in terms of this definition is the fact that culture is something humans learn through social interactions instead of receiving cultural identification through genetics. In order to prove this point, Geert Hofstede developed a framework of cultural dimensions, which will be analyzed later in the paper.

Another approach to culture identification is somehow correlated with the latter interpretation but has one significant divergent feature. Thus, according to Rohner and Shweder, culture should be perceived as a process of sharing the social experience obtained from previous generations (Salzman, 2019). In this scenario, it becomes evident that the cultural perception may go far beyond synonymic correlation with cognitive aspects, as in this context, it also aims at satisfying such physiological human needs as survival skills.

A similar approach was proposed by Herskovits, who believed that culture as a manifestation of social heritage is a combination of environmental factors that eventually worked for previous generations (Salzman, 2019). Considering all the aforementioned environment-oriented approaches, it may be concluded that the major problem with the definition of culture is primarily associated with the problem of its nature. This means that researchers are not able to reach a consensus on whether culture mostly relies on internal or external factors of human development.

In some cases, culture is identified not as a separate phenomenon but as a constituent of a more significant process of one’s development in terms of both cognition and behavioral patterns. For example, Triandis outlined that culture is integrated into the developmental chain that looks as follows: ecology – culture – socialization – personality – behavior (Salzman, 2019). Hence, culture may also be interpreted as a factor that plays a crucial role in terms of human adaptation of behavioral patterns.

Finally, when speaking of the definition of culture implementation within any working environment, it is necessary to taken into account Morgan’s perception of culture, claiming it to be the primary means of constructing reality through the prism of shared values (Langley and Tsoukas, 2016). Bearing this semantic diversity of the notion of culture in mind, one can now address the peculiarities of identifying organizational culture.

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Definition of Organizational Culture

Any organization may be compared to a functioning body where every single part is responsible for a specific task, but when at least one of them loses control, the outcome may be unpredictable. To make sure that the employees have reached a consensus when it comes to the job description and the overall ambiance within the team, leaders have to integrate a working model of cooperation and values. Such a model may be referred to with the help of an umbrella term known as organizational culture. However, as far as the letter definition is concerned, the variety of interpretations of the term make it complicated for the leaders to estimate a structured plan of this culture implementation.

Thus, while it is rather hard to outline an exhaustive definition of the organizational structure, it is important to identify the primary goals of this endeavor for both the leaders and the employees. To begin with, the priorities for the team management should be outlined explicitly, as the definition of organizational structure is usually formed on the basis of the enterprise’s major expectations from the cooperation.

For example, when speaking about knowledge and cognitive skills as a superior factor, a good relationship between the managers and the knowledge users should be established with the help of culture promotion (Mansouri et al., 2018). Moreover, the values of the company have to be focused on the process of knowledge processing and sharing, making the culture itself more learning-oriented. Another significant factor in terms of such perception is the promotion of healthy competition as a part of local culture, encouraging employees to boost their skills and exchange knowledge in a meaningful way.

Unlike the aforementioned goal-oriented perception of organizational culture, some companies tend to employ a more anthropocentric approach to the employment patterns. This means that the leaders place emphasis on making sure that the employees are feeling comfortable about the place they find themselves in within the team. Moreover, the opposite approach is focused on keeping the employees motivated and providing them with a sense of common purpose. This leadership technique is also known as employee engagement, which encompasses the patterns of culture implementation relevant for a particular working environment (Groysberg et al., 2018).

Having taken into consideration the perceptions of culture, it may be concluded that currently, there are no scholars who are ready to present an exhaustive definition of the concept of the organizational culture. Thus, it is frequently the leader who makes the majority of choices concerning the values and goals pursued by the team within the working environment. In order to obtain a better understanding of the issue, it would be beneficial to dwell on the theories on the nature and typology of organizational culture.

Theories and Typology

One of the first theoretical explanations of the organizational culture and culture typology was presented by Geert Hofstede in his theory of cultural dimensions. In terms of the following theory, Hofstede made an attempt to build a framework that explains how various social factors affect the shared values of the said community members (Sent and Kroese, 2020). To ensure the qualitative result of the research, Hofstede managed to define six major dimensions characterized by the following factors: individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance index, masculinity-femininity, long-term orientation – short-term orientation, and indulgence – restraint (Sent and Kroese, 2020).

Initially, the model was introduced to identify the cultural patterns of development within one state. However, the approach was later applied to the sphere of management because the environment within the team might be theoretically compared to the social hierarchy in the country.

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Although the aforementioned model is respected all over the world. Hofstede’s notoriety primarily owed to him being a pioneer in the field of cross-cultural empirical study. Over the years, his theory was not criticized yet expanded in order to become more applicable to the reality of global entrepreneurship. Thus, the GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) model was introduced by Robert House (Zainuddin et al., 2018), enhancing the empirical framework to nine dimensions. A study placed somewhere in between these theories belongs to S. Shwartz, who presents seven dimensions at the country level (Zainuddin et al., 2018).

The other approaches to the identification of the nature of organizational culture are rather different from the perception outlined earlier. For example, Handy outlines the four major types of organizational culture, placing emphasis on power, role, task, or person (Nightingale, 2018). It means that in order to be successfully implemented, a leader is to make sure which of these aspects are to be stressed within the whole team.

It is of crucial importance to dwell upon the widespread typology of the organizational cultures that tend to reveal much information about the nature of the cultural diversity in the workplace. The following framework is known as the Organization Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) developed by R. E. Quinn and K. S. Cameron (David et al., 2018). According to the instrument, employees of the company have to undergo a relatively small survey related to their perception of collaboration with the teammates and leaders in order to identify one of the four major culture types:

  • The clan culture – a type of organizational culture characterized by much attention paid to collaboration and the feeling of being a part of a family that cares about each other’s well-being along the working process. The cultural component is overwhelmed with various traditions and mentorship techniques aimed at reaching consensus at all costs.
  • The adhocracy culture – this cultural category provides a leader with the role of entrepreneur and innovative power that encourages workers to take risks and welcomes experiments and creativity within the team. The major emphasis here is placed on the aspect of individual freedom and creativity instead of rooting for a high level of coworkers’ interdependence.
  • The market culture – the following type’s primary goal is to outrun one’s competition with the help of promoting the competitive spirit and goal orientation among the team. Thus, along with encouraging better performance for the sake of common results, the competition between the teammates is also regarded as a part of culture implementation.
  • The hierarchy culture – the type of organizational culture is considered to be the most formal among the aforementioned options, being frequently regarded as outdated. The reason for such assumption is the fact that in such a setting leader becomes an embodiment of superiority and control. While such an approach may sometimes be beneficial for the working discipline in the workplace, the overall outcomes of this endeavor may result in a lack of trust and collaboration (David et al., 2018).

Considering the aforementioned approaches, it becomes evident that they are different in their attitude to the workflow and social hierarchy to such an extent that the disparities in the scholarly reviews are inevitable. For example, one of the latest researches demonstrates that the clan culture is considered to be the most efficient in terms of establishing productive communication with the employees (Njagi et al., 2020). Indeed, such an approach is regarded as the most ethically appropriate way to collaborate in the working environment. Other researchers are sure that market culture is just as beneficial as the clan one, claiming the other two organizational cultures to be rather irrelevant (Kim and Chang, 2019).

However, when speaking of the adhocracy type of organizational culture, some web-based resources claim such corporations as Facebook follow the framework’s suit (Meetly, 2020). Thus, having taken into consideration the types of organizational culture, it would be safe to assume that one of the best ways to address the issue of organizational culture implementation is to define the way in which all the aforementioned types may be united.

One of the attempts to create a collaborative approach to the organizational culture has been recently introduced in the Harvard Business Review. According to the scholars, when handling the integrated culture, there are eight different aspects to consider in the context of two major paradigms: the “flexibility-stability” paradigm and the “independence-interdependence” paradigm (Groysberg et al., 2018). The components include learning, enjoyment, purpose, caring, order, safety, authority, and results (Groysberg et al., 2018). Thus, each of the aforementioned components is placed according to the company’s attitude towards a certain paradigm. Once the choice is made, the company is to put this component in the center of the potential organizational culture framework.

Another model of the organizational culture implementation considers including various stages into the process of the staff’s perception. According to Schein, organizational culture as a model contains three stategs including artefacts (tangible and visible representation of culture), values (norms and beliefs prevailing in the workspace), and underlying assumptions (unconscious elements driving the organization’s members) (Asatiani et al., 2021). Considering the information above, it may be concluded that over the past years, the theoretical basis for the analysis of the organizational structure has been significantly modified for the sake of maximum efficiency.

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However, such a variety, while presenting a wide range of choices, may easily become extremely misleading. In order to avoid some negative outcomes in the working environment, the leader is free to use empirical models such as GLOBE or Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions to anticipate the possible scenarios. Still, the final choice of the culture type should remain highly individual, even if the appropriate model has to include aspects of various approaches at once.

Leader’s Influence and Organizational Culture

It is hard to undermine the leader’s role as far as the notion of organizational culture is concerned due to the fact that the managers are the ones to secure proper culture implementation into the environment. Thus, the slightest modification in the leadership attitude at the workplace may eventually result in the change of culture perception. For example, when speaking of the clan organizational culture model, it is of crucial importance for the leaders to move further from their perceived role of a manager in order to bring themselves closer to the team (Aydin, 2018). On the other hand, once a purely collaborative manager takes on the role of perceived management, the overall interpretation of the clan culture is distorted.

The same applies to the interdependence between the hierarchy culture and authoritative leadership style. Tom Peters claims that the natural role of the leader is to visualize some of the major targets for the team, which could only be achieved through the creation of a cultural vision (Laxton, n.d.). It means that ignoring the necessity to build a culture among personnel eventually leads to the collective disability to recognize major tangible targets. Hence, it may be concluded that the presence of the organizational culture is one of the major tools that could be employed by a leader in order to create a satisfying and productive working environment.

Organizational Culture, Performance, and Innnovation

When picturing an ideal employee for any company, managers frequently think of people who are able to combine both the cognitive skills of a qualified professional and the ability to manifest empathy and emotiveness within the team. Once these features are combined in a perfect balance, managers are able to feel confident about the future of their teams. According to the vast majority of researchers, one of the most important qualities in employees is the ability to learn continuously (Mansouri et al., 2018). In order to pursue active learning, workers have to obtain both internal and external motivation.

Moreover, according to the recent qualitative study held in Vietnam, the interdependence between the innovation and organization culture is especially visible when applying Martin’s approach to the cultural aspect classification (Pham, 2014). According to the data, organizational culture covers the paradigm of innovation through the processes of idea generation, decision making, and risk embracement (Pham, 2014). In their turn, Deal and Kennedy claimed the notion of performance to be a phenomenon that could be boosted by the promotion of shared values and culture within the enterprise (Odor, 2018). Finally, the aspect of innovation will be considered in terms of choosing a proper organizational culture.

Over the past decades, the process of economic development and innovation has not been paused even once, which means that every aspect that has something to do with work efficiency has to be emphasized by the management. One of them is inevitably organizational culture, as it has a major impact on the team’s emotive perception of professional development and external competition. According to the researchers, the implementation of a specific organizational culture model may have a significant effect on the decision-making process within the team (Tian et al., 2018). Thus, in order to remain relevant in terms of innovation and development, leaders are to ensure that the emotional component of the desire to become a better version of themselves in terms of professionalism is considered.

This means that competence should be implemented into the culture regardless of the model foundation. Bower considered innovation to be the implementation into the workplace full-scale strategic plans and capital investments (Tangenes and Steen, 2017). In such a way, the realization of the outcomes of the planning becomes highly dependent on the presence of the system of shared values in the team. Innovation as a part of continuous development should be encouraged by the personnel’s vision of their future workplace. Hence, the corporate culture, while integrating promotion of strategic planning and improvement, contributes a lot to the process of innovation in the workplace.


Organizational culture, along with the definition of culture itself, is one of the most sophisticated notions in terms of proper interpretation and explanation to the fellow employees. Still, organizational culture remains a significant pillar that helps companies find the sense in what they are doing as a group of professionals with shared values and outlooks. In terms of the following paper, some of the theories concerning the nature of organizational culture were reviewed, including the notions of definition, typology, performance, innovation, and leadership. The future implications of the study may include the incorporation of the following critical review into more profound research.

Reference List

Asatiani, A., et al. (2021) ‘Constructing continuity across the organizational culture boundary in a highly virtual work environment’, Information Systems Journal, 31(1), pp. 62-93.

Aydin, B. (2018) ‘The role of organizational culture on leadership styles’, MANAS Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi, 7(1), pp. 267-280.

David, S.N., Valas, S. and Raghunathan, R. (2018) ‘Assessing organization culture: a review on the OCAI instrument’. In International conference on management and information systems.

Groysberg, B., et al. (2018) ‘The leader’s guide to corporate culture’, Harvard Business Review, 96(1), pp. 44-52.

Kim, T. and Chang, J. (2019) ‘Organizational culture and performance: a macro-level longitudinal study’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 40(1), pp. 65-84.

Laxton, D.M. (n.d.) A critical analysis of ‘Organizational Culture’ “win all battles.” Know thyself and you will-Sun Tzu (Chinese Philosopher). Web.

Mansouri, A.A.A., Singh, S.K. and Khan, M. (2018) ‘Role of organizational culture, leadership and organizational citizenship behaviour on knowledge management’, International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, 9(2), 129. Web.

Meetly. (2020) The four types of organizational culture. Web.

Nightingale, A. (2018) ‘Developing the organizational culture in a healthcare setting’, Nursing Standard, 32(21), pp. 53-63.

Njagi, A.W., Kamau, J.N. and Muraguri, C. (2020) ‘Clan culture as a predictor of strategy implementation: empirical evidence from professional bodies in Kenya’, European Journal of Business and Management Research, 5(4).

Odor, H.O. (2018). ‘Organizational culture and dynamics’, Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 18(1), pp. 23-29.

Pham, P.H.G. (2014). ‘The impact of organizational culture on innovation activities – the case of X corporation in Vietnam’, Journal of Global Management Research, 1990, pp. 29-36.

Salzman, M.B. (2018). A psychology of culture. New York, NY: Springer.

Sent, E.M. and Kroese, A.L. (2020) ‘Commemorating Geert Hofstede, a pioneer in the study of culture and institutions,’ Journal of Institutional Economics, pp.1-13.

Tangenes, T. and Steen, R. (2017) ‘The trinity of resilient organization: aligning performance management with organizational culture and strategy formation’, International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, 7(2), pp.127-150.

Tian, M. et al. (2018) ‘How does culture influence innovation? a systematic literature review’, Management Decision, 56(5), pp. 1088-1107. Web.

Zainuddin, M. et al. (2018) ‘Alternative cross-cultural theories: why still Hofstede?’ In Proceedings of international conference on economics, management and social study (pp. 4-6).

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