Summary of Organizational Culture and Leadership

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This classic work by Edgar H. Schein is one of the most important books ever written about organizational culture. Schein, who coined the phrase "organizational culture," offers a comprehensive analysis of the subject in a style refreshingly unburdened by sociological jargon. He has organized the book logically into three units: he defines culture; explains cultural assumptions; and discusses the role of leaders in forming, transmitting and changing organizational cultures. He offers a good overview of the most important and relevant research in the field, but keeps his discussion focused and practical, with numerous references to real-world cases. getAbstract recommends this as an indispensable work for students of sociology and organizations. Managers looking for the essential information about organizational culture between the covers of one book need seek no further.

About the Author

Edgar H. Schein is a professor emeritus and a senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Defining Culture

Founders and leaders of organizations establish groups to achieve goals. The groups' successes validate the leaders' assumptions and values, which then shape the way the culture defines leadership for following generations.

Although culture is abstract, the forces it puts in motion are powerful and real. Scholars have concocted numerous definitions of culture, but all share the idea that culture refers to the values that members of a group hold in common. Yet, culture is not merely sharing.

These four additional elements must be present to create an organizational culture:

  1. "Structural stability" – Culture is the foundation of group identity. It holds the group together and defines the group even as members come and go. This is why culture change is so difficult.
  2. "Depth" – Culture is so deep that group members may be unconscious of it. It is simply the way you do things and needs no explanation.
  3. "Breadth" – Culture affects everything about an organization, touching every function and activity.

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