What is Organizational Culture?

Essay by raddieUniversity, Bachelor's September 2005

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Organizational culture refers to the underlying beliefs, values, and assumptions held by members of an organization, and the practices and behaviors that exemplify and reinforce

them. Some aspects of organizational culture, such as individual behavior and group norms, are very visible. "Working hard," "dressing conservatively," or "acting friendly to customers" are aspects of cultures that are easy to observe. Other aspects of culture are harder to observe, since they represent the invisible assumptions, values, and core beliefs.

Examples of this less visible level of culture might be a belief in the importance of "doing things right the first time," "being honest and ethical in all transactions," or "going beyond expectations to satisfy the customer."

The messages that come from an organization's culture are closely linked to the organization's strategy and management practices, and have a great impact on the people who work there. For this reason, it is very important to understand those aspects of your organization's culture that may have an influence on its performance.

The Denison Organizational Culture Survey is based on 15 years of research on over 1,000 organizations and 40,000 individuals. It uses 60 items to focus on four cultural traits that can have significant impact on organizational performance in areas such as profitability, quality, sales growth, innovation, and employee satisfaction. The survey measures each of these four cultural traits in three indexes. These traits and indexes are defined below.


Building human capability, ownership, and responsibility.


Individuals have the authority, initiative, and ability to manage their own work. This creates a sense of ownership and responsibility toward the organization.

Team Orientation.

Value is placed on working cooperatively toward common goals to which all employees feel mutually accountable. The organization relies on team effort to get work done.

Capability Development. The organization continually invests...