Ed Schein presents a simple yet illuminating perspective on organizational culture. According to Schein (2004) understanding one's culture requires understanding on 3 different levels :
- Artifacts---The most superficial level, which encompasses the visible structures and processes;
- Espoused Beliefs & Values-- An organization's strategies, goals and philosophies, and;
- Underlying Assumptions-- the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts & feelings.
One issue that frequently arises is the tendency to see culture only from the perspective of the top leadership within an organization. Senior leaders indeed have a significant impact on a company's strategic direction, climate and performance; however, culture encompasses all aspects of an organization including the views and perspectives of diverse individuals and subgroups, and it is, in fact, usually quite complex, dynamic and difficult to fully comprehend.
Cultural change may indeed be needed within your company for accomplishing your goals and ensuring top level performance and sustainability. However, the first step toward change is always gaining a clear understanding of the issues at hand, and that may just be trickier than you think.
Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.