Book Review: Organisational Culture and Leadership
Edgar Schein’s book “Organisational Culture and Leadership” is a seminal work in organisational behaviour, first published in 1985. It has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide and has been translated into numerous languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.
The book explores organisational culture as the shared values, beliefs, assumptions, and behaviours that define an organisation’s identity. Schein argues that culture is critical in shaping an organisation’s success or failure and that leaders must understand and manage culture to create a healthy and productive work environment.
In Schein’s model of organisational culture, there are three levels of culture:
- Visible artifacts: These are the tangible elements of culture that can be observed and experienced, such as the physical layout of the workplace, the dress code, and the company’s products or services.
- Espoused values: These are the values an organisation claims to uphold, such as teamwork, innovation, and customer service. They are often expressed through company mission statements and other official documents.
- Underlying assumptions: These are the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs and values that drive behaviour in an organisation. They are often unspoken and difficult to uncover, but they have a powerful influence on organisational culture.
Schein argues that understanding and managing all three levels of culture is essential for leaders who want to create a healthy and productive work environment. Leaders must be able to identify and articulate the underlying assumptions and values that drive their organisation’s culture and must be willing to challenge and change those assumptions if necessary. By doing so, they can create a culture that supports their organisation’s goals and enables it to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
2. Organisational Change, Cultural Transformation and Leadership in Schein’s Model
Edgar Schein’s book “Organisational Culture and Leadership” is a seminal work in organizational culture and change management. Schein presents a comprehensive model of cultural transformation that emphasizes the importance of leadership and the role of culture in shaping organizational behaviour. He argues that cultural change is a complex process requiring a deep understanding of an organization’s assumptions, values, and beliefs.
According to Schein, cultural transformation is difficult because culture is deeply embedded in an organization and is often taken for granted. Identifying the underlying assumptions and values that shape an organization’s culture can be challenging, and even more difficult to challenge them. Cultural transformation requires a long-term commitment and a willingness to challenge deeply-held assumptions and beliefs.
Schein emphasizes the importance of leadership in driving cultural change, arguing that leaders have a critical role in creating a shared vision of the future and aligning the organization’s values and behaviours with that vision.
To initiate and manage cultural transformation, Schein suggests several key principles. These include building trust, creating buy-in, and addressing resistance. He emphasizes the importance of involving all organisation members in the change process and creating a sense of ownership and accountability. Finally, Schein argues that cultural transformation requires a long-term commitment and a willingness to adapt and adjust as needed.
Schein’s approach to cultural transformation emphasizes the importance of leadership, vision, and a deep understanding of an organization’s culture. While his approach can be challenging to implement, it remains a valuable contribution to our understanding of organizational culture and change. It continues to shape how we think about these topics today.
Cultural Transformations and Resistance to Change: Understanding the Risks to Your Organization’s Growth
3. What Makes “Organisational Culture and Leadership” Unique
What sets “Organisational Culture and Leadership” apart is Schein’s emphasis on the role of leadership in shaping and maintaining culture. He argues that leaders must be able to identify and articulate the underlying assumptions and values that drive their organisation’s culture and must be willing to challenge and change those assumptions if necessary.
Despite being written several decades ago, Schein’s insights into the importance of organisational culture and leadership remain relevant today.
In an era of rapid technological change and globalisation, organisations must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and a healthy organisational culture is essential for achieving this.
Schein’s model of organisational culture, which distinguishes between visible artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions, remains a valuable framework for understanding and analysing culture. However, some critics argue that his model oversimplifies organisational culture’s complexity and overlooks power dynamics’ role in shaping culture.
Overall, “Organisational Culture and Leadership” is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how organisational culture impacts the success or failure of an organisation.
The Role of Emotional Intelligence In Modern Organizations– An Ingredient or Byproduct of Great Leadership?
4. About the Author
Edgar Schein is a renowned organisational psychologist and former MIT Sloan School of Management professor. He is widely regarded as a leading expert in organisational culture, and his work has influenced countless scholars and practitioners in the field.
In addition to “Organisational Culture and Leadership,” Schein has written numerous other influential books, including “Process Consultation Revisited,” “Career Anchors,” and “Helping.” He has also received multiple awards for his contributions to organisational behaviour, including the Distinguished Scholar-Practitioner Award from the Academy of Management and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association.
5. List of Other Publications by Edgar Schein
- Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development (1969)
- Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values (1978)
- Organisational Psychology (1980)
- Organisational Culture and Leadership (1985)
- The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (1999)
- Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help (2009)
- Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013)
- The Corporate Culture Handbook: How to Plan, Implement, and Measure a Successful Culture Change (2017)