What are the three elements that underpin organizational culture?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The three elements underpinning organizational culture are (1) a clear vision and purpose; (2) free participation, respect, and safety for employees; and (3) clear, open vertical and horizontal communication. Various groups and texts express these three concepts in different words, but there is a consensus on these three (corporate vision, employee's human value, and communication) as the essentials. As Michael D. Watkins, professor at Switzerland's IMD, said in Harvard Business Review in 2013:

While there is universal agreement that (1) [organizational culture] exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is.

The Kautilya Society for Intercultural Dialogue describes the same three concepts in different words:

  • [Vision] "The organization stands for something. . .  The values explicit in their philosophy help create the identity of the organization."
  • [Human Value] "Management focuses a great deal of attention to. . . [helping] communicate these values to people who work in the organization."
  • [Communication] "Values are understood and shared by all. . . [and the] organization’s values create a reality for those who work in the organization. . . [allowing] employees to cooperate and collaborate."

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) adds WHO's concept of health to the human value portion of organizational culture, stressing the "psychosocial work environment" and the interaction with external "communities."

Some relevant organization examples can be found in Glassdoor.com's selection of the top corporations to work for in terms of organizational culture, as reported by Julie Bort in Business Insider.

  • NetApp has a "supportive management," which means human value, psychosocial environment, and communication are effective and operating so that "good ideas and good work are appreciated."
  • Progressive is in a "constant state of change," which means the corporate vision is dynamic enough to allow for innovative adjustments to changing conditions and that the vision is communicated through equally dynamic communication channels.
  • Proctor and Gamble has a human-value intensive culture where training, cooperation, collaboration, and good, old-fashioned "help" generate a "positive" culture in the plant: "The culture in the plant is very positive. . . everyone wants to help one another."
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial