Volume 18, September 2002: Organizational Cultures

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2002 ISSN # 1545-8873

“If you want to find your culture, just try to change it.” — Kurt Lewin

“First we shape our structures, then our structures shape us.” — Winston Churchill

“Transformation involves a sort of adolescence, a period of inelegance when we shift from one way of being to a new way of being.” — Peter Scholtes, Heero Hacquebord


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Creating and sustaining cultures purposefully shaped by values which match the leaders’ behavior (modeling the way).
  • Acknowledging and using the informal organization (which truly runs the place), while working with overt structures to shape a healthier workplace.
  • Recognizing the harmful effects of internal competition; removing barriers to enterprise in order to capitalize on all interests.
  • Going first. Everything leaders do (and don’t do) delivers a message. Leaders must be the first to change.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Is there too much weight on your shoulders? Bradford and Cohn, in Managing for Excellence, wrote about the “Heroic Manager,” who tries to have all the answers, has to be in control, coordinate, direct. Thus setting in motion a vicious circle, where associates are more passive, accept less responsibility, and the manager takes more. What kind of heroic manager myth are you portraying?

Frequently Asked Questions

“How can I influence the culture?”
  • Articulating the values of the organization
  • Being ever present (MBWA)
  • Creating experiences and story-telling in ways that teach values
  • Role modeling (Walking the Talk)
  • Policies, procedures, practices consistent with the values
  • Symbols (e.g., space, rewards, rituals, ceremonies)
  • Language (what gets talked about and how)
  • Heroes/heroines (who gets recognition)
  • How decisions get made
“What’s the best way to begin to implement change?”
People are naturally scientific – they like to know the reasons “why.” The reasons can be some form of crisis or pain or sense of urgency. More effective and enduring is increasing desire or aspiration. Meld people’s aspirations into a dream or vision that is more compelling than the reality they live in now. Link to people’s hopes not fears. Fear may produce compliance but not commitment.
“Why can’t we set up a Transition Day and just convert everything over?”
Most cultural change takes years – at least five or more. The purpose of a culture is to maintain stability and predictability in times of change. Transformation involves people and emotions and all that is messy. Deep cultural change is a revolution in thought and an evolution in behavior – one incremental step at a time, one person at a time. Still, some of the most rapid change I have seen is when there is an abrubt change in leadership.


Join us in learning how to Create an Environment for Success by Architecting Culture.

Training for customer-oriented cultures: Customer Service & Management Training

Training focused on merging cultures: CMDHMC

Useful Websites & Newsletters

How to energize your culture in uncertain times: Cultural Analysis.

The power of agreement in long-term cultural change: The Power of Agreement.


  • Cameron, Kim S. and Quinn, Robert. Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework (Addison-Wesley Series on Organization Development). Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1999.
  • Deal, Terrence & Kennedy, Allan. Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1982.
  • Deal, Terrence & Kennedy, Allan. The New Corporate Cultures: Revitalizing the Workforce After Downsizing, Mergers, and Reengineering. New York: Perseus, 1999.
  • Kilmann, R.H., Saxton, M.J., Serpa, R. & Associates. Gaining Control of the Corporate Culture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985.
  • Kohn, Alfie. No Contest. Boston: Houghton-Miflin, 1986.
  • Ranney, Gipsie. Reviewing Organizational Policies and Rules. Piqua, Ohio: Ohio Quality & Productivity Forum, 1990.
  • Ryan, Kathleen & Oestrich, Daniel. Driving Fear Out of the Workplace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.
  • Schein, Edgar. Organizational Culture & Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985.
  • Schein, Edgar and Bennis, Warren. The Corporate Culture Survival Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.
  • The Deal and Kennedy model of corporate culture. Deal and Kennedy’s Corporate Cultures (1982) was a landmark work and incorporated five critical elements:
    • 1. The business environment – the orientation of organizations within this environment – for example a focus on sales or concentration on research and development – leads to specific cultural styles.
    • 2. Values – are at the heart of corporate culture. They are made up of the key beliefs and concepts shared by an organization’s employees. Successful managers are clear about these values and their managers publicly reinforce them.
    • 3. Heroes – personifications of the organization’s values, achievers who provide role models for success within the company. Heroes have vision and go against the existing order if necessary in order to achieve that vision.
    • 4. Rites and rituals – ceremonies and routine behavioral rituals reinforce the culture (product launches, sales conferences, employee birthday celebrations, etc.)
    • 5. The cultural network – the carrier of stories and gossip which spread information about valued behavior and ‘heroic myths’ around the organization.


Buy MK’s latest book!