Organisational Culture – Myths And Realities

Organisational Culture – Myths And Realities

“Organisational culture thrives not on shared values, but on shared assumptions and beliefs.”

This provocative statement challenges the traditional concept of organisational culture and urges us to consider the power of shared assumptions and beliefs in sculpting an organisation’s culture.

Undoubtedly, shared values, often glorified as the linchpin of organisational culture, capture public attention. However, they tend to merely reflect an organisation’s surface level, its external face. What Argyris refers to as “espoused theories” – as contrasted with “theories-in-use”.

Espoused (shared) values represent an organisation’s idealised image, often disconnected from the daily operations and attitudes.

In contrast, shared assumptions and beliefs serve as the bedrock of organisational culture, shaping how members perceive, think, and feel about the organisation.

These shared assumptions and beliefs, often unspoken and unconscious, influence the very DNA of an organisation. They are deeply embedded within the organisation’s psyche and dictate how members interact, respond to challenges, make decisions, and even perceive success. For instance, an organisation might unconsciously assume that hierarchy determines decision-making power. This underlying belief, despite any officially stated value of employee empowerment, would guide behaviors more effectively, subtly shaping the real culture of the organisation.

A shift in focus towards shared assumptions and beliefs allows us to better understand and influence organisational culture. Acknowledging their influence demands an examination of the deep, often unseen, layers of an organisation’s culture. It’s through this understanding that an organisation can align its actions with its aspirations, driving more authentic, powerful cultural transformations.

Summing up, “shared values” fail to penetrate the complex, dynamic, and profound realm of organisational culture. Instead, it’s the shared assumptions and beliefs that govern the way organisations truly operate, underpinning the entirety of an organisation’s culture.

Hence Organisational Psychotherapy.


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