Creating Organisational Cultures That Work in the 21st Century: A Myth?

When I think of culture, the global connotations of this word spring to mind. The norms, traditions and nuances that exist between different countries boil down to the culture that exists within them. This anthropological concept has been borrowed by occupational psychologists, to refer to the culture that exists within organisations. Despite the wide and varied definitions of organisational culture, of which there are many, to me it’s quite simple. It can be summarised by the phrase “it’s just the way we do things”. It represents the norms, the everyday routines, etiquettes and unconscious acts that employees engage in at work.

But what is there to be gained from awareness of your organisational culture? The answer is simple. A strong culture leads to organisational success. Certain culture types have been linked to certain outcomes, but the bottom line is that culture impacts the bottom line (Prajogo and McDermott, 2011). Organisational culture is a concept which is very close to my heart, as my MSc Dissertation centred on it. As an empirical study, it found support for culture predicting organisational effectiveness. But crucially, it answered the question of how, by testing for mediators of this relationship. I found that ‘value congruency’; the overlap between your personal values and those of the organisation, was a crucial ingredient in culture leading to effectiveness. It was also instrumental in creating ‘meaningfulness’ at work. This simple, yet vital concept refers to the sense of purpose and significance placed into one’s work. A culture of purposeful employees is a powerful force, and has been linked to a number of desirable organisational outcomes i.e. behaviour at work (Berg, Wrzesniewski, & Dutton, 2010), engagement (May, Gilson, & Harter, 2004) as well as performance (Bains et al., 2007).

So the culture within your organisation is an important element to consider when making strategic decisions. This is particularly the case with multi-nationals, where the lines between the anthropologist’s culture and the Occ Psych’s culture blur. And not many are as distinguished at negotiating this blurred line as Philippe Rosinski. His book, ‘Coaching across cultures’, a Harvard Business School recommendation incorporates an intercultural element into business coaching. He also developed the Cultural Orientations Framework (COF), which assesses and compares cultures based on 7 crucial dimensions. As a tool which allows bridging the gap between two cultures, it allows organisations to develop their ideal cultural state. Philippe is the first European to be designated Master Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, and is the Principal of Rosinski & Company, a global organisation which helps organisations achieve high performance. When doing my research on Professor Rosinski, it became apparent that his ‘global approach’ to coaching takes into consideration multiple viewpoints and perspectives in order to yield creative business solutions. In other words, that word we hear so much about these days, innovation.

Innovative cultures are the organisational Promised Land. With standard-bearers such as Google and Apple leading the way in innovative products and services, the success that these organisations have had, seem to be attributed to their creative and free thinking methods of working. Dr Mark Batey, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at The Manchester Business School (MBS) has dedicated much of his efforts into research on creativity and factors which influence it. He is also the joint chair of the Psychometrics at Work Research Group at MBS, Associate editor of the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving and the R&D director at E-Metrixx, a Psychometrics Consultancy. As a world authority on creativity (in 2009, he was ranked 2nd in the world for published research into creativity), his research has translated into a number of media and conference appearances. For this reason, we are extremely happy to be hosting Dr Batey, as well as Professor Rosinski at our next Psychometrics Forum event on culture. It is being held on the 26th September 2012 and is entitled ‘Creating & cultivating a thriving organisational culture’. See the website for more information on the event and how to book: link.

But allow me to throw a metaphorical spanner into the works. Many cultural ‘purists’ would argue that organisational culture is something which cannot be managed. It is not something an organisation has, but more so, what an organisation is. If this is the school of thought one buys into, manipulating one’s existing culture in order to create an ideal culture is an impossible and inevitably fruitless endeavour. I look forward to posing this question to our guest speakers, and hope to see many members and guests attending, similarly taking advantage of this wealth of knowledge, in a Psychometrics Forum event which has a very global feel to it.

Blog Posted by Raj Chopra. Follow me on Twitter: @Raj_Glowatwork.


Berg, J.M., Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J.E. (2010b). Perceiving and responding to challenges in job crafting at different ranks: When proactivity requires adaptivity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 158–186.

Bains, G., et al. (2007) Meaning Inc.: The blueprint for business success in the 21st century.

May, D.R., Gilson, L., & Harter, L.M. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77, 11–37.

Prajogo, D.I. & McDermott, C.M (2011). The relationship between multidimensional organizational culture and performance. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 31(7), 712-735.