Edgar Schein Organizational Culture

admin19 March 2023Last Update :

Unveiling the Significance of Edgar Schein’s Organizational Culture Theory

In the world of organizational psychology, few names carry as much weight as Edgar Schein. His work on organizational culture has been instrumental in helping businesses understand the importance of cultivating a strong and cohesive culture. In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of Edgar Schein’s organizational culture theory and how it can be a game-changer for businesses striving for success.

Schein’s Theory in a Nutshell

Edgar Schein’s theory of organizational culture can be distilled into three interconnected levels:

1. Artifacts: These are the visible elements of an organization’s culture. Think of them as the tip of the iceberg – they include the physical environment, dress codes, symbols, and more. For example, a company that enforces formal attire signals a commitment to professionalism and respectability.

2. Espoused Values: These are the beliefs and values that an organization professes to uphold. They can often be found in mission statements and official documents. However, there might be a gap between what an organization claims to value and what it practices in reality.

3. Basic Underlying Assumptions: These are the unconscious beliefs and values that drive behavior within an organization. They operate beneath the surface, influencing decisions and actions without employees even being aware of them.

Understanding these three layers is crucial because together, they shape an organization’s culture. For instance, if a company claims to prioritize creativity and innovation but enforces a rigid dress code, there’s a disconnect between what’s stated and what’s practiced.

The Power of Understanding Schein’s Theory

Now that we’ve demystified Schein’s theory, let’s dive into how it can be a game-changer for businesses:

Alignment with Goals and Values

Schein’s model acts as a compass, helping businesses identify areas where their culture may misalign with their objectives. This awareness empowers them to make informed changes, fostering a more cohesive and effective culture.

Adapting to Change

In times of significant change, such as mergers or acquisitions, an organization’s culture can experience turbulence. Schein’s theory emphasizes the importance of addressing artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions to facilitate a smooth transition. This approach ensures that everyone is on the same page and eases the adaptation process.

Building a Positive Culture

Organizations can use Schein’s theory as a toolkit to create a culture that champions their goals and values. For example, if collaboration is a priority, addressing underlying assumptions that promote competition can foster teamwork and synergy.

Applying Schein’s Model to Analyze and Enhance Workplace Culture

Cracking the Code of Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is the heartbeat of any workplace. It encompasses shared values, beliefs, and practices that guide employee behavior. A robust culture can boost productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall success, while a weak or toxic one can lead to high turnover and dismal performance.

Enter Edgar Schein, the maestro of organizational culture analysis. He offers a model that empowers organizations to dissect and enhance their culture. In this captivating exploration, we’ll unravel Schein’s model and how it can kindle a positive workplace culture.

Schein’s Model in a Nutshell

Schein’s model unfurls in three layers: artifacts, espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions. Each layer peels back a different facet of culture:

1. Artifacts: These are the visible elements, such as dress codes and office layouts. For example, a strict dress code may signal professionalism.

2. Espoused Values: These are the stated beliefs and values found in mission statements and codes of conduct. Comparing these to artifacts can reveal alignment or discrepancies.

3. Basic Underlying Assumptions: The unconscious beliefs and values that steer behavior within an organization. Often elusive, these assumptions influence decisions without conscious awareness.

Applying Schein’s Model

When organizations apply Schein’s model, they embark on a transformative journey:

1. Identifying Misalignment: First, pinpoint areas where artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions don’t harmonize. If teamwork is a proclaimed value but a competitive atmosphere prevails, misalignment exists.

2. Root Cause Analysis: Dive deep to uncover why the misalignment exists. Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to unearth employee feedback. Root causes could range from leadership behaviors to historical practices.

3. Implementing Change: Armed with insights, organizations can make changes to align all levels of culture. For instance, to promote collaboration, physical layouts may need adjustment, mission statements may need revision, and underlying assumptions fostering competition must be addressed.

Benefits of Schein’s Model

Applying Schein’s model yields a host of benefits:

1. Positive Workplace Culture: A culture in sync with values and beliefs fosters productivity, satisfaction, and success. Happy employees are more likely to stay.

2. Social Responsibility: Organizations that prioritize ethical behavior inspire a more just and equitable society. They set an example for others to follow.

In Closing

Edgar Schein’s model offers a valuable roadmap for deciphering and enhancing organizational culture. By scrutinizing artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions, organizations can identify misalignments and embark on a journey toward a more positive and successful workplace culture.

The Role of Leadership in Shaping Organizational Culture According to Edgar Schein

Leadership: The Captain of Culture

Organizational culture is the invisible hand that guides a business’s destiny, and according to Edgar Schein, a luminary in organizational psychology, leadership is the captain of this ship. In this engaging blog post, we’ll delve into the pivotal role that leadership plays in shaping organizational culture.

Leaders as Culture Architects

Leaders are the architects of an organization’s culture. Their actions and behaviors serve as the North Star, guiding employees’ conduct. In this context, leadership must be both deliberate and intentional in crafting the desired culture.

Setting Clear Values and Beliefs

One of the foremost ways leaders shape culture is by establishing clear values and beliefs. These act as the bedrock upon which the organization’s culture is built. Leaders must communicate these values transparently and consistently. Importantly, they should lead by example, embodying these values in their actions.

Crafting a Sense of Purpose

Employees seek meaning in their work, and leaders have the power to provide it. Leaders must articulate the organization’s purpose and elucidate how each employee contributes to this grander mission. This shared purpose becomes the glue that unites employees and steers their behavior.

Fostering Open Communication and Collaboration

Leaders must cultivate an environment that encourages open communication and collaboration. This open-door policy not only empowers employees to voice their ideas and concerns but also nurtures a culture of trust and transparency. Collaboration among employees fosters teamwork and a sense of community, enriching the culture further.

Adapting to Change

Organizational culture is not etched in stone; it evolves. Leaders must be adaptable and open to changes in the external environment. Being attuned to shifts and willing to recalibrate the culture ensures its relevance and alignment with organizational goals.

Critiques and Limitations of Edgar Schein’s Organizational Culture Framework

Beyond the Hype: Critiques of Schein’s Framework

Edgar Schein’s organizational culture framework stands as a pillar in the field. However, like any robust framework, it is not without its critiques and limitations. In this thought-provoking exploration, we’ll delve into some of the critical voices challenging Schein’s model.

Overemphasis on Leadership

One prominent critique is the framework’s heavy reliance on leadership as the primary driver of organizational culture. While leaders undeniably play a significant role, culture is a complex interplay of various factors. The framework’s singular focus on leadership can overshadow the influence of employee behavior, socialization processes, and external forces.

Culture as a Dynamic Entity

Schein’s model sometimes portrays culture as a static, easily measurable entity. In reality, culture is dynamic, ever-evolving, and challenging to quantify or control. Cultural change is often slow and incremental, necessitating sustained effort and commitment from all organizational members.

Incomplete View of Culture

Critics argue that Schein’s framework provides an incomplete view of culture by primarily focusing on shared values and assumptions. Culture can also be shaped by power dynamics, conflicts, and competing interests within an organization. Ignoring these aspects can lead to an oversimplified understanding of culture.

Assumption of a Single Culture

Schein’s framework assumes the existence of a single, unified culture within an organization. In practice, many organizations comprise multiple subcultures that coexist and interact. These subcultures may have distinct values, norms, and practices, leading to tensions and conflicts.

Prescriptive Nature

Some critiques find fault with the prescriptive and normative nature of Schein’s framework. It may inadvertently suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to creating and managing organizational culture, neglecting the unique needs and contexts of different organizations.


Q1: Who is Edgar Schein, and why is he important in the context of organizational culture? Edgar Schein is a renowned organizational psychologist known for his significant contributions to the field of organizational culture. He developed a widely recognized theory that helps organizations understand how culture functions and influences behavior within the workplace.

Q2: What is Edgar Schein’s Organizational Culture Theory? Schein’s theory posits that organizational culture consists of three interconnected levels: artifacts, espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions. These levels collectively shape an organization’s culture.

Q3: What are artifacts in Schein’s theory? Artifacts are the visible elements of an organization’s culture, including its physical environment, dress code, symbols, and more. They represent the surface-level aspects of culture.

Q4: What are espoused values, and why are they important? Espoused values are the beliefs and values that an organization professes to uphold, often found in mission statements and official documents. They are essential because they represent what an organization claims to value, even though there may be discrepancies between these values and actual practices.

Q5: What are basic underlying assumptions, and how do they influence culture? Basic underlying assumptions are unconscious beliefs and values that drive behavior within an organization. They operate beneath the surface and influence decisions and actions without conscious awareness. They have a profound impact on an organization’s culture.

Q6: How can understanding Schein’s Organizational Culture Theory benefit businesses? Understanding Schein’s theory empowers businesses to align their culture with their goals and values, adapt to change more effectively, and build a positive workplace culture that enhances productivity and employee satisfaction.

Q7: Can Schein’s theory help with culture change efforts in organizations? Yes, Schein’s theory can be a valuable tool for organizations undergoing culture change. It provides a framework to identify areas of misalignment and guide efforts to create a culture that aligns with desired values.

Q8: Is Schein’s theory applicable only to large organizations, or can it be useful for smaller businesses as well? Schein’s theory is applicable to organizations of all sizes. Whether you’re a large corporation or a small startup, understanding and managing your culture is essential for success.

Q9: Are there any limitations to Schein’s Organizational Culture Theory? Yes, Schein’s framework has been critiqued for its overemphasis on leadership, its assumption of a single culture, and its prescriptive nature. It’s important to consider these limitations while applying the theory.

Q10: How can organizations apply Schein’s model practically to improve their culture? Organizations can apply Schein’s model by identifying misalignments, conducting root cause analysis to understand the reasons behind those misalignments, and then implementing changes to align all levels of culture with desired values and goals.

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