Necessary Leadership Skill - Business Skill 2 - Competency Diagnosing Organizational Culture

Dr. Donna L. Roberts
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Diagnosing organizational culture is considered a business competency which encompasses a comprehensive understanding of organizational behavior including, “knowing the strategy, structure, power networks, financial position and systems of a specific organization” (McLagan & Suhadolnik, 1989, p. 37). The culture of an organization is defined as “a social system consisting of the amalgam of beliefs, ideology, language, ritual and myth which exert a powerful control over the behavior of those within it. It includes purpose, commitment, and order; provides meaning and social cohesion and clarifies and explains behavioral expectations” (Petttigrew, 1979, p. 572).

The organizational culture represents “a strong force that emanates from within; an internal dynamic that has its roots in the history of the organization and derives its force from the values, processes and goals held by those most intimately involved in the organization’s workings; reflected in what is done, how it is done, and who is involved in doing it, and concerning decisions, actions, and communications both on an instrumental and a symbolic level” (Tierney, 1988, p. 127).

In diagnosing organizational culture researchers look for visible and explicit manifestations using techniques such as interviews, observations and document analysis. Examinations of both organizational history and current actions are relevant in the understanding of the organizational culture.

Specifically, analyzing the methods and processes used to make decisions, agendas of meetings, and personnel policy are common areas for investigation (Masland, 1991). In a practical sense, diagnosing organizational culture is useful for both explicating past influences on decisions and actions and for providing a foundation for administrators’ decision making and an underlying rationale for institutional development (Smith & Steadman, 1981).


Masland, A. T. (1991). Organizational culture in the study of higher education. In Peterson, M. W. (Ed.), Organization and Governance in Higher Education, 4e. New York: Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing, 1991, pp. 118-125.

McLagan, P. A. & Suhadolnik, D. (1989). Models for HRD practice: The research report. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Pettigrew, A. M. (1979). On Studying Organizational Cultures. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1979, 24: 570-581.

Smith, G. D. & Steadman, L. E. (1981). Present value of corporate history. Harvard Business Review, 1981, 59(6); 164-173.

Tierney, W. G. Organizational culture in higher education: Defining the essentials. In Peterson, M. W. (Ed.), Organization and Governance in Higher Education, 4e. New York: Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing, 1991, 126-139.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY

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