Can organisational culture be effectively managed and controlled?

3 Minutes
Providing CEOs and HR leaders with strategies to master the art of shaping their company's culture for long-term success.

The Cultural Conundrum

Hey there, leaders and HR maestros! Ever felt like you're trying to herd cats when it comes to managing your organisation's culture? You're not alone. Organisational culture, that complex web of values, beliefs, and practices, is often seen as the heart and soul of a company. But here's the million-dollar question: can this elusive essence be effectively managed and controlled? Let's embark on this journey, guided by Schein's (2010) insights, and unravel the tapestry of organisational culture management.

The Art of Leadership Modelling

"Walk the talk" isn't just a catchy phrase; it's the cornerstone of leadership modelling. Leaders, you're on centre stage, and your team is watching your every move. Here's how you can lead by example and inspire a culture that rocks:

Be the Embodiment of Your Values: If integrity and teamwork are what you preach, be the poster child for these values. Your actions speak louder than any motivational poster ever will.

Communication is King: Keep it real with your team. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Transparency builds trust, and trust is the glue of great cultures.

Consistency is Key: Flip-flopping faster than a pancake on Shrove Tuesday? That's a no-go. Consistency in your actions and decisions is what builds credibility.

Empower and Delegate: Show trust in your team's abilities. It's like saying, "I believe in you," without the cheesy motivational speech.

Recognise and Feedback: Catch your team doing something right and shout it from the rooftops. Constructive feedback? That's your tool for growth.

Communication Strategies: More Than Just Talk

Communication in culture management is like the GPS in your car; without it, you're just driving blind. Here's how to keep the communication lines buzzing:

Regular Town Halls: These aren't just meetings; they're cultural melting pots. Share, celebrate, and sometimes, commiserate. It's all about being in it together.

Open-Door Policies: This isn't just about keeping your door open (although that helps). It's about being approachable, being a listener, and sometimes, a problem solver.

Transparent Communication Channels: Emails, newsletters, or the good old bulletin board – use them to keep everyone in the loop. In the world of culture, no news is definitely not good news.

Reward Systems: The Carrot and the Stick, Redefined

Kreps (1990) had it right when he linked corporate culture with economic theory. Here's how to use reward systems to shape and reinforce your desired culture:

Identify What Matters: Pinpoint the behaviours that embody your culture. Is it innovation, teamwork, customer delight? That's your target.

Make It Personal: Take the time to understand the different motivations of each employee and then personalise your rewards accordingly. That way you know they will have the maximum effect.

Mix Up the Rewards: Cash bonuses, shout-outs, working on passion projects – variety is the spice of life, and of effective reward systems. Use tools like mojo to leverage intrinsic motivations so that when the budget runs out, the rewards don't have to.

Performance Metrics with a Twist: It's not just what you achieve, but how you achieve it. Align your metrics with your cultural values.

Peer Recognition: There's something special about being recognized by your peers. It's like a high-five for your soul.

Case Studies

1. Microsoft under Satya Nadella:

Transformation: When Satya Nadella became CEO in 2014, he initiated a cultural shift from a 'know-it-all' to a 'learn-it-all' mindset.

Strategies: Nadella focused on breaking down silos, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a growth mindset among employees.

Outcomes: This shift in culture revitalised Microsoft, leading to significant innovations and a resurgence in market relevance and employee engagement.

2. Southwest Airlines:

Culture Focus: Southwest Airlines is renowned for its unique culture centred on employee satisfaction and customer service.

Strategies: The company emphasises hiring for cultural fit, celebrating employee achievements, and maintaining open and honest communication.

Outcomes: This approach has resulted in high employee morale, exceptional customer service, and consistent profitability in a challenging industry.

3. Netflix:

Culture of Freedom and Responsibility: Netflix’s culture is characterised by freedom and responsibility, where employees are given autonomy and expected to act in the company’s best interest.

Strategies: The company employs a unique performance review system and encourages open and candid feedback.

Outcomes: Netflix’s culture has been integral to its success as a leading streaming service, fostering innovation and agility.

4. The LEGO Group:

Rebuilding Culture: After facing near-bankruptcy in the early 2000s, LEGO revamped its culture to focus on innovation and open-ended play.

Strategies: LEGO encouraged creative freedom, collaboration across departments, and a deeper connection to customer feedback.

Outcomes: This cultural transformation helped LEGO to become the world's leading toy company, with a strong brand and loyal customer base.

Limitations and Considerations: The Flip Side

Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Contextual Sensitivity: Organisational culture management must be tailored to the unique context of each organisation. Schein (2010) emphasizes the importance of understanding the deeper layers of culture, beyond visible artifacts, to tailor strategies effectively.

Cultural Diversity: Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory highlights how national cultures influence organisational cultures. This diversity means that strategies effective in one cultural context may not work in another.

The Danger of Over-Management

Micromanagement Pitfalls: Over-managing culture can lead to a stifled and disengaged workforce. A study by Jermier (1998) found that excessive control can suppress creativity and initiative, leading to a lack of genuine cultural engagement.

Organic Growth: Cameron and Quinn (2011) argue for a more organic approach, suggesting that culture should be guided rather than controlled, allowing for natural evolution and adaptation.

Conclusion: The Balancing Act

It's about understanding that culture is not just an abstract concept, but a tangible driver of performance, innovation, and employee satisfaction. As leaders and HR professionals, the challenge lies in striking a delicate balance between guiding the cultural evolution and allowing it to organically develop its unique character.

The journey of managing and adapting organisational culture is akin to navigating a ship through ever-changing seas. Leaders must be adept at adjusting the sails – employing techniques like leadership modelling, effective communication, and targeted training – to harness the winds of change. However, as highlighted by Schein (2010) and Kotter and Heskett (1992), this journey is not without its challenges. The risk of over-management, the need for contextual sensitivity, and the importance of employee involvement are critical considerations that require a nuanced approach.

Moreover, the role of technology in shaping and understanding organisational culture cannot be overstated. As Berson, Oreg, and Dvir (2008) point out, AI and analytics tools such as mojo offer unprecedented insights into employee sentiments and cultural trends, enabling more informed decision-making. This technological edge, combined with a deep understanding of human dynamics, as suggested by Deal and Kennedy (2000), can lead to a more harmonious and effective cultural environment.

In conclusion, effectively managing and controlling organisational culture is a dynamic and ongoing process. It requires a deep understanding of the unique DNA of the organisation, a commitment to continuous improvement, and an openness to learning and adaptation. By embracing these principles, CEOs and HR managers can cultivate a culture that not only aligns with their organisational goals but also resonates deeply with their employees, paving the way for a thriving, resilient, and successful organisation.



How often should we reassess our cultural strategies?

Regular reassessment, ideally annually, is crucial. This aligns with the recommendations of Schein (2010), who suggests ongoing evaluation to adapt to internal and external changes.

Can a toxic culture be completely overhauled?

Yes, but it's challenging. Kotter and Heskett (1992) show that with strong leadership commitment and a clear vision, even deeply ingrained toxic cultures can be transformed.

What's the role of employees in shaping culture?

Employees are crucial co-creators of culture. As per Deal and Kennedy (2000), employee behaviours, attitudes, and interactions significantly contribute to the overall culture.

How do we measure the success of our cultural initiatives?

Success can be measured through employee engagement surveys, performance metrics, and qualitative feedback, as suggested by O'Reilly, Chatman, and Caldwell (1991).

Can technology play a role in managing culture?

Absolutely. Technology, especially AI and analytics tools, can provide insights into cultural trends and employee sentiments, aiding in informed decision-making, as highlighted by Berson, Oreg, and Dvir (2008).


Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership.

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values.

Jermier, J. M. (1998). Substitutes for Leadership: Their Meaning and Measurement.

Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture.

Kotter, J. P., & Heskett, J. L. (1992). Corporate Culture and Performance.

Deal, T. E., & Kennedy, A. A. (2000). The New Corporate Cultures.

O'Reilly, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and Organizational Culture: A Profile Comparison Approach to Assessing Person-Organization Fit.

Berson, Y., Oreg, S., & Dvir, T. (2008). CEO Values, Organizational Culture and Firm Outcomes.

Mojo delivers a number of unique benefits for any organisation that cares about its employees.
These include:
<li>Improved employee motivation, wellbeing and resilience</li>
<li>Sustainable productivity growth</li>
<li>Talent attraction & retention</li>
<li>Better customer service</li>
<li>The Human Energy Transition<br>
(from Extrinsic to Intrinsic motivation)</li>

Mojo is our online employee motivation platform that drives productivity, wellbeing and resilience

Mojo delivers a number of unique benefits for any organisation that cares about its employees. These include:
  • Improved employee motivation, wellbeing and resilience
  • Sustainable productivity growth
  • Talent attraction & retention
  • Better customer service
  • The Human Energy Transition
    (from Extrinsic to Intrinsic motivation)

Related Insights

Is personality profiling harming your EDI efforts?

There is a documentary on HBO/Sky called: Persona: The Dark Truth About Personality Tests. What it highlights is examined.
3 Minutes

EXclusive News – June 2024

Welcome to the latest edition of EXclusive News, produced by Brand Experiences.
4 Minutes 27/06/2024

What Employee Experience courses are available?

Upskilling you to support EX at your organisation
2 Minutes

What is the role of organisational culture in business?

This comprehensive article delves deep into how culture influences productivity, innovation, employee engagement, and more, with insights backed by scientific research.
8 Minutes

Would you like to speak to one of our experts?