Corporate Culture - How Corporate Culture is managed in organisations and what could be done better

Master's Thesis, 2004
194 Pages


Table of Contents



List of Tables

List of Figures

List of Boxes

1 Introduction
1.1 Background of Corporate Culture Studies
1.2 Research Aims and Objectives

2 Literature Review
2.1 The Architecture of Corporate Culture
2.2 The Main Elements of Corporate Culture
2.2.1 Artefacts
2.2.2 Values, Beliefs and Attitudes
2.2.3 Basic Assumptions
2.3 Determination of Corporate Culture in its Wider Context
2.3.1 The Sources of Corporate Culture
2.3.2 The Harrison and Handy Model
2.4 Corporate Culture and Performance
2.4.1 Underlying Assumptions
2.4.2 Academically Suggested Relationships
2.5 Cultural Heterogeneity in Organisations
2.6 Summary

3 Methodology
3.1 The In-depth Interviews
3.1.1 Sampling
3.1.2 The Interview Design
3.1.3 Data Analysis of the Interviews
3.2 The Focus Group Interview
3.2.1 Sampling
3.2.2 Focus Group Interview Design
3.2.3 Data Analysis of the Focus Group Interview
3.3 The Questionnaire-based Survey
3.3.1 Sampling
3.3.2 The Questionnaire Design
3.3.3 Data Analysis of the Survey

4 Research Findings
4.1 In-depth Interviews
4.2 Focus Group Interview and Survey at Centrotherm

5 Conclusions
5.1 Diverge Perceptions of Cultural Artefacts in Organisations
5.2 Oversimplification and Generalisation of Corporate Values, Beliefs and Attitudes
5.3 The Interrelationship between Corporate Culture and Structure
5.4 Existence of Subcultures and Cultural Heterogeneity
5.5 Non-existence of Pragmatic Relationships between Corporate Culture and Performance
5.6 Summary

6 Recommendations



A: Guideline for In-Depth Interviews (English)

B: Guideline for Focus Group Interview (English)

C: Questionnaire for Survey at Centrotherm (German)

D: Coded Questionnaire (English)

F: Participation in Survey

G: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 1

H: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 2

I: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 3

J: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 4

K: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 5

L: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 6

K: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 5

M: Qualitative Analysis of Survey Question 7

N: Qualitative Analysis of Survey Questions 8 and 9

O: Qualitative Analysis of Survey Question 10

P: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 11

Q: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 12

R: Statistical Analysis of Survey Question 13

S: Statistical Analysis of Survey Questions 14 to 23


Corporate culture has gained importance in the business world in the last two decades. The consideration of corporate culture, nevertheless, differs significantly in organisations. Some organisations have taken their corporate culture into account for strategic decisions (e.g. cultural fit during Mergers & Acquisitions) but other organisations have tended to neglect this issue at all (Deal and Kennedy, 1999).

Deal and Kenndy (1999) consider corporate culture as a hidden success factor of organisation which ensures commitment of the employees. According to them (1999), organisations with a ‘strong’ corporate culture outperform “run-of-the-mills companies by a massive margin” (Deal and Kennedy, 1999: 2).

Corporate culture, nevertheless, has been a controversially discussed topic in the literature on which different general ‘best practices’ had been suggested by academics. However, it can be argued that the few empirical studies of corporate culture, notably Kotter and Heskett’s (1992) quantitative survey, have been methodologically limited (Alvesson, 2002), e.g. to few senior managers of the examined organisations. Therefore, this project employs, besides interviews with senior managers of the three examined German organisations, a survey which is focused on employees of different hierarchical and divisional levels in one organisation. The findings of the research clearly show that corporate culture is a far more heterogeneous phenomenon than many academics suggest (e.g. Kotter and Heskett, 1992; Deal and Kennedy, 1982).

In this research, corporate culture appears as a network of interrelating cultural patterns which is unique to different organisations due to different organisational and environmental challenges. The survey also identified that the perceptions of corporate culture differ between senior management and the employees. Therefore, the employees’ perception of the corporate culture must be taken into account in order to prevent cultural dichotomy. Furthermore, the senior management should implement a sustainable process of monitoring the development of corporate culture. Continuous monitoring enhances the understanding of the organisation and the consequences of managerial actions. Consequently, this can help to raise commitment and efficiency of the workforce.

Düsseldorf, June 2006
Sven Röhm


The author would like to thank the senior managers of the organisations ZF Group, Centrotherm GmbH & Co. KG and a third worldwide operating organisation, which has chosen to stay anonymous and will be named XYZ Co. hereafter, for having participated in this project. The author also would like to thank all employees of Centrotherm GmbH & Co. KG who had participated in the survey. Furthermore, the author would like to thank Brian Jones, senior lecturer at the Teesside Business School, for the valuable discussions about corporate culture.

The fantastic support of the participants provided a comprehensive methodological approach to the assessment of corporate culture in organisations. The collected data and the developed models are valuable for every organisation that is willing to implement sustainable corporate culture management.

List of Tables

Table 3.1: Questions for the In-Depth One-to-One Interviews

Table 3.2: Questions for the Focus Group Interview

Table 4.1: Data Distribution According to Division and Occupational Status

Table 4.2: Overview Results of Statistical Analysis (t-value and

Table 6.1: Scenarios of Impact of Commitment on Additional

List of Figures

Figure 2.1: The „Onion Diagram“: Manifestations of Culture at Different Levels of Depth (Hofstede, 2001: 11)

Figure 2.2: Levels of Culture and Their Interaction (adapted from Schein, 1985b)

Figure 2.3: Influence of Culture on Behavior and Behavior on Culture (Adler, 2002: 17)

Figure 2.4: Culture Quadrant by Harrison (Handy)

Figure 4.1: Categories and Relationships in Accordance with the Interview Analysis

Figure 4.2: Categories and Relationships in Accordance with Focus Group Interview Analysis

List of Boxes

Box 3.1: Categorisation of Job Description/Status and Division

Box 3.2: Question 1: Perception of the Organisation in Form of Triangles

Box 3.3: Question 2 to 3: Mission Statement

Box 3.4: Question 4 and 6: Structural Attributes of the

Box 3.5: Question 5: Organisational Belongingness

Box 3.6: Questions 7 to 9: The Perception of Corporate Values at Different Stages

Box 3.7: Question 10: Corporate Stories

Box 3.8: Question 11: Interrelationship Between Strategy, Change and Performance

Box 3.9: Question 12: Work Relations and Trust

Box 3.10: Question 13: The Logo

Box 3.11: Questions 14 to 23: Attitudes to Different Statements

1 Introduction

It is estimated by the renowned market research institute Gallup that approximately € 260 billion a year (about 12 percent of the German gross domestic product of about € 2,100 billion according to Deutsches Statistisches Bundesamt (2004); hereafter abbreviated as GDP) get lost within the German economy due to missing commitment (Kröger, 2004). Gallup refers to unnecessary high absenteeism rates of employees, their unwillingness to perform beyond the minimum requirements, and risk avoidance (i.e. better to do nothing than something wrong) in order to preserve their work places (Kröger, 2004). Consequently, each employee in Germany could, statistically, contribute additional € 6190 to the profits of the organisation every year (where about 42 million people are in work relations in Germany according to the Deutsches Statistisches Bundesamt, 2004) if s/he was fully committed and motivated.

However, it can be observed that some organisations generate more commitment and motivation of their employees than others which goes beyond the notion of strategic, environmental and structural issues (Deal and Kennedy, 1999). Academics (e.g. Brown, 1998; Kotter and Heskett, 1992; Peters and Waterman, 1982) refer in this regard to the corporate culture – the soul of an organisation – as noted below.

The basis of work relations between employers and employees is compensation (Deal and Kennedy, 1999). People work to afford and to maintain a comfortable life (Deal and Kennedy, 1999). Thus, they are involved in and contribute to organisational aims which are generally the creation of products or services. This contribution can usually be ‘scientifically’ measured in terms of output, put-through and time (Weidner and Freitag, 1998). It is, furthermore, fixed in work contracts and psychological contracts between employers and employees and shows the general expectation of what should be done at a minimum from both sides. That usually means that an employee has to work a certain amount of hours a week and should fulfil certain tasks which have been allocated to him. In return, the employee gets an agreed compensation in monetary terms. However, employees tend to neglect their duties or even leave companies, despite an appropriate compensation, when they do not feel comfortable within the organisation (Deal and Kennedy, 1999). Hence, they are not fully committed to their organisations.

Corporate culture directly affects commitment either in a positive or in a negative way (Peters and Waterman, 1982). As noted above, some organisations are able to create more commitment than others, which relates to the corporate culture (Peters and Waterman, 1982; Deal and Kennedy, 1999). Commitment drives the behaviour of the employee at the workplace. It can comprise the willingness of simply showing up at work or of even contributing more than expected. It can, furthermore, reflect the willingness to take additional shifts, to bring in ideas and performance beyond the agreed level. Commitment is a less scientifically measurable phenomenon. It is often referred to by analysing absenteeism rates, the amount of extra-hours worked in the organisation, etc (Jost, 2003). However, organisations often struggle to identify the extent of commitment in comparison to contribution because the boundaries are blurred.

1.1 Background of Corporate Culture Studies

There is only a brief outline of the background of corporate culture studies given here because the below noted literature will be introduced in more detail in the literature review (Section 2).

Corporate culture is a fairly young discipline. The path for corporate culture theory was evened by the Human Relations School in the 1950s and 1960s which emphasised to take human needs into account (Brown, 1998). This approach opposed the Modern Structural Theory (e.g. Lawrence and Lorsch) in the 1960s which described organisations as purely rational and mechanistic entities (Brown, 1998). However, early organisational sociologists such as Max Weber and Emile Durkheim identified non-mechanistic and ‘irrational’ features of organisational life in the early twentieth century, e.g. myths, rites and charismatic leadership (Brown, 1998). As a consequence, the focus on this non-mechanistic and irrational part of organisational life increased throughout the twentieth century; and created the basis for the corporate culture theory (Brown, 1998).

The first wave of corporate culture literature emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, notably the work of Handy (1978), Deal and Kennedy (1982), Peters and Waterman (1982) and Schein (1985). This first wave was succeeded by a variety of work pieces throughout the 1990s, e.g. Brown (1998), Hampden-Turner (1994) and Kotter and Heskett (1992). Nevertheless, although there are some studies and theories of corporate culture, organisations still differ widely in terms of their corporate culture. This indicates that none of the corporate culture approaches have had a significant breakthrough yet. Apparently, the ‘best practice’ of corporate culture, which was passionately sought for by a variety of academics, either does not exist or has not been found; and € 260 billion loss a year alone in Germany might indicate shortcomings in finding the ‘best practice’ for corporate culture.

Therefore, this text explores corporate culture by using adequate, pre-existing theory and both qualitative and quantitative research in order to develop a framework of how corporate culture could be described in the illustrated three German organisations.

Thus, relevant cultural patterns in the regarded organisations will be outlined and their relationships to each other must be identified by using interviews with representatives of the senior management at first. Secondly, it must be examined whether the outlined patterns are perceived homogeneously throughout different hierarchical and divisional levels of the organisation by the means of a survey, or the perception is unequally distributed between different organisational (e.g. senior management, shop-floor) and divisional groups. Finally, the impact of the corporate culture on the organisational performance must be examined because organisations invest in corporate culture for an economic reason.

An overview about the content and structure of this thesis is given by the following research aims and objectives.

1.2 Research Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research is to show how corporate culture has evolved differently in German organisations and how it is perceived differently by diverse organisational groups. Thus, this research attempts to challenge diverse academic approaches which presume generality of corporate culture. It shall encourage organisations to examine their corporate culture more thoroughly from different perspectives in order to prevent misinterpretation on the basis of insufficient and unrepresentative perception of the corporate culture on the senior management’s behalf.

The research objectives are listed below as the following:

- To critically assess the basic assumptions and limitations of prevalent corporate culture theory according to the approaches of Schein (1985b) and other academics;
- To identify the underlying assumptions and key drivers of corporate culture in German organisations by means of qualitative and quantitative research;
- To illustrate the interrelationships between different cultural patterns in the regarded organisations according to the data gathered in the primary research;
- To examine whether corporate culture can be seen as homogeneous or as a product of heterogeneous perceptions and organisational groups (e.g. senior management, employees, etc.);
- To assess the impact of corporate culture and incorporated values, beliefs and attitudes on organisational performance, as identified in this research, in comparison to Kotter and Heskett’s (1992) assertion of positive corporate culture-performance relationships; and
- Finally to suggest an approach to corporate culture on the basis of the participating organisations that would be a benefit to other organisations in terms of increased commitment and profitability of the employees.

2 Literature Review

2.1 The Architecture of Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture is one of the big buzzwords in contemporary business science. Business students, managers and academics often tend to refer ‘culture’ to surface phenomena rather than to explore the meanings and ideas behind it (Alvesson, 2002). The following brief introduction into the terminology of culture according to Hofstede (1980, 2001), and corporate culture according to Schein (1985b) should provide a basic understanding of the phenomenon corporate culture.

Culture derived from the Latin term ‘cultura’ which is translated as agriculture, artificial rearing of bacteria, cultivation of body and soul, etc (Jost, 2003). However, the term culture often equates classic music, operas, literature and exotic rituals of African tribes in people’s minds. These pictures are patterns of culture but they are not culture per se as the following definition of Kluckholm (1951: 86) shows:

Culture consists in patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting and distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values. (Kluckholm, 1951: 86)

Hofstede (1980, 2001) accounts groups, e.g. nations, societies and members of an organisation for being carrier of culture since “…culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category from another” (Hofstede, 2001: 2). He distinguishes between three different modes of ‘mental programming’:

- Universal programming is the biological operating system of human beings. It is inherited through the genes and controls basic functions as laughing, crying, fear or aggression.
- Collective programming, which equals culture, appears in groups and is distinctive from other groups. Collective programming manifests in language, artefacts, rituals and symbols.
- Individual programming is the personality of humans which is unique. Personality must be assumed since even identical twins that grow up in the same sociological environment have different attitudes and diverse behaviour.

According to Hofstede (2001), shared values of members of a specific, interrelated group are the core of culture. Values help people to make decisions and manifest themselves in contrasting dimensions, e.g. good vs. evil, beautiful vs. ugly, safe vs. dangerous, etc (Hofstede, 2001).

Hofstede’s (1980, 2001) architecture of culture is illustrated in Figure 2.1 – the onion diagram. The different layers jointly emit visible practices – ‘how things are done here’. Rituals are based on shared values and reflect the way people greet each other, respect each other and celebrate (religious) ceremonies. Heroes represent the perceived values within a group and can be real or fictive (e.g. the founder of a company, or McDonald’s clown Ronald). The most visible parts of either culture are the symbols. They can appear in form of objects, language, special jargon, arts etc. Hofstede (2001) insists that the level of external influence and change of cultural patterns decreases toward the inner layers and the core values. Hence, it is more likely that symbols and heroes change over time in contrast to values, which are supposed to be fairly stable.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.1: The „Onion Diagram“: Manifestations of Culture at Different Levels of Depth (Hofstede, 2001: 11)

Hofstede (2001) asserts that values are fairly stable in the long term, and rather influence the outer layers than being affected by them in the short term. Hofstede’s (1980, 2001) fairly consistent approach to culture was confronted by more transactional models of culture.

In contrast to Hofstede, Schein (1985b) considers culture as a continuous process of interaction between the values, beliefs and attitudes, the basic assumptions, and the artefacts of a culture. He (1985b) proposes, as illustrated in Figure 2.2, that the basic assumptions are the deepest level of culture and the artefacts are the superficial manifestation of culture. Schein’s (1985b) model is clearly favoured by a majority of management literature since it offers a greater number of interfaces for acting on the culture process whereas Hofstede’s (2001) approach solely promotes values as drivers of cultural change.

The term corporate culture is the simple application of culture theory to an organisational context. Thus, solely the term corporate culture will be used in the following.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2: Levels of Culture and Their Interaction (adapted from Schein, 1985b)

The elements of corporate culture, as illustrated in Figure 2.2, will be explained in detail in the following section.

2.2 The Main Elements of Corporate Culture

2.2.1 Artefacts

This section is dedicated in detail to artefacts since they are the most visible and superficial manifestation of culture, and consequently corporate culture (Schein, 1985b; Brown, 1998). Cultural artefacts are highly important since they are indicators of an organisation’s culture (Brown, 1998). However, Gagliardi (1990) argues that scholars have paid lip service to artefacts while neglecting them in substance. In order to bridge this gap, Brown (1998) defined the following categories as crucial elements of artefacts:

- Material objects and symbols;
- Physical layouts;
- Technology;
- Language, stories, jokes and myths;
- Behaviour patterns; and
- Rules, systems, procedures and programmes.

Material objects, predominantly logos and mission statements, provide a good insight into an organisation’s culture (Brown, 1998). Hampden-Turner (1990) analysed the logos of Apple, Volvo, Honda and Tandem Computers, and drew the conclusion that logos can act as a carrier of purposeful cultural messages. According to Hampden-Turner (1990), Apple’s multicoloured fruit of the forbidden fruit, from which a bite was taken, symbolises the birth of new knowledge – an appropriate message for the very innovative company. However, the symbolic of logos can be overstated because some organisations do not intend to emit messages, and some logos are products of advertising agencies which have not had deeper insights into the cultural setting of an organisation (Brown, 1998).

The same applies for mission statements. They can be powerful tools for transmitting the purpose, key beliefs, values and relationships (to stakeholders) of an organisation but they can also be misguided by good intentions rather than real practices (Brown, 1998).

Physical layouts, i.e. architecture can reflect corporate culture. Berg and Kreiner (1990) assert that buildings and office architecture often reflect the organisation’s history, the status, the way of working, etc. Unique buildings can serve as totems or unifying and identifying symbols (e.g. the Pentagon). More than that, the presence of coffee-corners, open offices, or a gym tells a story about the values and the culture of an organisation. Coffee-corners might stand for informal communication, open offices for team-work and a gym for young, vital and dynamic approaches to work.

Technology, which usually comprises information technology and production equipment, can be taken as an indicator for the organisation’s culture (Brown, 1998). The usage of extensive Management Information Systems (MIS) can reduce human relationships to technocratic, impersonal relationships at the workplace. Furthermore, restriction of access to the internet in organisations can be interpreted as mistrust towards employees, which are sometimes thought to abuse the internet for personal issues.

The language in an organisation is a significant element of corporate culture. It is not simply the means of communication, it “…is also a fundamental determinant of how we comprehend the world we live in” (Brown, 1998: 16). Brown (1998) mentions jokes, anecdotes, stories, metaphors and jargon as key rudiments of corporate language. But the language itself is a highly cultural construct; terms such as ‘acceptable quality’ can divert from organisation to organisation, and even within the same organisation. The production department of a firm, for instance, might have a different perception of quality in comparison to the quality control department (Brown, 1998).

Organisational stories, which Martin et al. (1983) defined as narratives that focus on a single, unified sequence of events, and organisational jokes are important indicators of corporate culture since they are direct products of human relations at the workplace (Jost, 2003). Moreover, they are a particular control mechanism because they are memorable in the long term, they generate belief, and they encourage attitudinal commitment by appealing to legitimate values (Wilkins, 1983). Jost (2003: 13) even defines corporate culture as “…the sum of all stories told [in the organisation]”. Stories and jokes in an organisation – although they can vary from teller to teller – have certain common themes between them (Martin et al., 1983).

Martin et al. (1983) analysed a variety of organisational stories and discovered the following seven types of stories in private and public organisations:

1. Can employees break the rules?
2. Is the big boss human?
3. Can the little person rise to the top?
4. Will I get fired?
5. Will the organisation help me when I have to move?
6. How will the boss react to mistakes?
7. How will the organisation deal with obstacles?

The following story is a good example for corporate stories, and can be clearly identified by the above noted seven types of stories:

At the Revlon Corporation the story is told about Charles Revlon, the head of the group, who insisted that employees arrived for work on time, but seldom arrived himself much before noon. One day Charles wandered in and began to look over the sign-in sheet, only to be interrupted by a receptionist who had strict orders that the list should not be removed. Both insisted they were in the right until finally Charles said ‘Do you know who I am?’ And she said ‘No Sir, I don’t’. ‘Well, when you pick up your final paycheck this afternoon, ask’em to tell ya’. (Tobias, 1976)

Jokes are usually more general and less organisation-specific, but are often applied to describe specific events, situations or conditions in an organisation. During the research interviews of this thesis, the author was told the following joke by a manager which he perceived to be representative for the organisation to a certain degree:

There was a baby found on the company’s ground. The company’s executives set up an investigation commission in order to find out whether the baby was a ‘product’ of the company. After four weeks of investigation the commission denied any connection between the company and the baby due to the following three findings: First of all, the company has never managed to finish a project within 9 months; secondly, the company has never produced anything mindful; and thirdly, none of the company’s products have worked well right after their ‘birth’. (Senior manager of Centrotherm, 2004)

Myths are often incorporated into stories, but also exist in collective and individual beliefs about how the world works (Boje et al., 1982). According to Boje et al. (1982), myths are used to legitimise past, present and future actions, to maintain and conceal value systems and political interests, to explain and create cause and effect relationships under conditions of incomplete knowledge, and to reduce anxiety and uncertainty in turbulent and dynamic times. A good example for the usage of simple cause and effect relationships under conditions of incomplete knowledge is the ‘women dilemma’. There is the widespread myth that women are unreliable because they treat their career as secondary to getting married and having children. As a consequence, some organisations exclude women from higher-paid jobs and promotion (Brown, 1998). Without any prospect of progress, most of them choose to leave the organisation. The resulting turnover rate of women in these organisations seems to confirm the myth, and thus reinforces it (Brown, 1998).

Similar to language, behavioural patterns are direct products of human relationships. Behavioural patterns comprise rites, rituals and ceremonies that differ from one organisation to another (Brown, 1998). Ceremonies are thought of as “… celebrations of organisational culture, or collective acts of cultural worship that remind and reinforce cultural values” (Brown, 1998: 21). Ceremonies can be extremely glamorous annual presentations comprising prize awards, success stories within the organisation, etc. On the other hand, ceremonies can be quite simple. Departmental Christmas dinners or barbeques in the summer, as well as spontaneous parties after having accomplished a certain goal, can also be seen as ceremonies which raise the employees’ commitment to the organisation or an organisational group.

Rites and rituals, as another important element of behavioural patterns, may be defined as “… relatively elaborate, dramatic, planned sets of activities that consolidate various forms of cultural expression into organised events, which are carried out through social interaction, usually for the benefit of an audience” (Trice and Beyer, 1984: 142). Trice and Beyer (1984) distinguish between three types of rites:

1. Rites of passage facilitate changes in social role and status (e.g. training programmes);
2. rites of questioning challenge the established perception and order of an organisation (e.g. use of external consultants, commissioning of critical reports); and
3. rites of renewal rejuvenate and restructure the status quo of an organisation (e.g. employee opinion surveys).

Rules and regulations, both formal and informal, have a significant stake in corporate culture. They can give an idea of the work relations within the organisation (Brown, 1998). The more the way of working is regulated by rules, the less creativity, for instance, can be expected within the organisation. However, the assessment and interpretation of rules and regulations requires a complete understanding of the organisation’s motives (Brown, 1998). Fixed schedules for starting and ending the working day of clerical employees might be interpreted as a strongly dominant corporate culture and leadership although this programme was supposed to show solidarity with shift-based manual workers due to an act of organisational equality.

In addition to Brown’s (1998) list of organisational artefacts above, corporate heroes, as Hofstede (2001) insisted in his onion diagram, must be taken into consideration. Corporate heroes can be the original founders of the organisation (e.g. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard), the current CEO (Steve Jobs at Apple), or every employee who set a widely recognised example for colleagues or subordinates. Deal and Kennedy (1982) advocate the creation and existence of corporate heroes because they:

- make success seem attainable and human for ordinary employees;
- provide role models and high standards for others to follow;
- symbolise the organisation to internal and external stakeholders;
- preserve and enhance cultural values and uniqueness of the organisation;
- encourage greater commitment to the organisation, and urge people to identify their personal achievements with the organisation’s success; and
- motivate employees.

Nonetheless, Wilkins et al. (1990) argued that there are dangers incorporated in attempting to create heroes. First of all, the focus on a single ‘magician’ can undermine an existing corporate culture of teamwork and co-operation (Wilkins et al., 1990; Brown, 1998). Moreover, recent corporate scandals, e.g. Enron, have shown that some senior managers are rather concerned about their payslips and stock options than being a good example. Famous founders of organisations have sometimes turned out to be less admirable and exemplary than expected – Henry Ford, for instance, was a passionate anti-Semite.

However, there is no doubt that corporate heroes on every hierarchical level can create immense commitment, motivation and performance when they honestly and enduringly care for their colleagues and subordinates (Brown, 1998).

2.2.2 Values, Beliefs and Attitudes

Values, beliefs and attitudes are thought to be interrelated, as shown in Figure 2.3. Values are directly connected with moral and ethic codes, and guide people in their decision-making (Hofstede, 2001). Values “…determine what people think ought to be done” (Brown, 1998: 26). Rokeach (1973: 5) delivered the following widely accepted definition of values:

A value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence. (Rokeach, 1973: 5)

Values (see Figure 2.3) are the basis for beliefs. Values determine the belief of individuals or groups of how the world works (Brown, 1998). People, for instance, who value honesty, openness and integrity, are very likely to believe that organisations are only able to work effectively when they apply honesty, openness and integrity to their stakeholders. To conclude, beliefs concern of what people think is or is not true according to their set of values (Brown, 1998). However, Schein’s (1985a) assertion that organisational leaders’ beliefs can easily be transformed into collective beliefs through the medium of values must be regarded with caution since the leader’s beliefs do not necessarily overlap with beliefs of other individuals or groups in the organisation.

Attitudes (see Figure 2.3) connect feelings with values and beliefs, and hence are a consequence of these (Brown, 1998). They are a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner to a particular thing or idea (Brown, 1998). Attitudes are likely to differ within an organisation since different groups perceive different things or ideas as important or valuable. Conflicts, for example, can arise between the profit-oriented senior management, the product-focused designers and engineers, and the customer-focused sales and marketing department of how to proceed with a certain product or project. Attitudes must be distinguished from short-term opinions since the former are sustainable. They include rational patterns based on objective information and irrational patterns, mainly stereotypes and prejudices towards something, individuals or groups (Adler, 2002; Hofstede, 2001; Brown, 1998). An example might be the employees’ compensation policy of an organisation. The objective fact that there was no performance-related compensation granted by the organisation in the last year could be reinforced through subjective, stereotypical perception that performance has never been valued in the organisation, and prejudices that the senior management has always tried to exploit its employees. As a consequence, the employees might have the attitude that they do not have to perform well since performance is not recognised by the organisation.

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Figure 2.3: Influence of Culture on Behavior and Behavior on Culture (Adler, 2002: 17)

Thus, the behaviour of the employees (in the above noted example) is affected; they are likely to act indifferently. Adler (2002) defines behaviour as the sum of all actions a human being conducts. It equals Hofstede’s (2001) practices, which are illustrated in Figure 2.1. Behaviour can be separated into individual behaviour and collective behaviour (Adler, 2002) whereas collective patterns are always existent in individual behaviour, e.g. the group process of solidarity of specific working classes during union-led strikes. The behaviour of people, especially the collective behaviour, influences the culture of the respective group in a long-term process. Adler (2002) insists that culture and behaviour are in a continuous cause and effect relationship.

The modified culture is based on an influenced set of values. This represents a continuous process of cultural change – a dynamic cycle. Nevertheless, the pace of cultural change should not be overestimated. Adler (2002) and Hofstede (2001) insist that cultural change is slow since values, which are the core of culture according to Hofstede (2001), proved to be comparatively stable.

Furthermore, Adler’s (2002) model (Figure 2.3) shows that short-term interference of groups of interest, e.g. an organisation’s leadership, is less promising than some academic tries to induce. It is also conspicuous that she, in contrast to Schein (1985b), does not include artefacts into her cause and effect relationship model of cultural change. Artefacts reflect cultural settings but they are not eligible for a sustainable alteration of corporate culture and embedded values.

2.2.3 Basic Assumptions

Basic assumptions are deeply rooted assumptions which are shared by people and guide their perceptions, feelings and emotions about things (Brown, 1998).

Argyris’ (1976) term ‘theories-in-use’ is often used as a synonym for basic assumptions. Schein (1981) implied that culture may be defined in terms of its basic assumption.

Basic assumptions differ from beliefs by being preconscious, impossible to confront and highly complex in terms of assessment and determination (Brown, 1998). Schein (1985a) has introduced five dimensions to categorise basic assumptions, as briefly outlined hereafter:

1. Humanity’s relationship to its environment: Organisations have a widely different perception of their relationship to the environment. Some organisations insist that they are able to shape/dominate the environment to a certain extent, and hence can force other institutions in the environment to comply. Some organisations presume that they have to harmonise with their environment by e.g. aligning their business strategy to the specific settings. Others feel dominated by their environment and seek for survival by taking every chance, e.g. niches.
2. The nature of reality and truth: There are different ways of reaching decisions and identifying the ‘truth’ in organisations. Some organisations heavily rely on the wisdom of trusted leaders in order to decide the truth. In other organisations, Max Weber’s ‘legal-rational’ bureaucracy (Thompson and McHugh, 2002) – reliance on rules and regulations – determines the decision-making. Still other organisations find their truth through debate and conflict; what survives this process must be a right decision. Finally, there are organisations which pragmatically apply what used to work.
3. The nature of human nature: Different organisations assume the human nature of their employees differently. Some organisations regard their employees, in line with McGregor’s theory X, as lazy and unmotivated, and thus try to exercise direct or monetary control (e.g. performance-related compensation) over them. Other organisations, which rather follow McGregor’s theory Y, consider their employees as highly self-motivated, and attempt to create opportunities for social approval and self-actualisation of their employees (Brown, 1998).
4. The nature of human activity: Generally, there is a distinction between ‘doing’ orientation, mainly present in Western societies, and the ‘being’ assumption that occurs more in Southern European and some Asian societies. In terms of organisations, there are some organisations in which work is primary; other organisations highly value the private life of the employees in order to facilitate self-development and self-actualisation; and still others look for a balanced and integrated combination of both work and private life in order to maximise motivation and profitability (Brown, 1998).
5. The nature of human relationships: Organisations differ widely in the assumption of how their employees should relate to each other (Brown, 1998). There are organisations which favour individualistic and competitive approaches to relationships. Other organisations promote collective and co-operative work relations. Furthermore, organisations differ by running, for instance, autocracies, paternalism, or democratic structures. It can also be seen that some organisations focus on role relationships of interacting as friends, and others minimise emotions by bureaucratising relations (Brown, 1998).

To conclude, it becomes obvious that organisations differ greatly in their basic assumptions of their environment. As a consequence, corporate cultures in different organisations tend to be pluralistic, and hence, inappropriate to generalise in models. However, the following section reflects a basic model to categorise different corporate cultures, and examines the influence of pre-existing cultural norms, e.g. the national culture and regional values.

2.3 Determination of Corporate Culture in its Wider Context

2.3.1 The Sources of Corporate Culture

There is broad agreement on three most important sources of corporate culture (Brown, 1998). These are according to Brown (1998):

1. the societal and national norms in which the organisation exists;
2. the vision, management style and personality of an organisation’s founder or other dominant leaders; and
3. the type of business and the environment an organisation engages in.

The societal and national culture is determinant for corporate cultural considerations since it directly influences people’s values and attitudes. Hence, it co-determines both the behaviour of organisations and their leaders and the environment they are acting in. As a result, it reassembles the type of business and its strategy (Brown, 1998). However, displaying the influence of national culture would go beyond the scope of this thesis and is not necessary for the context of this thesis.

The management style, vision and personality of the organisational leaders should not be underestimated as shown in section 2.2.1 (see corporate heroes). Certain modes of behaviour are very likely to have a positive or negative effect on the motivation, commitment and performance of the workforce.

Environmental influences and the type of business an organisation is engaged in might also have influence on the corporate culture. Organisations in a turbulent industry or market certainly have another culture than organisations with a monopolistic status. The latter are likely to be less willing or required to change.

2.3.2 The Harrison and Handy Model

Some identification for an organisation’s culture can be provided by applying the Harrison and Handy model (see Figure 2.4) to an organisation. Harrison’s (1972) and Handy’s (1978) models are sufficiently similar to be considered together since both models are illustrated as a quadrant with identical axis. Both models’ X and Y axis are the degree of ‘centralisation’ (X-axis) and the degree of ‘formalisation’ (Y-axis). Figure 2.4 illustrates Harrison’s (1972) and Handy’s (1978) model, whereas Handy’s (1978) terminology is stated in brackets.

Role or Apollo cultures (see Figure 2.4), both highly centralised and formalistic, are, following Max Weber’s terminology, bureaucratic or in the case of factories, ‘scientifically’ (F. W. Taylor) managed by time and motion study and precise specifications (Hampden-Turner, 1994).

Harrison’s (1972) Power culture and Handy’s (1978) Zeus culture is characterised by low formalisation but high centralisation. Organisations with this culture are usually constructed around a powerful, charismatic leader or a brilliant founder who communicates directly and informally with colleagues and subordinates. This culture is verbal and intuitive (Hampden-Turner, 1994).

The more matrix-structured Task culture (Harrison, 1972), which Handy (1978) calls Athena culture, consists of interdisciplinary project groups that are organised around some tasks. These project groups involve different occupational individuals or groups which work together when their specific skills are required in combination; e.g. sales wo/men, marketing managers, global sourcing managers, and production managers assemble to plan new products. The way of working together is decentralised but requires a high formalisation of communication and work processes.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.4: Culture Quadrant by Harrison (Handy)

At last, there is decentralised and informal culture, which Harrison (1972) calls Atomistic and Handy Dionysus after the Greek god of wine, passion and creativity. These cultures consist of independent experts who come together by chance in order to stimulate new ideas or to consult.

However, Atomistic or Dionysian cultures very seldom exist within organisations since organisations are profit and performance driven. Organisations tend to build up structures and formalisation in order to become more profitable and efficient (Weidner and Freitag, 1998). Therefore, the best-performing, i.e. most profitable and enduring type of corporate culture has been searched by different academics as illustrated in the following section. In reality, few organisations can simply be categorised by the above noted model. Different divisions and departments might have different cultures in terms of formalisation and centralisation.

2.4 Corporate Culture and Performance

2.4.1 Underlying Assumptions

There is strong agreement on a positive correlation between corporate culture and performance in the literature. Cultural patterns, i.e. ‘positive’ virtues, attitudes and behaviour, for instance, are claimed to be useful for the achievement of corporate goals defined by the senior management (Deal and Kennedy, 1982; Trice and Beyer, 1985). Furthermore, Wiener (1988: 536) affirms “…the wrong values make the culture a major liability”. Kilmann et al. (1985: 4) argue that “a culture has a positive impact on an organization when it points behavior in the right direction…. Alternatively, a culture has a negative impact when it points behavior in the wrong direction.” There are many more similar assertions about a positive or negative correlation between culture, cultural patterns and performance in the literature.

However, these statements assume that culture and cultural patterns, e.g. values and basic assumptions, are easily accessible and alterable in contrast to the culture theory which pronounces the long-term stability of some cultural patterns, e.g. values (see Section 2.1.1). Moreover, they suggest that there are absolute ‘truths’ – right and wrong values; right and wrong behaviour; or positive and negative attitudes – which can be taken for granted for every organisation disregarding competitive environment, strategy, size or industry.

In summary, a majority of management authors (e.g. Kotter and Heskett, 1992) insist that corporate culture is or can be used as a functional management tool for increasing motivation and commitment, encouraging openness to change, and becoming more efficient and profitable. Functionality and practicability, and the resulting pragmatic simplification of cultural theories are in favour of organisations and academics.

However, Alvesson (2002) argues that this approach to corporate culture theory, which is likely to end up in oversimplification, cannot serve the interests of managers or others because making “… things look clear-cut and simple may mislead” (Alvesson, 2002: 47). He (2002: 47) continues as noted below:

Practitioners might benefit much more from the pro-managerial and pragmatic organizational culture literature if it stopped promising recipes for how to manage and control culture and instead discussed other phenomena which managers might, with luck and skill, be able to influence – for example, specific cultural manifestations, workplace spirit and behavioural norms. Learning to ‘think culturally’ about organizational reality might inspire enlightened managerial everyday action rather than unrealistic programmes for cultural change or bending patterns of meaning, ideas and values to managerial will. (Alvesson, 2002: 47)

Thus, corporate culture is rather the product of daily interactions and their effects on attitudes, behaviour and values than a product of centrally top-down delegated change programmes.

It is also important to examine performance in this relationship approach. Performance is not a linear process but strongly depends on the internal and external situation of an organisation. Performance is thought to be interrelating with strategy, customer-relationship, macro-economy and other factors which differ from one organisation to another. Performance depends on the pace of change within and outside the organisation and the ability to react on and influence these changes by aligning the business strategy (Burnes, 1997).

Jost (2003) emphasises the importance of corporate culture while ‘radical‘ changes take place in an organisation. This implies that e.g. organisations involved in mergers and acquisitions require different cultural and strategic consideration than organisations that grow organically. Jost (2003) distinguishes between three drivers of change that interrelate with corporate culture:

1. Stabilisation: The need for stabilisation occurs in turbulent times. Restructuring, downsizing, re-organising, mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing of organisational units, etc of organisations require stabilising structures and culture in order to carry on with the business.
2. Consolidation: Consolidation is required by organic, partially very fast growing organisations which still consist of inappropriate structures and hence have to change. Consolidation may be important after management changes, generation changes in family companies, rapid growth without alignment of internal resources, major restructuring, etc.
3. Dynamism: Some organisation may have lost the pace due to former success (being ‘success-drunken’) or had a monopoly in one or more industries. They have to change because the environment changes (e.g. patents run out, core customers demand development of products and services). Acquisitions and diversification require a new approach to doing business within these organisations.

It is obvious that both the performance and the corporate culture in terms of shared values, attitudes, beliefs and basic assumptions of organisations in these three categories differ widely.

As a consequence, performance and culture relationship certainly exists but it cannot be easily transformed into one best practice that can be applied to every organisation as the following results of major academic studies show.

2.4.2 Academically Suggested Relationships

Peters and Waterman (1982) and Deal and Kennedy (1982) kicked off the corporate culture debate by identifying ‘strong’ cultures as the most successful ones in terms of a culture-performance relationship. According to them and Denison (1984), the strength of corporate culture is based on a broad commitment of employees and managers to the same set of values, beliefs and norms, which positively correlate with the level of profits in a company. This one strong culture, it is assumed, facilitates goal alignment, motivation and identification of employees with the organisation.

A strong culture is often based on previous success and outstanding performance (Alvesson, 2002). The common theme is ‘how things are done here’, thus how things have been successful in the past, because if they had not been they would have been altered. This can be a significant liability when radical change is necessary due to environmental factors. Many organisations, which were supposed to have a strong culture according to empirical studies, suddenly declined (e.g. Pan Am) or at least wrote red ink (e.g. Xerox).

Kotter and Heskett (1992) found out in their survey that there is no significant correlation between a strong corporate culture and performance. They (1992) argue that the strong culture approach constrains organisations in their strategic development. However, organisations, which were supposed to fit strategically to their environment, did not show a positive correlation either. Kotter and Heskett (1992) assume that the pace of environmental changes is too fast to cope with generic strategic alignments. Thus, some organisations which were identified to be ideally fit to the environment in terms of corporate and business strategy also failed to have success, e.g. Swiss Air. Swiss Air went bankrupt in 2001 because its expansion policy could not be coped with its financial resources, which were affected by strong competition with cheap airlines such as Easyjet and Ryan Air (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2004).

Kotter and Heskett (1992), as a consequence, suggested an ‘adaptive’ corporate culture as the facilitator of good organisational performance. Adaptive cultures encourage employees to trust each other, to take risks, to act pro-actively and to continuously seek for opportunities, improvement and changes (Alvesson, 2002). They bridge the sluggishness of a strong culture in a fast changing environment and the merely reactive nature of a strategy focused culture (Kotter and Heskett, 1992). Nonetheless, Alvesson (2002) argues that empirical corporate culture studies, including Kotter and Heskett’s (1992) approach, have been methodologically limited, and hence have not been a reliable source.

Furthermore, Kotter and Heskett’s (1992) approach has two major omissions. First of all, it assumes that every organisation is located in a similar turbulent and fast changing environment and hence needs more or less the same internal flexibility and openness towards change. But as Brown (1995) remarks, in alignment with Jost’s (2003) identification of three different drivers of cultural change (as illustrated in the previous section), different organisations are affected by different environments with different demands for the organisational structure and culture. Some organisations, indeed, have to change quickly and continuously in order to cope with the fast pace of environmental change. However, other organisations are located in fairly stable environments (e.g. niche markets) in which risk-taking, innovation and continuous change is more harmful than successful. In conclusion, Alvesson (2002: 54) argues “too much change can lead to instability, low cost-efficiency, risky projects and loss of sense of direction.”

Secondly, a majority of corporate culture approaches regard corporate culture as a homogeneous phenomenon (Alvesson, 2002). Accordingly, it is broadly assumed that one corporate culture covers the whole organisation evenly. But that is hard to align with the existence of corporate politics, heterogeneous groups within an organisation, and the high degree of diversification of many contemporary organisations.

The reality shows that contemporary organisations are less monolithic institutions. Many organisations should be seen as agglomerations of different subcultures and external influences as illustrated in the following section.

2.5 Cultural Heterogeneity in Organisations

According to Trice and Beyer (1993), organisations tend to be multicultural. They are split into different subcultures which can reflect ethnicity, gender, occupation, and other attributes of employees (Ogbor, 2001). Accordingly, Van Maanen and Barley (1984, 1985) imply that different occupational and societal groups within organisations are more or less ‘forced’ to interact internally and hence share little with external groups (other departments etc.). A reason for the creation of subcultures is the organisational segmentation (division of labour hierarchically and divisionally), mergers and acquisitions, technological innovation that creates new group formations, oppositional ‘counter-cultural’ movements, and career filters due to specific cultural attributes (Van Maanen and Barley, 1985).

Parker (2000) identified three major sources of differences between subcultures:

- Spatial/functional (associated with geographical location and work function)
- Generational (age and length of time in the organisation)
- Occupational/professional

Van Maanen and Barley (1985) and Alvesson (2002) make missing interaction between different organisational groups and individuals responsible for the emergence of subcultures. Consequently, Trice and Beyer (1993) argue that these subcultures are more potent sources through which employees secure their identity.

However, Alvesson (2002) emphasises the influence of wider society outside the organisational boundaries. Societal culture, values and norms affect people not only outside but also inside their workplaces. Changes regarding environmental protection, gender and ethnic relations, attitudes to work, new ideas on business and management might play an important role for employees (Alvesson, 2002). Alvesson (2002) calls this external influence cultural traffic. According to him (2002), this cultural traffic leads to a multiple cultural configuration. That means that cultures should not “… be understood as unitary wholes or as stable sets of subcultures but as mixtures of cultural manifestations of different levels and kinds” (Alvesson, 2002: 190-91).

As a consequence, organisations should not simply analyse internal cultural structures but must take the environmental changes and their interaction to internal cultural settings continuously into consideration. The degree of unionisation and union influence in an organisation, for instance, might change in relation to the economic cycle. In Germany, for example, where a current economic recession and the impacts of globalisation forces organisations to outsource and downsize labour-intensive work, traditional and union-oriented work relations have come under pressure. According to Ewing (2004), Siemens’ workforce, for instance, has stepped back, ignoring work councils and union-agreed and legal labour rights, from beneficial work relations in terms of compensation and fixed working time in order to prevent further outsourcing and downsizing, and hence to save jobs (e.g. Siemens workforce’s agreement on zero-hour contracts disregarding legal workers’ rights in some labour-intensive branches). But during an economic boom this attitude is likely to change in another psychological contract.

Siemens’ example shows that there are externally influenced changes of structural, contractual and cultural settings within organisations, which are mainly targeted at some specific subcultures (in Siemens’ case the manual workers).

However, heterogeneity itself is not necessarily a menace to corporate culture and the organisation itself. Although Gregory (1983) argues that dominant subcultures within the organisation can lead to disharmony and conflict with the corporate culture and other subcultures, the emergence of subcultures is a consequence of the interaction of different internal and external cultural processes.

These cultural processes, as shown in the above noted example of Siemens, do not only serve as enriching, motivating, guiding and harmonising functions but also constrain people, force them into new work relations and behaviour, and thus reduce their autonomy (Alvesson, 2002). Siemens’ employees have been concerned with rather the impact of further downsizing on themselves and their families than decreasing profits and shrinking shareholder value while accepting more disadvantageous work contracts.

Organisations should try to understand the cultural processes that shape their corporate culture rather than attempting to shape their corporate culture (Alvesson, 2002). Corporate culture is much too complex to use it as a management tool with limited variables. Understanding, which can be provided by the conscious usage of different corporate culture approaches, should be considered as a help to identify the values, beliefs and attitudes within the organisation rather than simply influencing them in a profit-maximising, commitment-ensuring, and motivational manner (Alvesson, 2002).

The assessment of the existing corporate culture within an organisation might help to align corporate programmes, modes of behaviour and leadership with the different employees’ individual, sub-cultural and corporate cultural perception of the organisation. A broad understanding of these organisational patterns can help to create cultural artefacts (e.g. mission statements, logos, heroes) that really reflect the corporate values, attitudes and beliefs instead of assuming them at the senior management’s level.

This can avoid the emergence of the ‘two-faced’ organisation. Babcock (2004) calls organisations, in which “words and deeds do not match” (p. 43), two-faced. She (2004) argues that organisations sometimes undermine their own resource-intensive corporate culture programmes by not linking managerial actions with artefacts and their embodied values, attitudes and modes of behaviour. Glowing mission and vision statements are immediately developed for the external stakeholders, but they often become a running-gag of employees of different levels within the organisation because “employees immediately pick up on differences between ‘what we say’ and ‘what we really do’” (Babcock, 2004: 44).

2.6 Summary

Corporate culture is a controversially discussed topic in the literature, as the following discussion in the literature review indicates. However, there is broad academic agreement on the importance of corporate culture in organisations whereas indications on the relationship of corporate culture and organisational performance could not be clearly identified. Thus, the meaning of corporate culture for organisations in different situations will be assessed in this research in order to provide a deeper insight into the phenomenon.

As Jost (2003) implied, different organisations have different strategic directions and hence different requirements on their organisational structure and culture. The illustration of three German companies, which have different sizes (payroll and sales), which serve completely different markets, and which are in totally different strategic situations, can support an understanding of how corporate culture is dealt with in organisations by outlining similarities and differences.

The few empirical studies of corporate culture are targeted mainly at the senior management (e.g. Kotter and Heskett, 1992) of organisations. Since corporate culture is a highly complex and controversial phenomenon, the perception of corporate culture at different hierarchical levels and different divisions must be explored. Thus, this research attempts to capture a more holistic picture of corporate culture by using both interviews with representatives of the senior management and questionnaires targeted at employees of different hierarchical and divisional levels.

Furthermore, the existence of subcultures in organisations must be examined in order to find out whether corporate culture can be regarded as homogeneous. The notion of subcultures and deviant perceptions of organisational groups has been neglected in empirical studies of corporate culture.

Finally, the importance of different cultural patterns for the participating organisations must be outlined because different academics declared different cultural patterns (e.g. artefacts such as rites, logos, etc.) as the most important ones. Furthermore, it is likely that the different cultural patterns within different organisations interrelate in a unique way, which will be examined in further detail in this research.

3 Methodology

Besides the secondary research, which is illustrated in the literature review, primary research was conducted in this project by using both inductive and deductive approaches as explained hereafter.

There is a general distinction between two major approaches in business research methods, the more ‘phenomenological’, inductive approach and the more ‘positivist’, deductive approach.

The inductive approach comprises – mainly qualitative – data collection and evaluation from which a hypothesis can be derived. This approach considers the involvement of the researcher in terms of physical involvement (e.g. interviews), which is often, although not necessarily, the case in qualitative research and conclusions drawn from the research are not meant to be generalised (Saunders et al., 2000).

The deductive approach can be described as testing the theory, as it “involves the development of a theory that is subjected to a rigorous test” (Saunders et al., 2000: 87). On the basis of a certain theory a hypotheses will be developed, for which data are collected subsequently to prove whether the hypothesis is correct. This approach is often closely linked to the collection and usage of quantitative data. According to Saunders et al. (2000) the researcher must be independent from what is being researched in order to avoid bias and conscious or unconscious manipulation of data.

However, as outlined in the literature review, the phenomenon corporate culture is “… far too complex to lend itself to theorising by definite ‘laws’…” (Saunders et al., 2000: 86) of a purely positivist, deductive methodology. The research in this project comprises both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (questionnaires) elements, but the research design is focused on the inductive, ‘qualitative’ approach since corporate culture is more an organisation-specific, unique phenomenon which consists of a complex, unique constellation of social and relational constructs, and hence less suitable for generalisation and simplification in terms of relationships between few variables.

Qualitative research, according to Hague and Jackson (1996: 64), is “… concerned with the understanding rather than the measurement of things”. Hague and Jackson (1996) emphasise the involvement of an expert or experienced practitioner as the main advantage of qualitative research. This expert can provide a deeper insight due to the possibility and exercise of open questions. Hence, qualitative research can be regarded as an exploratory tool (Saunders et al., 2000; Hague and Jackson, 1996) in order to find out “… what is happening; to seek new insights; to ask questions and to assess phenomena in a new light” (Robson, 1993: 42). Saunders et al. (2000: 97) distinguish between three principle ways of conducting exploratory research:

- A search of the literature;
- Talking to experts in the subject; and
- Conducting focus group interviews.

A focus-group interview and in-depth interviews with experts have been carried out in this thesis in order to explore corporate culture further. In addition, a questionnaire-based quantitative survey had been carried out in order to widen the study of corporate culture to one organisation’s employees of different hierarchical levels. Quantitative research by means of a survey allows collection from a large population in an economical way (Saunders et al., 2000). The opportunity of data standardisation in the questionnaire allows easy comparison. Surveys are conducted with the intention of supporting a hypothesis by discovering people’s beliefs, thoughts, values and attitudes (Jankowicz, 2002). This is an important part of this project because the qualitative interviews, as noted above, could reflect a singular perception of one respondent which might not be in alignment with the perception of other groups in the organisation.

This multi-methods approach can help to overcome bias in the results by providing a ‘cross-checking’ triangulation of methods (Jankowicz, 2000). However, the research design and the complexity of corporate culture forbids generalisation. Results, which will be illustrated in the further process, could help to understand organisations but are not suitable for ‘taking for granted’ for every organisation.


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Corporate Culture - How Corporate Culture is managed in organisations and what could be done better
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Sven Röhm (Author), 2004, Corporate Culture - How Corporate Culture is managed in organisations and what could be done better, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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