Organizational culture and the case of Google

What is organizational culture and how it can influence the performance of a company

Seminar Paper, 2007

18 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Organizational Culture
2.1 What is organizational culture and what are its key components?
2.2 How is an organisational culture formed?
2.3 Can organisational culture be managed? How does it influence a firm’s performance?

3. Google’s Organizational Culture
3.1 Short overview – Google Inc
3.2 The key components and values of Google’s culture
3.2.1 Physical Objects
3.2.2 Behaviour Patterns
3.3 Values that lead to creativity and a willingness to perform
3.4 How Google’s culture contributes to its success

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The culture concept evolved to conceptualize humankind’s diversity, it asserts that we socially construct different understandings of nature and hence of the reality that surrounds us (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004). Culture is ubiquitous, exists everywhere and has a significant influence.[1] It affects not only the visible parts of individuals (behaviour and action) but also the invisible ones (beliefs and values). This complex interaction, which takes place on different levels, between individuals and groups within and with other organisations, can be seen as the primary determinant of behaviour in the workplace. The patterns of interaction between people and the external surroundings represent a complex environment which influences behaviour in organisations.

Therefore, more and more managers are talking about changing their culture, creating a new culture, figuring out the impact of their culture, or preserving their culture. In this paper, the main focus is to define organizational culture and determine its influences on companies’ performance. Firstly, there are several related questions that will be discussed: What is organizational culture? What are the key elements of it? How is it formed and can it be managed to contribute to a firm’s performance? Secondly, we take a closer look at Google’s organizational culture and research, to discover whether there is a link between its culture and its performance. Finally, a conclusion is drawn about the culture-performance link and the difficulties associated with this topic.

2. Organizational Culture

2.1 What is organizational culture and what are its key components?

There are many definitions of organizational culture, defined by numerous authors. Some see it as ‘The way we do things around here’ (Deal & Kennedy 1982) while others refer to it as ‘something to do with the people and unique quality and style of organization’ (Kilmann et al. 1985).[2]

In this paper, Owens’ (1987) and Schein’s (1990) theories are used to define organizational culture as patterns of shared values and beliefs over time, which produce behavioral norms that are adopted in solving problems. Schein (1985) has also noted that culture is a body of solutions to problems which have worked consistently and are therefore taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think about, and feel in relation to those problems. In fact, these shared philosophies, assumptions, values, expectations, attitudes, and norms bind an organization together (Kilman et al. 1985). Thus, the set of integrated concepts becomes the manner or strategy through which an organization achieves its specific goals. It can therefore be postulated that an organization's collective culture influences both the attitudes and subsequent behaviors of its employees, as well as the level of performance the organization achieves. The link between performance and culture is seen as critical in the literature, which is addressed later in more detail.

Schein (1990) has noted that culture is thought to permeate the organization on at least three fundamental levels. At the surface, one may observe visible artefacts of the organization, which is, its structure, technology, rules of conduct, dress codes, records, physical layout, stories, and rituals. Beneath this dimension is a second level, organizational values, and, finally, underlying assumptions about the nature of organizational "reality" that are deeper manifestations of values. Of course, investigating processes of culture at the latter level is more difficult, as they cannot be directly observed and measured. With this definition and Schein’s three step approach we examine Google’s underlying organizational culture and prove if it leads to its performance.

2.2 How is an organisational culture formed?

In general, culture is originated when an organization is started by its founders. They bring the common values and visions into a company which influences how they manage business and the way they recruit new employees. Although corporate founders play an important role in creating and shaping organizational culture (Schein 1992; DeNisi & Griffin 2005).

Buchanan and Huczynski (2004, p.652) point out, that the ultimate strength of a company’s culture depends on the homogeneity of group members, as well as, the length and intensity of their shared experiences in a group. At a later stage the process of organizational socialisation[3] for new employees plays an important role. New recruits have to be taught to see the organization’s world as their more experienced colleagues’ do, if the tradition of the organization is to survive (John von Maanen & Edgar Schein 1979). That is achieved through the careful selection of company members, their instruction in appropriate ways of thinking and behaving and the reinforcement of desired behaviours in senior managers.

Since organizational founders have a key impact on culture, they may manage it to achieve the business objectives. However, there is strong debate on this topic, which is addressed next.


[1] It does not matter where you take a closer look; culture exists everywhere (in families, clubs, schools, companies, cities or even nations) and has a significant influence.

[2] Further, the treatment of culture at the level of the firm varies considerably and its antecedents go back through anthropology, sociology, psychology and early management thought (Needle, 2000, p.101). In general, it is recognized that organisations have ‘something’ (a personality, philosophy, ideology or climate) which goes beyond economic rationality, and which gives each of them a unique identity.

[3] Organisational socialisation is defined as: The process through which an individual’s pattern of behaviour and their values, attitudes and motives are influenced to conform with those seen as desirable in a particular organization (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, p.650)

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Organizational culture and the case of Google
What is organizational culture and how it can influence the performance of a company
The University of Sydney
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Organizational, Google, Culture, Case, Study, Organization, Organisational, Organisation, Performance, Company
Quote paper
Marco Hierling (Author)Yu-Chen Yeh (Author)Chloe S.Y. Tai (Author)Jennie Lang Yu (Author), 2007, Organizational culture and the case of Google, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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