I was working on a section of a course I am preparing for Mid-Atlantic Christian University to be taught this fall — you can find more information at www.macuniversity.edu — This was the first time I have added a voice-over sound file to a presentation that I uploaded to SlideShare.net. So, I thought I’d share it with you as this week’s post.
Like an iceberg, you cannot fully understand an organization’s culture unless you look beneath the surface. Edgar Schein identified three levels of organizational culture.
Artifacts are the visible features of culture. They include things like dress, symbols, logos, architecture, and stories. To a newcomer, these visible features are easily noticed. The problem, however, with artifacts is that they don’t tell the whole story and can be easily misinterpreted. So a student of organizations must go deeper.
Values are the beliefs the members of an organization have about where they want to go and how to get there. Values reveal a deeper level of understanding, but are still within the realm of conscious awareness. Often a discrepancy exists between an organizations espoused values and its enacted values, between what it says and what it does.
To understand why that discrepancy exists, you have to go deeper.
Basic Assumptions are deeply held beliefs that guide behavior and tell members of an organization how to perceive and think about things. The reason they are called “assumptions” is that they have been developed over years of organizational experience and are, therefore, so deeply embedded that people no longer question them. In fact, to view things differently can be seen as patently absurd. People are often unaware of their basic assumptions.
This is the deepest level of organizational understand. To lead change in an organization, leaders must become aware of their own assumptions and of the assumptions of others. They must create en environment where it is safe to bring those assumptions to the surface where they can be critically analyzed. It begins with the leader.