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What is Organisational Culture? Why is It Important?

02 Sep 2021
What is Organisational Culture? Why is It Important?

Research has found that organisational culture has an impact on the ways different projects are being managed. Depending on the various departments or even teams, project managers tend to operate differently. 

An essential part of this is the culture itself. That is why it's crucial to be able to recognize the leading culture and adapt accordingly. Knowing how you need to manage the team can lead to more success in accomplishing goals and necessary tasks while avoiding conflicts.

What is Organisational Culture?

Organisational culture is a system of assumptions, beliefs, values and norms of behaviour that members of an organisation have developed and adopted into their mutual experience and manifested through specific symbols. 

Two elements make up organisational culture – the cognitive elements and the symbolic elements. 

The cognitive elements consist of values, beliefs, stances, prejudice, etc. They shape the way we experience the world around us. The other, symbolic category, consists of materialistic and non-materialistic objects that are by-products of the organisation's aforementioned values, norms, and stances.

They can be seen through the behaviour of the employees – the way they talk and look and the branding of the company itself.

To form a solid organisational culture, you have to start with a good formation of mission and vision. Additionally, that mission and vision have to be realized through values, stances and behavioural norms. 

Why is Organisational Culture Important?

  • Influences strategic decisions in an organisation
  • It is a coordination mechanism
  • It can be a suitable mechanism for controlling organisational behaviour 
  • Significantly reduce the concert in the organisation and
  • Is a good motivator.

For an organisation to be successful, the team needs to function smoothly without having many conflicts. For that to happen, similarities in employees’ and organisation's values and needs are required. 

In other words, organisational culture is necessary for a functional organisation. The culture itself is made out of social predispositions of individuals, members of a group.

Since the organisation is made out of plenty of individuals, it will undoubtedly have many alternative points of view due to people having had different lives, cultures and educational backgrounds.

All that will result in the grouping of individuals that are more similar in one way or another resulting in subcultures.


Subculture is a part of identity, a specific way of life, based on specific cultural patterns (certain values, norms, ideas, behaviour, appearance, vocabulary…) that oppose the dominant culture.

Subcultures are formed within social strata, as well as concerning age, professions, hobbies and gender. They denote a particular type of resistance that is shown through a style that projects specific messages.

Just like everywhere else, subcultures exist as a part of an organisation as well. They can be beneficial to the company, but they can also create many problems.

The issues or perks of the subcultures can be determined by how the company's mission, vision and values are accepted and shared. Based on the answer to that question, there are four categories as follows:

Supportive Culture

Values, stances and norms of behaviour are in tune with the organisation's regulations. This type of subculture is the core of organisational culture.  

Orthogonal Subculture

This subculture exists independently from the dominant culture. "Members" of this subculture accept dominant values, stances and norms of behaviour, but in parallel, they have their own culture as well. 

Counter Culture

Counter culture has completely inverse values from the organisation's. More often than not, they are a source of conflict. But, on the other hand, sometimes they are a necessary factor for a change in the organisation to happen.

Based on Position

Some subcultures are formed based on the positions in the company. For example, managers are one subculture and employees that they manage are another one.

Subcultures are a normal organisational phenomenon that is the result of not only the organisation's complexity but also the human need to be closer to those who are more similar to us. Organisational subcultures are inevitable. The bigger the company, the more subcultures it is going to have.

How to manage Organisational Culture and Subcultures?

First, you need to identify the subcultures. Next, make out which subculture is the dominant one and if it is causing any problems. Next, try to understand what their values and beliefs are. Now, try to tie it with the company's own culture.

Having a common culture and shared core values and beliefs will ensure easier achievement of the goals and reduce conflict between team members. 

Based on the organisation and culture that already exist there, you can determine what kind of leadership you want (or rather, need) to implement. What are your teammates like? What motivates them, and what type of task do you need them to achieve?

According to Schneider, there are four types of core cultures:

The Culture of Power

The main focus is on the leader. They are responsible for the organisation's success, and they take care of the rest of the team. In turn, the team listens to and does everything the leader wants, most often than not because of their fear. 

The source of the fear and power is in resource control (money, information, etc.), or sometimes, it can be the leader's charisma.

The control is also seen in picking the people "they rely on" to control everything happening in the company. That causes members of the organisation to fight for the spotlight and a better position.

The risk of this type of culture is high - if the leader is not competent enough, he won't have the efficient control to make everyone respect rules and procedures.

So this type of organisational culture is for those ready to use all kinds of tactics and strategies to get the power to rule.

The Culture of Roles

This culture is based on rules and procedures. Everything is based on reason, rationality and logic. In contrast to the power culture, the leader in a culture focused on roles is almost depersonalised.

Primarily, the core is in roles or positions that individuals have, not necessarily the individuals themselves as people with personalities. 

This culture is suitable for someone who loves security and predictability and avoids changes and risks.

The Culture of Tasks

The fundamental values are success and accomplishment. The primary assumption is that the organisation should be there to solve tasks. Therefore, everything is oriented towards work that needs to be done, which is the main priority.

Here the people are not valued by their position but by their ability to do their job. That is why the power lies in the hands of the most competent person. 

This organisational culture is best for highly motivated people, especially those whose motivation is intrinsic (not material, but they are the motivation for them). 

The Culture of Support

This type is the rarest one out of all of them. The central belief is that the organisation exists for people to achieve their own goals and interests.

Focus is on the individual and their interests; meanwhile, the company's plans are usually disregarded. Individual freedom is highly valued, which is why this type of organisation is always close to collapse. This is the exact reason why there are almost none of the organisations that use this culture.

By recognising the central culture, you can adjust what type of leader you need to be. Leadership skill is one of the most valued project management skills, and the Institute of Project Management has a course designed to help you better yours. The Project Leadership & Management Diploma course focuses on the capabilities and behaviours you need in order to be a great leader. Click here to learn more.


  • Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • Janićijević, N. (2007). Organizational Culture - The Collective Mind of The Company