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Gerald Driskill and Angela Brenton, Organizational Culture in Action

The concept of organizational culture emerged in the mid-1980s as a merging of Harvard Business School-style organization development theory and more traditional approaches to cultural anthropology taught in universities. The merger of these two research traditions can be seen in books like Deal and Kennedy’s, Corporate Cultures and Kotter and Heskett’s, Corporate Culture and Performance. Kotter and Heskett fall squarely on the organization development side where they try to establish quantitative cause-and-effect relationships between organizational culture and standard financial measures like net income growth and return on capital.  Deal and Kennedy reflect a more traditional approach to cultural anthropology with talk about corporate tribes, symbolic managers, heroes, and rites and rituals.

Driskill and Brenton’s book, Organizational Culture in Action is a more anthropological approach to understanding the culture in organizations. Written as an advanced undergraduate or graduate level text for students studying organizational culture or organization development, it describes culture as the “stage” upon which managers and staff members act out the day-to-day realities of organizational life. Formatted like a workbook, it leads readers through a five-step process of conducting culture analysis that includes:

  • Understanding the concept of culture
  • Identifying major cultural elements
  • Using multiple data collection methods
  • Synthesizing and interpreting data
  • Identifying applications, improvements

Organizational Culture in Action provides a step-by-step approach to applying cultural insights to day-to-day work activities, fostering diversity, supporting organizational change, developing leadership skills, and exploring the connections between ethics, culture, and making for-profit, non-profit, and government organization more effective. It’s a much needed balance to the common tendency to define organizational culture too loosely (or not at all) as just one more tool used by managers.



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