Three Levels of Culture

Knowledge Center


Defining organizational culture. Explanation of Levels of Culture of Edgard Schein. ('92)


  1. Summary
  2. Forum
  3. Best Practices
  4. Expert Tips
  5. Resources
  6. Print

Edgard Schein Three Levels of Culture Defining organizational cultureCultures surrounds us all. Cultures are deep seated, pervasive and complex.

Yet, according to Edgard Schein, we cannot understand Organizational Learning, development and planned change, unless we consider culture as the primary source of resistance to change.

Furthermore, if managers do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them. Cultural understanding is desirable for everybody, but it is essential for leaders if they are to lead.

With his Three Levels of Culture, Edgard Schein has provided an important contribution to defining what organizational culture actually is.

What are the Three Levels of Culture? Description

Schein divides organizational culture into three levels:

  1. Artifacts. These "artifacts" are at the surface, those aspects (such as dress) which can be easily discerned, but are hard to understand.
  2. Espoused Values. Beneath artifacts are "espoused values" which are conscious strategies, goals and philosophies.
  3. Basic Assumptions and Values. The core, or essence, of culture is represented by the basic underlying assumptions and values, which are difficult to discern because they exist at a largely unconscious level. Yet they provide the key to understanding why things happen in a particular way. These basic assumptions form around deeper dimensions of human existence such as the nature of humans, human relationships and activity, reality and truth.

In his 1992 classic book: "Organizational Culture and Leadership", Schein defines the culture of a group: "A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems".

In a more recent 1996 publication Schein defines organizational culture as: "the basic tacit assumptions about how the world is and ought to be that a group of people are sharing and that determines their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and, their overt behavior".

Schein (1992) acknowledges that - even with rigorous study - we can only make statements on elements of culture. We cannot explain culture in its entirety. Schein recommends the following approach for inquiring about culture: iterative, clinical, similar to a therapeutic relationship between a psychologist and a patient. The disciplined approach by Schein to culture stands in contrast to the way in which culture is treated in some of the popular management magazines.

Book: Edgard Schein - Organizational Culture and Leadership -

Three Levels of Culture Forum
  WHEN to Develop a Company Culture?
Nowadays in our global world anybody has an opinion about what company culture means and why it's important.
But in the view of McKinnon, it's premature to focus on building a world-class culture before a world-class product.
  The Influence of Organizational Culture and Intellectual Capital on the Management Accounting System as well as the Corporate Performance
The above research topic has been conducted among companies listed in the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX). The Intellectual Capital is divided into its sub-components: Human, Structural, Social and Technological Cap...
  How can Organizational Culture Lead to Company Performance?
Sorensen (2000) found that if an organization maintains a strong culture by demonstrating a well integrated and effective set of specific values, beliefs, and behaviors, then it will perform at a HIGHER LEVEL OF PRODUCTIVITY.
On the other hand, ...
  The Influence of Intellectual Capital and Organizational Culture on the Management Accounting System and Company Performance
- INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL includes human capital, innovation capital, process capital, structural capital, and other different elements to create business value and improve performance (Edvinsson and Malone, Stewart, 1997, Bontis, Ross et al., 1998).
  The Distinction Between Organizational Culture and Organizational Climate
People tend to view these two concepts as the same and use them interchangeably. I believe that there is a difference between both. Could anyone please make a distinction between them?...
  How to Establish a Positive Organizational Culture?
I feel very strongly that a critical part of trying to develop a "positive" organizational culture centers around being able to establish interpersonal relationships, through a "dialogue" communication network.
Dialogue is a discipline, as well ...
  Employee Culture and Organization Design
Organizations who designed themselves in accordance with their employee culture are more and more successful and long sustaining....
  Influence of External Environment on Organizational Culture
To what extend does the external environment influence the 3 levels of organizational culture?...
  Organizational Behavior and Culture
It is very important to create an environment in a company for the employees to feel not stressed and be motivated. Companies should take this seriously. Employees are human and they can work better if they feel more motivated and can take pride in t...
  Three Levels of Culture Iceberg
We have used the concept of Schein's three levels in conjunction with the 'iceberg' analogy;
Behaviour - visible, changeable
Attitudes - under the surface, may change over time,
  Three Levels of Culture by Sathe
Who actually developed the three levels of culture: is it Sathe (1985) or Schein (1992)?
According to Sathe, the three levels of Culture are:
1. Manifest level,
2. Expressed value level and
3. Basic assumptions.
They look ver...
  Innovative, Learning Organisations?
Corporate culture also influences organisational learning and innovation. An interesting opinion by Schein is that, because the very concept of the organisation involves some restriction of individual freedom to achieve a joint purpose, the concept o...
  Factors in Organizational Culture?
What main factors are making up or influencing the culture of an organization?...

Three Levels of Culture Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group

Three Levels of Culture Education & Events

Find Trainings, Seminars and Events

Best Practices - Three Levels of Culture Premium
  The Denison Culture Model
Caroline J. Fisher in Employment Relations Today, Summer 2000, in her article, "Like it or Not... Culture Matters" describes Denison's Culture and ...
  Organisational Structure and Design Will (Always) Influence Organisation's Culture
I have been researching the topic and quite frankly can't find any contradicting theory or thesis stating otherwise, that the org structure will not influence an organisation's culture. Any ideas?...

Expert Tips - Three Levels of Culture Premium

Reasons for Shared Beliefs and a Homogeneous Corporate Culture

According to a 2005 Paper by Eric Van den Steen on Shared Beliefs and Corporate Culture, there are two main reasons why members of an organization oft...
Usage (application): Why does Homogeneity Develop?

Establishing an Organizational Culture of Perpetual Crisis

An interesting article in the issue of Fortune (Sept. 5, 2005, no. 15) explains how Jong-Yong Yun, CEO of Samsung, is relentlessly building a culture ...
Usage (application): Corporate Culture Best Practice

Strategies to Change Employee Habits, Hearts and Heads

According to J.E. Kee and K.E. Newcomer ("Why Do Change Efforts Fail? What Can Leaders Do About It?", The Public Manager, Fall 2008), the key to chang...
Usage (application): Changing Organization Cultures

Pitfalls and Best Practices in Culture Change

According to Jon Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak ("Stop Blaming Your Culture", strategy+business, Spring 2011, Issue 62), following myths of culture cha...
Usage (application): Changing Organizational Cultures, What to DO and what NOT

Other Thinkers on Corporate Culture

After Schein's work on Organizational Culture, economic literature on this topic has been growing steadly:
- Kreps (1990) suggested two wa...
Usage (application): Different Approaches

Why is Changing an Organization Culture So Hard? The ASA Model (Schneider)

Why is changing an organization culture so difficult? Because, once it is established, a culture has the tendency to strengthen itself, become more ho...
Usage (application): Organization Culture, Culture Change, Corporate Culture, Change Management, Recruitment

How Culture Levels Explain Failures in Organizational Learning and Innovation

Schein (as cited by Bertagni et al., 2010) tries to elaborate on the question why organizational innovations often fail or are only successful in the ...
Usage (application): Improving Organizational Learning, Organizational Innovation, Changing Organization Cultures

Organodynamics: the 3 Laws at the Basis of Performance in Organizations

Sherwood (2014) introduces the concept of organodynamics, a concept that explores the level of performance that can be achieved by organizations. In o...
Usage (application): Strategic Performance Management, Leadership, Corporate Mission, Corporate Culture

7 Mechanisms to Change Corporate Cultures

Management can choose from this menu of actions to change a problematic corporate culture:
1. Making a compelling case for why the organi...
Usage (application): Change Management, Organizational Change, Culture Change

The Importance of Culture in Organizational Performance

John Connolly, former CEO of Deloitte UK, argues that one of the most critical determinants of organizational performance is culture. Culture refers t...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture, Corporate Culture, Employee Behavior, Organizational Performance

PROs and CONs of a Strong Corporate Culture

Implementing a significant change is generally easier when the corporate culture is not strong. By strong Corporate Culture is meant that values an...
Usage (application): Corporate Culture Change, Change Management, Organizational Change

Resources - Three Levels of Culture Premium

Organizational Culture and Critical Theory, Including Schein

A detailed presentation, explaining Organizational Culture and Critical Culture.
A description of Organizational Culture is given, explain...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture

Management Across Cultures: Managing in a Global Context

This presentation consist of six sections that together form an extensive description of management across cultures. These six sections are ordered as...
Usage (application): Cross-Cultural Management, Cultural Dimensions, Cultural Intelligence, Multicultural Teams, Global Leadership, Global HR

Edgar Schein on the Role of Macro and Micro Cultures in Corporations

Interview with Professor Emeritus, MIT, Edgar Schein on corporate cultures in which he explains that we need to increasingly consider national and voc...
Usage (application): Appreciating the Role of National and Occupational Cultures in Corporate Cultures

Reasons for Merger Failures

This paper by Albert Banal_estanol and Jo Seldeslachts proposes an explanation as to why some mergers fail, based on the interaction between the pre-m...
Usage (application): mergers, synergies, information, uncertainty, organizational culture

Organizational Culture and Effectiveness:Can American Theory Be Applied in Russia?

This paper by Carl F. Fey and Daniel R. Denison examines the link between organizational culture and effectiveness for foreign-owned firms operating i...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture, Effectiveness, Russia, Transition Economies

Introduction to Organizational Culture and Climate

Presentation about organizational culture and climate, including the following sections:
1. Learning objectives
2. Basic terms
3. Selec...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture, Organizational Climate

Building the Helping Relationship

Superb article by MIT Professor and OD consultant Edgar H. Schein in which he concludes that:
"... The decisive factor as to whether or not help ...
Usage (application): 10 Principles for Facilitative Consultancy

Organizational Cuture and Relationship Skills

While both the strategic management and the network literature recognize the importance of inter-firm relationships for explaining competitive advanta...
Usage (application): Corporate culture, alliances

What is Corporate Culture? 4 CEOs Share their Views

Arkadi Kuhlman (ING), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Bernie Marcus (Home Depot), Shelly Lazarus (Ogilvy & Maher) share their views on corporate cultures.
Usage (application): Corporate Culture, Organization Culture, Organizational Culture, Starter for Training / Workshop

Corporate Diversity and Inclusion

In this introduction video, top managers of Skanska share their vision on Diversity and Inclusion and the strategic importance of these concepts for t...
Usage (application): Cross Functional Team, Organizational Culture, Globalization, Organizational Change, HRM, Cultural Dimensions

The Characteristics of a High Performance Organisation

Under the pressure of ever increasing demands of the external environment and stakeholders, organizations are more and more looking for the elements t...
Usage (application): Characteristics, Core Competence, Corporate Culture

Culture, Cultural Competence, Cultural Intelligence and the CQ

This presentation is a good introduction to culture and contains three large sections: Culture, Cultural Competenence and Cultural Intelligence and th...
Usage (application): Cultural Intelligence

Introduction to Organizational Culture

Daniel Denison explains what an organizational culture is and why this own unique identity matters to an organization. He stresses it is important to ...
Usage (application): Initial Understanding of Organizational Culture and Why it Matters to an Organization

Organizational Culture and Leadership

Comprehensive presentation by W. Baker-Thompson, explaining the concept of Organizational Culture according to Schein with some good slides.
It h...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture, Leadership

Three Levels of Culture Diagram

Download and edit this 12manage PowerPoint graphic for limited personal, educational and business use. Republishing in intranets, websites, books, ma...
Usage (application): Organizational Culture


Culture Levels


Culture Schein


Culture Levels


Culture Schein


Culture Levels


Culture Schein


Culture Levels


Culture Schein

Compare with Three Levels of Culture:  Contingency Theory  |  Change Management Iceberg  |  Culture Types  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Change Phases  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Core Group Theory  |  Spiral of Silence  |  Groupthink  |  Planned Behavior  |  Knowledge Management (Collison & Parcell)  |  Organizational Memory  |  Organizational Learning  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Cultural Intelligence  |  Forget Borrow Learn

Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Ethics & Responsibility  |  Human Resources  |  Leadership  |  Strategy

More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Special Interest Group Leader

You here

About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us | Privacy | Terms of Service
Copyright 2017 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 24-6-2017. All names tm by their owners.