Emil Păun and Anca Nedelcu

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II. 1. Conceptual remarks

Studies on organizational culture are not only very recent, but also relatively few in number. As for the field of organizational culture, there are even fewer studies.

Organizational culture, as a term, comes from the anthropologic culture concept, taken as an entire set of values, beliefs, norms and social behaviors of individuals and groups, as a system of cultural consensus (ways of thinking and being), that serve as base for various specific expressions. Most definitions of organizational culture include basic culture elements, without presenting major differences in fundamental aspects.

Organizational culture was given numerous definitions.

  • Symbols, celebrations and myths expressing basic values and beliefs of an organization and its members (W. Ouchi).
  • Beliefs shared by managers of an organization (J. Lorsch).
  • Traditions and beliefs of an organization that differentiate it from other organizations and provide it with stability (H. Mintzberg).
  • A pattern of beliefs and expectations shared by the organization personnel, norms that describe their behavior. (H. Schwartz, S. Davies).
  • The philosophies, ideologies, values, beliefs, assumptions, expectations, attitudes and norms shared by the organization personnel. (D. Hellriegel).

We consider the definition presented by E. Schein to be the most precise and comprehensive one: “a number of solutions that proved to be effective so as to become components in an organization, to be conveyed to new ones as correct ways of perception, thinking and action”.

Which are the recurrent elements in all previous definitions?  Beliefs, values, norms or regulations, attitudes and behaviors shared by the organization personnel can be found in most definitions, being the core of the organizational culture concept. Another important aspect is that organizational culture represents a reference system for organization identity. All its elements are expressed in a manner that is specific for each organization, although it starts from a common base. This is why we can say that the values, the beliefs and the norms it contains are the result of subjective meanings and connotations organization personnel gives to various aspects and situations the organization is confronted with on a daily basis.

Eventually, an essential aspect is the loyalty its members show towards the organizational culture, confirmed by the way in which they share its beliefs and values, a phenomenon reflected in the respective organization ethos.

The increasing interest for organizational culture studies is generated by the existence of a vital variable – the culture – involved in the change, innovation and development process taking place in an organization.

The sources of change in an organization can be external (social pressure) or internal (internal constructive energy). To produce the desired changes, external pressure needs to be assimilated by the organization. Thus, culture becomes the essential “filter”, being able to facilitate and support the change, or to block and alter it.

We can talk about a development culture, taken as a set of emerging values, governed by an ethos of change and perfecting. According to this definition, culture can be perceived as a vital component in the concept of quality educational activities. We can also talk about a standstill culture – conservative, rigid, imitative.


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© Universitatea din Bucureşti 2003. All rigths reserved. No part of the text may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the University of Bucharest, except for short quotations with the indication of the website adress and the web page. This book was first published by Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti ISBN: 973-575-815-6
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