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Levels of The Organizational Culture

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Schein (2004) defined organizational culture based on three levels (p. 24). The levels differentiate "the degree to which the cultural phenomenon is visible to the observer" (p. 25). The levels range from visible (overt) elements of culture to elements of culture that manifest in the deep unconscious of the organization and are covert. The most visible level is the artifacts that appear first when encountering an unfamiliar organizational culture. The physical environment, language, manner of dressing, and publicly advertised stories about the organization are examples of the artifacts.

Beliefs and values at this conscious level predict the behavior at the artifacts level. The most invisible and unconscious level of culture is its underlying assumptions. Underlying assumptions represent the unconscious level of culture. Underlying assumptions result from transforming proven values into unspoken ways that members of the organization perceive and react to the organizational realities. The underlying assumptions are also the most difficult to relearn and change. Suppose the espoused beliefs and values are reasonably congruent with the underlying assumptions. They were then articulating those values into a "philosophy of operating," which leads to creating group cohesion and developing a shared mission (Schein, 2004, p. 30).

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