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Edgar Schein's Organisational Culture Model

What is the Edgar Schein Model?

Edgar Schein believed that organisations take time to develop a culture as the employees go through various changes and adapt to the external environment and solve organisational problems.

They learn from their past experiences and start implementing practices, and collectively the employee's attitudes form the culture within the organisation.

Edgar Schein is a renowned professor at the MIT School of Management who has studied extensively in the field of organisation management.

Schein believed that there are three levels in an organisation's culture which will be outlined below.

Schein's Three Level of Organisational Culture

1. Artefacts

The first level is the characteristics of the organisation which can be easily viewed, heard and felt by individuals which are collectively known as artefacts. 

For instance, the dress code of employees, office furniture, facilities, behaviours of the employees, mission and vision of the organisation all come under artefacts and go a long way in deciding the culture of the workplace. 

Below are two examples of organisations with very different artefacts.

Organisation A

  • No one in organisation A is allowed to dress up casually.
  • Employees respect their superiors and avoid unnecessary disputes.
  • The individuals are very particular about the deadlines and ensure the tasks are accomplished within the stipulated time frame.

Organisation B

  • The employees can wear whatever they feel like.
  • Individuals in organisation B are least bothered about work and spend their maximum time loitering and gossiping around.
  • The employees use derogatory remarks at the workplace and pull each other into controversies.

In the above case, employees in organisation A wear dresses that exude professionalism and strictly follow the policies of the organisation. 

On the other hand, employees in organisation B have a laid back attitude and do not take their work seriously. 

 Organisation A follows a strict professional culture, whereas Organisation B follows a weak culture where the employees do not accept things willingly. 

Note. This is not to suggest that organisation B is to be modelled but to exemplify the impact of artefacts.

2. Values

A deeper level to the superficial artefacts that contribute to the organisational culture is the values of the company, the individuals that work there and the coherent alignment of those values. 

How employees react to situations and problems will shape the culture. What people actually think matters a lot for the organisation. The mindset of the individual associated with any particular organisation influences the culture of the workplace.

3. Assumed Values

The third level is the assumed values of the employees which can’t be measured but do make a difference to the culture of the organisation. 

There are certain beliefs and facts which stay hidden but do affect the culture of the organisation. 

The inner aspects of human nature come under the third level of organisational culture. The organisation follows certain practices which are not discussed often but understood on their own. Such rules form the third level of the organisational culture.

Organisational Culture

Ultimately, Schein stressed that cultures are not adopted by organisations in one day. Rather, they are formed through the course of time as employees undergo various changes whilst adapting to their external environment and solving problems. The culture of the workplace is formed as employees gain from their past experiences and put such learning into practice.