PB457E      Half Unit
Organisational Culture

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Thomas Reader


This course is available on the Executive MSc in Behavioural Science. This course is not available as an outside option.


No prerequisites.

Course content

The course aims to introduce to students the concept of Organisational Culture, its relationship with behaviour in institutional settings, and methodologies for utilising this knowledge to elicit behavioural change. The course will draw on a mixture of seminal research, state-of-the-art literature, and research being conducted at the LSE. Course content will include the following:

Part 1: Organisational culture: what is it, and why does it matter? In this first phase of the course, the concept of organisational culture will be introduced. Student will be made familiar with key models on organisational culture (e.g. Schein, Hofstede, Cameron & Quinn), the distinction between organisational culture and climate, and academic literature investigating the cultural properties of organisations that lead them to be more competitive, safer, and nicer places to work. Students will be asked to reflect on the culture of their own organisation (or another that is relevant to them), and to consider where it ‘fits’ within the academic models being presented.

Part 2: What comes first: culture or behaviour? Here, the course will examine more precisely how organisational culture influences behaviour. In particular, we will examine how ‘cultures’ of decision-making, risk-taking, ethical practices, and citizenship activities emerge within organisations. Furthermore, we will examine how these behaviours in turn feed and shape the culture of an organisation. Material from the course leader’s work (in aviation, heavy industries, and finance) will be used to explore this. Students will be asked to consider how their own decision-making behaviour, and the behaviour of others, is shaped by organisational culture in their organisation.

Part 3: Measuring the intangible: assessing organisational culture. In this part of the course, we examine exactly how organisational culture can be measured. First, we will examine traditional methodologies of culture measurement: including interviews, observations, and surveys. We will explore what makes a ‘good measure’, how you interpret culture data, and the limitations of using observations from ‘within’ an organisation to measure culture. Second, we explore novel and cutting-edge forms of culture measurement. In particular, we will focus on research at the LSE exploring ‘unobtrusive indicators of culture’ (e.g. complaints, annual reports). The purpose is to reflect on the value of utilising external observations to measure culture (and the importance of this for an ‘honest’ picture). Students will be asked to design a culture measurement battery for their organisation.

Part 4: When cultures collide (and fragment). Leading from culture measurement, we examine some of the nuances around organisational culture, and in particular its contested nature. Specifically, we will draw on research examining what happens to ‘culture’ when two organisations merge together, when managers and employees strongly disagree in their view of culture (and what should be prioritised), and when a multi-national cooperation attempts to create a ‘standardised’ culture in societies that are very different. We will explore how you find common ground, and the ‘right’ culture. Students will be asked to consider examples of culture conflict (or fragmentation), and to consider why this occurred, and how it might be ameliorated.

Part 5: Changing culture and behaviour. Finally, we will consider how culture, and through this behaviour, can be changed. Specifically, we will focus on the role of leadership, regulation and policy, and collaborative activity as a catalyst to culture change. Students will be asked to design a culture change strategy for their organisation.


15 hours of lectures and 7 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

Day 1

Lecture 1: Organisational Culture: An introduction

Lecture 2: Key conceptual models of organisational culture

Seminar 1

Day 2

Lecture 3: The relationship between organisational culture and performance

Lecture 4: Organisational culture as a predictor of behaviour

Seminar 2

Day 3

Lecture 5: Traditional methodologies for measuring organisational culture (surveys, interviews)

Lecture 6: Non-traditional methodologies for measuring organisational culture (external viewpoints)

Seminar 3

Day 4

Lecture 7: Merging of organisational cultures

Lecture 8: Divergences in perspectives of organisational culture

Seminar 4

Day 5

Lecture 9: Leadership and organisational culture

Lecture 10: Policy and organisational culture

Seminar 5

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 3 brief essays in April.

Students will prepare for the summative assignment through a series of three formative tasks undertaken during seminars. Each formative task will comprise a brief 500-word essay on a pre-determined topic. Formative essay topics will be as follows: Essay 1) consider the relevance of organisational culture to your own (or a relevant) institution, Essay 2) design a culture measurement battery, and Essay 3) outline a culture change strategy. Students will work in groups of four to produce these outputs during seminar time, with each output being individual. Feedback on essay 1 will be verbal, summarising trends across the class. Feedback on essays 2 and 3 will be written, and particular to each essay. 

Indicative reading

Ashkanasy, N. M., Wilderom, C. P., & Peterson, M. F. (2000). Handbook of organizational culture and climate. Sage.

Barney, J. B. (1986). Organizational culture: can it be a source of sustained competitive advantage? Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 656-665.

Jacobs, R., Mannion, R., Davies, H. T., Harrison, S., Konteh, F., & Walshe, K. (2013). The relationship between organizational culture and performance in acute hospitals. Social Science & Medicine, 76, 115-125.

Hartnell, C. A., Ou, A. Y., & Kinicki, A. (2011). Organizational culture and organizational effectiveness: a meta-analytic investigation of the competing values framework's theoretical suppositions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(4), 677.

Hofstede, G. (1983). The cultural relativity of organizational practices and theories. Journal of international business studies, 14(2), 75-89.

Hofstede, G., Neuijen, B., Ohayv, D. D., & Sanders, G. (1990). Measuring organizational cultures: A qualitative and quantitative study across twenty cases. Administrative Science Quarterly, 286-316.

Leaver, T., & Reader, T. (Accepted). Safety Culture in Financial Trading: An Analysis of Trading Misconduct Investigations. Journal of Business Ethics

Martin, J. (1992). Cultures in organizations: Three perspectives. Oxford University Press. 

O'Reilly, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and organizational culture: A profile comparison approach to assessing person-organization fit. Academy of management journal, 34, 487-516.

Schein, E. H. (1984). Coming to a new awareness of organizational culture. Sloan Management Review, 25(2), 3-16. 

Reader, T., Reddy, G., & Brett, S. (2017). Impossible Decision? An investigation of risk trade-offs in the intensive care unit. Ergonomics

Reader, T., Noort, M. C., Shorrock, S., & Kirwan, B. (2015). Safety san frontières: an international safety culture model. Risk Analysis, 35, 770-789.

Reader, T., Mearns, K., Lopes, C. & Kuha, J (2017). Organisational support for workforce health and employee safety citizenship behaviours: a reciprocal relationship. Human Relations

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.

Schneider, B., Ehrhart, M. G., & Macey, W. H. (2013). Organizational climate and culture. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 361-388.

Scott, T., Mannion, R., Davies, H., & Marshall, M. (2003). The quantitative measurement of organizational culture in health care: a review of the available instruments. Health services research, 38(3), 923-945.

Webb, E., & Weick, K. E. (1979). Unobtrusive measures in organizational theory: A reminder. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4), 650-659.


Case study (100%) in the ST.

The course will be assessed through a 3000-word case study produced individually by each student. Submission of the summative assessment will be at the end of the summer term. Students will be asked to i) identify a real-life institution where organisational culture is the ‘ingredient’ for success or failure, ii) explain - using the concepts taught on the course - why this is the case (with a particular focus on behaviour), and iii) devise a strategy for measuring (and improving) culture within that organisation.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills