PB457      Half Unit
Organisational Culture

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Thomas Reader QUE.3.10


This course is available on the MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (Organisational Behaviour), MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Students from the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology will be prioritised for the course, because the half-unit is associated with this MSc. 

Course content

The course aims to introduce to students the concept of Organisational Culture, its relationship with success and failure in institutional settings, the factors that shape organisational culture, and methodologies for studying and changing it. The course will draw on a mixture of seminal research, state-of-the-art literature, and work 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 upon the organisations they have worked or studied within, and to consider where they might ‘fit’ within the academic models being presented. We will also focus on assessing organisational culture. Specifically, 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, and in particular, research being conducted at LSE on unobtrusively measuring culture.

Part 2: What creates an organisational culture? Here, the course will examine more precisely how organisational culture influences behaviour and performance. 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. We will consider, in particular, how culture emerges in groups, how leaders can influence organisational culture, and also the interaction between national culture and organisational culture. Case studies will be drawn on to illustrate.

Part 3. Changing organisational culture. Here, we consider how culture change emerges. 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 measurement and change strategy for their organisation.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Students will prepare for the summative assignment through a formative essay, which is a plan of the larger essay. This involves: i) considering the relevance of organisational culture to their own (or a relevant) intuition, ii) designing a culture measurement battery, and iii) outlining a culture change strategy. Students will also engage in seminar tasks (e.g. producing culture change strategies), that will contribute to their formative learning.

Indicative reading

  • Barney, J. B. (1986). Organisational culture: can it be a source of sustained competitive advantage? Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 656-665.
  • Hartnell, C. A., Ou, A. Y., & Kinicki, A. (2011). Organisational culture and organisational 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 organisational practices and theories. Journal of international business studies, 14(2), 75-89.
  • Hofstede, G., Neuijen, B., Ohayv, D. D., & Sanders, G. (1990). Measuring organisational cultures: A qualitative and quantitative study across twenty cases. Administrative Science Quarterly, 286-316.
  • O'Reilly, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and organisational culture: A profile comparison approach to assessing person-organisation fit. Academy of management journal, 34, 487-516.
  • 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). Organisational culture and leadership (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Schneider, B., Ehrhart, M. G., & Macey, W. H. (2013). Organisational climate and culture. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 361-388.
  • Scott, T., Mannion, R., Davies, H., & Marshall, M. (2003). The quantitative measurement of organisational culture in health care: a review of the available instruments. Health services research, 38(3), 923-945.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the period between LT and ST.

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

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills