Three Levels of Culture

Knowledge Center

Defining organizational culture. Explanation of Levels of Culture of Edgard Schein. ('92)


  1. Summary
  2. Forum
  3. Expert Tips
  4. Resources


Why register?
Log in

Edgard Schein Three Levels of Culture Defining organizational cultureCultures surrounds us all. Cultures are deep seated, pervasive and complex.

Yet, according to Edgard Schein, we cannot understand Organizational Learning, development and planned change, unless we consider culture as the primary source of resistance to change.

Furthermore, if managers do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them. Cultural understanding is desirable for everybody, but it is essential for leaders if they are to lead.

With his Three Levels of Culture, Edgard Schein has provided an important contribution to defining what organizational culture actually is.

What are the Three Levels of Culture? Description

Schein divides organizational culture into three levels:

  1. Artifacts. These "artifacts" are at the surface, those aspects (such as dress) which can be easily discerned, but are hard to understand.
  2. Espoused Values. Beneath artifacts are "espoused values" which are conscious strategies, goals and philosophies.
  3. Basic Assumptions and Values. The core, or essence, of culture is represented by the basic underlying assumptions and values, which are difficult to discern because they exist at a largely unconscious level. Yet they provide the key to understanding why things happen in a particular way. These basic assumptions form around deeper dimensions of human existence such as the nature of humans, human relationships and activity, reality and truth.

In his 1992 classic book: "Organizational Culture and Leadership", Schein defines the culture of a group: "A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems".

In a more recent 1996 publication Schein defines organizational culture as: "the basic tacit assumptions about how the world is and ought to be that a group of people are sharing and that determines their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and, their overt behavior".

Schein (1992) acknowledges that - even with rigorous study - we can only make statements on elements of culture. We cannot explain culture in its entirety. Schein recommends the following approach for inquiring about culture: iterative, clinical, similar to a therapeutic relationship between a psychologist and a patient. The disciplined approach by Schein to culture stands in contrast to the way in which culture is treated in some of the popular management magazines.

Book: Edgard Schein - Organizational Culture and Leadership -

Three Levels of Culture Forum (13 topics) Help
  How can Organizational Culture Lead to Company Performance?
Sorensen (2000) found that if an organization maintains a strong culture by demonstrating a well integrated and effective set of specific values, beliefs, and behaviors, then it will perform at a HIGHER LEVEL OF PRODUCTIVITY.
On the other hand, ...
  The Influence of Intellectual Capital and Organizational Culture on the Management Accounting System and Company Performance
- INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL includes human capital, innovation capital, process capital, structural capital, and other different elements to create business value and improve performance (Edvinsson and Malone, Stewart, 1997, Bontis, Ross et al., 1998).
  The Distinction Between Organizational Culture and Organizational Climate
People tend to view these two concepts as the same and use them interchangeably. I believe that there is a difference between both. Could anyone please make a distinction between them?...
  How to Establish a Positive Organizational Culture?
I feel very strongly that a critical part of trying to develop a "positive" organizational culture centers around being able to establish interpersonal relationships, through a "dialogue" communication network.
Dialogue is a discipline, as well ...
  The Denison Culture Model
Caroline J. Fisher in Employment Relations Today, Summer 2000, in her article, "Like it or Not... Culture Matters" describes Denison's Culture and ...
  Organisational Structure and Design Will (Always) Influence Organisation's Culture
I have been researching the topic and quite frankly can't find any contradicting theory or thesis stating otherwise, that the org structure will not influence an organisation's culture. Any ideas?...
  Employee Culture and Organization Design
Organizations who designed themselves in accordance with their employee culture are more and more successful and long sustaining....
  Influence of External Environment on Organizational Culture
To what extend does the external environment influence the 3 levels of organizational culture?...
  Organizational Behavior and Culture
It is very important to create an environment in a company for the employees to feel not stressed and be motivated. Companies should take this seriously. Employees are human and they can work better if they feel more motivated and can take pride in t...
  Three Levels of Culture Iceberg
We have used the concept of Schein's three levels in conjunction with the 'iceberg' analogy;
Behaviour - visible, changeable
Attitudes - under the surface, may change over time,
  Three Levels of Culture by Sathe
Who actually developed the three levels of culture: is it Sathe (1985) or Schein (1992)?
According to Sathe, the three levels of Culture are:
1. Manifest level,
2. Expressed value level and
3. Basic assumptions.
They look ver...
  Innovative, Learning Organisations?
Corporate culture also influences organisational learning and innovation. An interesting opinion by Schein is that, because the very concept of the organisation involves some restriction of individual freedom to achieve a joint purpose, the concept o...
  Factors in Organizational Culture?
What main factors are making up or influencing the culture of an organization?...

Three Levels of Culture Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group

Three Levels of Culture Education & Events

Find Trainings, Seminars and Events

Expert Tips - Three Levels of Culture Premium
  Reasons for Shared Beliefs and a Homogeneous Corporate Culture - Why does Homogeneity Develop?
  Establishing an Organizational Culture of Perpetual Crisis - Corporate Culture Best Practice
  Strategies to Change Employee Habits, Hearts and Heads - Changing Organization Cultures
  Pitfalls and Best Practices in Culture Change - Changing Organizational Cultures, What to DO and what NOT
  Other Thinkers on Corporate Culture - Different Approaches
  Why is Changing an Organization Culture So Hard? The ASA Model (Schneider) - Organization Culture, Culture Change, Corporate Culture, Change Management, Recruitment
  How Culture Levels Explain Failures in Organizational Learning and Innovation - Improving Organizational Learning, Organizational Innovation, Changing Organization Cultures
  Organodynamics: the 3 Laws at the Basis of Performance in Organizations - Strategic Performance Management, Leadership, Corporate Mission, Corporate Culture
  7 Mechanisms to Change Corporate Cultures - Change Management, Organizational Change, Culture Change
  The Importance of Culture in Organizational Performance - Organizational Culture, Corporate Culture, Employee Behavior, Organizational Performance
  PROs and CONs of a Strong Corporate Culture - Corporate Culture Change, Change Management, Organizational Change

Resources - Three Levels of Culture Premium
Organizational Culture and Critical Theory, Including Schein - Organizational Culture
Management Across Cultures: Managing in a Global Context - Cross-Cultural Management, Cultural Dimensions, Cultural Intelligence, Multicultural Teams, Global Leadership, Global HR
Edgar Schein on the Role of Macro and Micro Cultures in Corporations - Appreciating the Role of National and Occupational Cultures in Corporate Cultures
Reasons for Merger Failures - mergers, synergies, information, uncertainty, organizational culture
Organizational Culture and Effectiveness:Can American Theory Be Applied in Russia? - Organizational Culture, Effectiveness, Russia, Transition Economies
Building the Helping Relationship - 10 Principles for Facilitative Consultancy
Organizational Cuture and Relationship Skills - Corporate culture, alliances
What is Corporate Culture? 4 CEOs Share their Views - Corporate Culture, Organization Culture, Organizational Culture, Starter for Training / Workshop
The Characteristics of a High Performance Organisation - Characteristics, Core Competence, Corporate Culture
Culture, Cultural Competence, Cultural Intelligence and the CQ - Cultural Intelligence
Introduction to Organizational Culture - Initial Understanding of Organizational Culture and Why it Matters to an Organization
Organizational Culture and Leadership - Organizational Culture, Leadership
Three Levels of Culture Diagram - Organizational Culture

News - Culture Levels


News - Culture Schein


Videos - Culture Levels


Videos - Culture Schein


Presentations - Culture Levels


Presentations - Culture Schein


More - Culture Levels


More - Culture Schein


Compare with Three Levels of Culture:  Contingency Theory  |  Change Management Iceberg  |  Culture Types  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Change Phases  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Core Group Theory  |  Spiral of Silence  |  Groupthink  |  Planned Behavior  |  Knowledge Management (Collison & Parcell)  |  Organizational Memory  |  Organizational Learning  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Cultural Intelligence  |  Forget Borrow Learn

Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Ethics & Responsibility  |  Human Resources  |  Leadership  |  Strategy

More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Sponsor this knowledge center

Special Interest Group Leader
Expert? Would you like to be our Levels of Culture SIG Leader?

All you need to know about management

12manage for:

Management Smart Card

12manage in:

Copyright 2014 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V12.0 - Last updated: 21-12-2014. All names tm by their owners.