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The Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate.

The Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate. Neal Ashkanasy, Celeste Wilderom, and Mark Peterson, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.627 pp. $99.95.

The International Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate. Cary L. Cooper, Sue Cartwright, and R Christopher Earley, eds. New York: Wiley, 2001. 620 pp. $145.00.

When two 600-page handbooks appear within one year with nearly identical titles, it must mean something. But what? This review considers the content and contributions of these two handbooks while trying to interpret what they tell us about the current state of research on organizational culture and climate. I'll get one possible difference between the two books out of the way at the beginning: although the word "international" appears in the title of the Cooper handbook, and despite the publisher's claim on the back cover that this is the "first truly international book on the subject of culture and climate in organizations," the content doesn't bear this out. Both books are highly international, with Cooper presenting a predominantly Anglo-American collection, while Ashkanasy adds more representation from Israel, Canada, and Australia.

Both handbooks include contributions by well-known authors and are divided into five or six topical sections. Together, these handbooks represent a valuable resource for scholars working in this area. The 60 chapters, 110 authors, and over 150 pages of references make these books attractive acquisitions. Like most handbooks, they both provide a current definition of the field by their coverage and the issues they address. Like many handbooks, they also suffer from a lack of integration and leave it to the reader to knit it all together. There are some areas of concentration that are unique to each book, but many of the chapters could be interchanged without notice.

Both of these collections comment on a problematic pair of concepts--culture and climate--that have been debated for many years (Denison, 1996). Why does this collection of authors choose to work under the culture or climate umbrella? What binds them together? I would argue that despite all the paradigm wars over epistemology between climate and culture researchers, the authors in this handbook are bound together by an interest in what might called the "social context of organizational life." In these two handbooks, this common interest seems to have gotten the upper hand, perhaps for the first time.

The Ashkanasy, Wilderom, and Peterson Handbook

The Ashkanasy handbook begins with contributions by Andrew Pettigrew, Ben Schneider, and Edgar Schein, followed by an introduction by the three editors. These provide some of the best insights in either volume for those who wish to understand the evolution of the field. Pettigrew quite correctly grounds climate in the tradition of Lewinian field theory and quantitative methods of the 1950s and 1960s and grounds culture in the social constructionist perspective that grew from a period of social reconstruction during the 1980s and 1990s when Western businesses faced the profound challenges of global competition. Schneider notes that he is perplexed by "the denial of the contributions of climate research by many culture scholars" (p. xviii). This denial can be explained in part through the wise words of my early mentor, Stanley Seashore, who advised that "all concepts are political events." For those unfamiliar with the history, the climate and culture literatures have evolved through a typical life-and-death struggle for academic shelf space. In the early 1980s, in a well-organized effort, the qualitative social constructionists seized a small stronghold on the logical positivist mainland and named it culture. Burying the previous pretenders to the throne didn't take long. Alfred North Whitehead made the same point in a different way when he said, "... a science that hesitates to forget its founders is lost" (Kuhn, 1996: 138). Scientific progress is not always pretty or fair.

Schein agrees that contexts may be conceptualized as "climates" but argues convincingly that when we attempt to change a context, we need to understand much more than just the dimensions that describe the context. For Schein, the need to create constructive change is one of the foundations of his continued emphasis on understanding the deeper levels of culture. His commentary also initiates a discussion of the values perspective, which continues throughout both of these volumes. He refers us back to Kluckholn and Strodtbeck's (1961) work on comparative values and asks why this work has not been more influential. After reading the collected chapters in both books, I see the issue a bit differently. The values perspective is alive and well and indeed is one of the most attractive paths of inquiry for future researchers.

Ashkanasy, Wilderom, and Peterson's introductory chapter argues that the culture topic has become a useful cross-disciplinary meeting ground to develop the influence of an anthropological perspective on organization studies, psychology, and sociology. Values, symbols, actions, cognitions, emotions, meanings, and history are all fair game. Their introductory remarks also direct our attention to the values perspective as a point of view that is important for both the culture and climate literatures.

Part 1 focuses on basic perspectives in the literature and begins with Ben Schneider, David Bowen, Mark Ehrhart, and Karen Holcombe's application of the climate logic to understanding service dynamics. This chapter is an integrative and useful extension of earlier work in this area. Richard Stackman, Craig Pinder, and Patrick Connor follow with a well-crafted articulation of the values perspective that I believe is so essential to a mid-level treatment of both culture and climate. This piece seldom mentions culture or climate, but it stands as a valuable resource to those working in both perspectives. In the next chapter, Jean and Albert Mills explore the gendering of organizational cultures, emphasizing that cultures are not just a list of factors but are "an explanation of what causes them [the factors] to cohere in the first place" (p. 57). This is followed by Anat Rafaeli and Monica Worline's inspired analysis of the treatment of symbols in organizational culture. They argue that symbols--"things that stand for ideas"--are indicators of dynamics that are not easily changed. Symbols are linked: when some are present, we expect others to be present, and that pattern of linkages defines our worldview. Like the earlier chapter on the values perspective, this treatment of symbols is a useful resource for culture and climate researchers alike.

Next, Marc Tyrell considers the world of cyberspace by examining job-search chat rooms and considering how communities and territories are established in this new medium. Mark Peterson and Peter Smith follow with a chapter on sensemaking, arguing that "talking about organizational culture has become a way of talking about sense-making" (p. 101). This chapter explores how intra- and extraorganizational contexts, like nations, structures, institutions, and roles, create meaning. The final chapter in this section is Allen Bluedorn's review of the treatment of time, particularly the conceptualization and measurement of monochronicity and polychronicity.

Part 2 focuses on the measurement and outcomes of culture and climate. Neil Ashkanasy, Lydelle Broadfoot, and Sarah Falkus begin by acknowledging the value of qualitative methods but characterize them as complex, expensive, and time-consuming. With this simple and persuasive rationale, the authors then review 18 quantitative measures of organizational culture and provide more support for the utility of measuring culture from the values perspective. Their chapter is followed by Rob Cooke and Janet Szumal's detailed description of the Organizational Culture Inventory (Cooke and Lafferty, 1986), one of the first widely used organizational culture surveys.

Roy Payne's chapter is a discussion of the evolution of the climate and culture literatures, followed by a presentation of his own perspective, based on the pervasiveness, depth, and intensity of organizational cultures. The next two chapters consider the implications for performance. Jack Wiley and Scott Brooks present their own view on the climate perspective, while Celeste Wilderom, Ursula Glunk, and Ralf Maslowski comment on the promises and pitfalls of ten empirical studies of culture and performance and offer their advice for future researchers. These two chapters, taken together, are a good resource for researchers interested in the impact that climate and culture have on business performance. Part 2 ends with Martin Kilduff and Kevin Corley's chapter, applying the social network perspective to understand culture and social capital using Martin's (1992) well-known framework of integration, differentiation, and fragmentation.

The topics of culture and climate have always been closely linked to change. Part 3 explores this topic with six chapters. John Michela and Warner Burke's chapter contrasts a "climate for quality" with a "culture of quality" and applies Burke and Litwin's, Kilwin's, and Bartunek's models of quality transformation. I only wish that they had applied these perspectives to the dominant contemporary approach to quality, Six Sigma.

A chapter by Mary Jo Hatch compares her own well-known work on the dynamics of change (Hatch, 1993) with the perspective taken by Weber (1964) in his work on the routinization of charisma. Ray Zammuto, Blair Gifford, and Eric Goodman's chapter applies Quinn's (1988) competing values model to understand the unintended consequences of a transformation in health care. Vijay Sathe and Jane Davidson then apply Lewin's (1951) change paradigm of unfreezing, moving, and refreezing to understand incremental and transformational change. Keith Markus's chapter explores a powerful idea: that the real role of culture is not to create change amid stability but to create stability amid change. Turning conventional wisdom on its head gives equal weight to the reproduction of culture creating stability and change. Part 3 ends with a discussion by Yaakov Weber of how to measure cultural fit in mergers and acquisitions.

Chapters in part 4 use culture and climate to understand people's attachment to organizations. This section begins with Jan Beyer, David Hannah, and Laurie Milton's discussion of "the ties that bind." This chapter provides a great review of the link between culture and commitment, but I found it most useful for its sharp analysis of the definitional complexity of the field and its plea for greater reflexivity between levels of analysis. For example, in reviewing Geertz's (1973) discussion of symbol vs. cognition, the authors ask how symbols could exist without cognition, or vice versa. As another example, in Schein's (1985) discussion of deep and superficial levels of culture, reflexivity suggests that links across levels may be more important than arguing for the preeminence of one level of analysis over another. Turo Virtahen then continues several of these themes by carefully linking the commitment literature to culture and climate issues. Part 4 ends with Debra Major's review of the literature on newcomer socialization in high-performance cultures and Hugh Gunz's analysis of the impact that cultures have on careers. This section presents several useful contributions to the commitment literature but also includes several chapters that nicely integrate social context and commitment, building on the concept of structuration (Giddens, 1979). As Gunz puts it, "... cultures produce careers ... and careers, in turn, produce cultures" (p. 381).

In part 5, on international perspectives, Mary Yoko Brannen and Jill Kleinberg analyze the value of the culture perspective in understanding images of Japanese management drawn from their studies of Japanese-American and Japanese-German organizations. Geert Hofstede and Mark Peterson focus on the intersection between national culture and organizational culture. They conclude, in part, that values should be the focus of culture studies at the national level, while organizational practices should be the focus at the organizational level. Lilach Sagiv and Shalom Schwartz argue in their chapter on national culture that "values are the heart of culture" and present their own dimensions of national culture, tested with over 600,000 teachers. Their approach is an alternative to Hofstede's dimensions and is used to understand the link between national culture and role stress. Greg Rose, Lynn Kahte, and Aviv Shoham follow with their contrast of the national differences between "role relaxed" and "role rigid" societies, analyzed from a social values perspective. A chapter from the GLOBE project (House et al., 1999) focuses on some of the key methodological lessons from conducting that massive investigation. This section ends with a chapter by Joseph Soeters analyzing "uniformed" organizations, such as the military and police across cultures, and one by Cherlyn Granrose, Qiang Huang, and Elena Reigadas on the role of transformational leadership in Chinese organizations.

And then it ends. I kept looking for a summary chapter highlighting the implications of this work for the past, present, and future. Nonetheless, Ashkanasy, Wilderom, and Peterson have provided us with a useful view of the field that is both historical and contemporary. The contributions outline the historical origins and debates but also show that this field is diverse and growing. The climate perspective is a prevalent part of the discussion, and there is real concern about integration. The divisive paradigm wars of the past seem to have given way to healthy underlying tensions and reflect some of the critical issues in organizational studies itself.

The values perspective appears in this handbook in many ways, shapes, and forms. I would argue that it offers a useful mid-level approach to the study of culture that allows for comparative research but does not deny the more unique insights that link underlying assumptions and superficial artifacts and symbols. In addition, the comparative values approach fits well with the climate perspective and provides an attractive foundation for integration. Beyer's concept of reflexivity is also echoed in a number of the chapters, reminding us that linkages across conceptual levels are often more fruitful than arguments about which conceptual level should predominate.

The Cooper, Cartwright, and Earley Handbook

The Cooper handbook begins with a brief overview, followed by the first section on conceptual issues and perspectives, edited by Chris Earley. A chapter by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones describes their model of the solidarity and sociability of cultures and the dynamics of networked, communal, fragmented, and mercenary culture types (Goffee and Jones, 1998). Mary Zellmer, Cristina Gibson, and Ray Aldag's chapter on time perspectives in organizations makes a nice complement to Bluedorn's chapter in the first handbook, in that it emphasizes a very different aspect of the time perspective--the clock speed and pace of work in high-velocity organizations. Christina Butler and Chris Earley's chapter is a treatment of the "duality of structure," whereby individual actors both influence and are influenced by social structures (Giddens, 1979). They also introduce an interesting perspective on the production of culture, which they call the "colonization of the future."

Section 2 addresses issues of assessment and research methods. Section Editor Paul Sparrow begins with a chapter on diagnostics and high-performance cultures that reviews a number of instruments and several studies of the linkage between organizational culture and performance. Roy Payne, the only author who contributed to both handbooks, follows with a chapter that uses his three-dimensional model of culture to track change. Kate Mackenzie Davey and Gillian Symon turn our attention to qualitative research approaches and argue that the definition of qualitative is in fact quite problematic in the literature. They advocate approaches such as the role-construct repertory grid (Stewart and Stewart, 1981), which allows for the definition of unique sets of concepts that characterize individuals' roles. Sonja Sackman's chapter considers both the value and the limitations of qualitative methods. She argues persuasively that the specific issues under consideration determine the appropriate methods and that qualitative methods have arisen out of a concern with understanding the meaning that actors give to their actions. Iva Smit's chapter completes this section with an application of Parsons' (1951) model to analyze an industrial enterprise based in the Netherlands.

Section 3, edited by Jennifer Chatman, delves into the link between individuals and organizations and, at least on the surface, has several similarities with the section on commitment in the first handbook. A fascinating chapter by Richard Harrison and Glenn Carroll, on modeling the impact of demographic factors and influence networks on organizational form, produces some intriguing findings, despite the abstract and quantitative nature of the assumptions and their implications. For example, their findings show that inequality increases uniformity. Despite its modeling origins, this proposition alone could keep several postmodern theorists going for a long time.

Benjamin Hermalin's chapter considers organizational culture within the discipline of economics. He argues that one of the main virtues of culture is that it increases the predictability of the actions of others in situations in which available choices are equivocal in terms of economic reasoning. Next, Francis Flynn and Jennifer Chatman present a discussion of the concept of a "strong culture" and the implications that this has for innovation. Like several other authors (e.g., Saffold, 1988), they point out that the concept has two quite different meanings: one refers to a "positive" culture, while the other refers to a "cohesive" culture. One meaning has to do with the content of the norms and values, and the other has to do with the uniformity with which they are held. This is one of the most valuable chapters in the handbook and should be read carefully by everyone who dares to use the concept of a strong culture. This section closes with a chapter by Elizabeth Mannix, Sherry Thatcher, and Karen Jehn that focuses on how norms form and the consequences of heterogeneity for the formation of cultures.

Section 4, on culture and change, is edited by Tom Cummings and begins with a chapter by David Nadler, Peter Thies, and Mark Nadler that offers a useful set of lessons from some of the field's most talented practitioners. These authors warn against programmatic approaches focusing on culture change for the sake of culture change and encourage readers to pick leverage points to change the organizational context in ways that will influence business performance. They offer one final piece of advice: start at the top! Craig Lundberg's chapter advocates a social-rules perspective for working across levels of culture from deep assumptions to visible artifact. Like Jan Beyer, in the Ashkanasy handbook, Lundberg is an advocate of reflexivity. Many of the themes from Nadler and Lundberg's chapter are continued in my own chapter on how culture can be used as a point of leverage in driving organizational change. This chapter presents three case studies on American and European firms, using a diagnostic model developed from my research on organizational culture and effectiveness (Denison, 1990; Denison and Mishra, 1995).

Section 5, edited by Nigel Holden, delves into the international dimension. Charles Tackney's analysis of the evolution of the Japanese lifetime employment system and the impact it has on Japanese management is followed by Anna Zarkada-Fraser's analysis of the role of stereotypes in international business, in which she advocates viewing stereotypes as points of reference that provide at least a kernel of truth. Gilbert's chapter on the changes in central and eastern Europe uses some of the ideas developed by Hofstede (1980) and Trompenaars (1993), focusing on the role of national culture in shaping organizational cultures. Nigel Holden and Dorte Salskov-Iversen's chapter traces the emergence of a global mindset, amid massive uncertainty about the ultimate direction globalization will take, using two case studies from NovoNordisk and Matsushita. Marie-Therese Claes's chapter is a useful review of the literature on cross-cultural communication. It emphasizes several important dimensions of culture that influence communication: high context/low context, formal/informal, and direct/indirect. Gerhard Fink and Wolfgang Mayrhofer's chapter reviews the culture literature from a multidisciplinary perspective, tracing the multiple influences of law, sociology, psychology, economics, linguistics, and history. The final chapter in this section is Jan Ulijn and Mattieu Weggeman's entertaining look at the influence of national culture on innovation. Noting that it is common among Europeans to joke that the ideal firm would have "Italian or French design, German manufacturing, and British or American marketing," these authors identify four different approaches to innovation, rooted in different national cultures, and examine these ideas in a case study of Indonesian engineers in a Dutch company.

The final section of the Cooper handbook, edited by William Starbuck, focuses on the future. Philippe Baumard and William Starbuck argue that in the future, cultures may be a bigger determinant of organizational form than strategy and structure were in the paradigm of the twentieth century. Harrison McKnight and Jane Webster present another vision of the future in their analysis of "awareness monitoring systems," video systems that allow the real-time monitoring of colleagues in another location. They ask if these systems are providing collaborative insights or if they are an invasion of privacy (the answer is yes). Their analysis highlights the impact of influences from multiple locations on the evolution of an organization's culture and of the importance of a climate of trust. Several of these themes are continued in the following chapter by Narayan Pant and Kulwant Singh. In their treatment of the issues associated with diversity and effectiveness from a Singaporean perspective, they show how four trends push business toward greater diversity: globalization, the proliferation of customer choices, the broadening distribution of development and wealth leading to more experimentation, and the reduction of geographic distance as a major factor in the cultural influences that come together in an organization.

The final two chapters consider the world of virtual organizations. Roger Dunbar and Raghu Garud consider how communities of practice evolve on line among telecommuters. They note that the de-centering caused by having no physical place where the organization is created can have a disorienting impact. They also remind us that cultural evolution is now proceeding at a rate much faster than biological evolution. Finally, Bo Hedberg and Christian Maravelias use the case example of Skandia AFS, a financial services firm with 3,600 employees, but with 109,000 partners in 29 countries on five continents as a visionary example of an "imaginary" (i.e., virtual) organization. They cite one key competitive advantage to this organizational form: reacting quickly.

The Cooper handbook is more diverse than the Ashkanasy handbook from a disciplinary perspective but is also less well integrated. It is less concerned with the broad range of culture and climate issues than the title might suggest. Nearly all of the authors are working under the culture umbrella, and their contributions show relatively little interest in the Lewinian traditions that have provided both the foundation and the foil for the development of the culture perspective. But this does not detract in any way from the many high-quality contributions that provide a complementary set of resources for culture researchers. The section on methods, for example, provides much more focus on the evolution of qualitative approaches than the Ashkanasy handbook. Finally, this handbook shows that the diversity of viewpoints flourishing within the culture arena remains an impressive source of vitality.

If you are interested in the influence that social contexts have in organizations and find yourself tempted to say, "No one has really addressed this issue," you need to take a look at these two handbooks. They provide a range of background and coverage that is unprecedented in the culture literature and takes us beyond provocative earlier collections, such as Frost et al. (1991). But inevitably, some of that early fire and conviction is missing. A number of those who made major contributions to the development of the culture perspective, such as Martin, Frost, Van Maanen, and Barley are sadly missing from these pages, giving both of these collections a more "mainstream" feel. We also miss the seminal perspective provided by the discipline of anthropology and the basic insights provided by viewing organizations as "corporate tribes," passing meaning and survival skills to the next generation (Wilcock, 1984, 2003). Perhaps now that the foundation has been clearly articulated, the revolution can begin again!


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Daniel Denison

International Institute for Management Development

Lausanne, Switzerland
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Author:Denison, Daniel
Publication:Administrative Science Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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