Organisational Typologies and Sub-culture

Linked with understanding the culture is a limitation on using organisational typologies such as coercive, utilitarian, normative, hierarchical, autocratic, paternalistic, consultative, participative, delegated, etc., models, ie

"...typologies can be useful if we are trying to compare many organisations but are quite useless if we are trying to understand one particular organisation......the difficulty is that within any organisational type one may see variations.......The problem is that in many organisations the subcultures conflict with each other..."

Edgar Schein, 2004

Within an organisation's culture, sub-cultures can develop; it is useful to consider 5 criteria for the differentiation of sub-cultures:

i) functional/occupational differences (different occupations have different shared assumptions because of the differing core technology used in each occupation, eg professionals such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc will differ from each other in their basic beliefs, values and underlying basic assumptions because they are doing fundamentally different things, have been trained differently, and have acquired a certain identity in practising their occupation. Another example is sales staff dealing in daily face-to-face contact with customers, whereas the marketing staff deal with the data, long-term strategy, broad concepts and sales tools such as advertising and promotional programs; this has often resulted in marketing seeing themselves as being of higher status than sales. To achieve marketing and sales co-operation requires the appropriate recognition system plus a common language and common shared experiences)

ii) geographical decentralisation (geographically dispersed customer base that needs close contact and often requires different goods and services; local cost advantages including labour, raw materials; located near suppliers; preference for locally-produced products and services)

iii) differentiation by product, market or technology (this is linked with different kinds of people with different educational levels and occupational experience being attracted to different businesses, and the interaction with the customer requires a different mindset and leads to different kinds of shared experiences)

iv) divisionalisation (this is linked with decentralising functions based on products, markets or geographical units)

v) differentiation by hierarchical level (this is based on tasks, rank, occupation and position within the hierarchy of the organisation)


" of the quickest ways of diagnosing the direction in which an organisation's culture is heading is to track the occupational and subcultural origins of the people being promoted into senior positions..."

Edgar Schein, 2004


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