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Study notes

Models of Organisational Culture - Schein

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Ed Schein is another influential writer on organisational culture. He has described organisational culture as a series of layers.

Schein - Levels of Organisational Culture

Schein described three levels of organisational culture:

Basic underlying assumptions

These are the foundations on which culture is based. Handy described this as "the ways things get done around here". The underlying assumptions are often difficult to describe, are intangible and are often only really understood by people who've become accustomed to the way the organisation works.

Imagine you are new to an organisation and you find it is taking time to "fit in". That's because you haven't yet got to grips with these underlying assumptions that those in the organisation who've been there a while seem to take for granted.

Underlying assumptions are usually invisible. You won't find them written down anywhere. People may not want to talk about them. But they exist and are often powerful.

Espoused Values

These are the public statements about what the organisational values are about. Many organisations now communicate what their "core values" are - the espoused values by which the organisation conducts its business.


Artifacts are the visible signs of an organisation's culture. They are visible; they can be seen, heard and felt. For example, what the dress code is; what kind of offices and layout is used; how employees address each other and how they communicate internally and externally.

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