How Culture Works

What is culture?

‘Culture’ is a term which has become an important part of any organisation’s vocabulary and a defining characteristic when talking about the organisation to both potential staff and customers. However, what it really means, how it works and the impact it has on performance, is often misunderstood.

At Human Synergistics, we define ‘culture’ in the organisational context as being the shared norms and expectations that govern the way people approach their work and interact with each other. Such norms and expectations shape how organisational members believe they are expected to behave in order to ‘fit it’, ‘get things done’ and at times simply ‘survive’.

Organisational culture is influenced by a variety of factors, not least the behaviour of the organisation’s leaders.  To help organisations effectively measure their culture, Human Synergistics CEO and distinguished academic Dr Robert A Cooke developed the How Culture Works model in 1997.  This identifies a total of 31 causal factors (organised into five categories), that are responsible for shaping culture and helping an organisation move from its actual culture to its preferred culture.

The model illustrates the relationships between these Causal Factors and the organisation’s actual Operating Culture, along with the Outcomes of culture at the individual, group and organisational levels.

How Culture Works


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