Organizational Culture Change: Theory and Practice

Course Details

DYNM 661: Organizational Culture Change: Theory and Practice

Program Information

This is a Graduate course that satisfies the following requirements:
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Course Information

The importance of organizational culture as a factor that can influence organizational performance either positively or negatively gained renewed attention beginning in the mid-1990s. The success of high-profile firms with "quirky cultures" like Ben & Jerry's, the entrepreneurial cultures of high tech firms that countered the cultures of traditional corporations, a recognition that organizational culture can be a major factor in organizational performance and the related emergence of "high performance organizations", acknowledgment that organization culture can trump the implementation of organizational strategy, differences in values of workers from different generations, competition among companies to attract the best employees, and the failure of many once-promising mergers and acquisitions all pointed to the importance of understanding and intentionally managing organizational culture.

This course will address many of the major debates about organizational culture as well as provide students with tools for better assessing and understanding organizational culture and managing culture change. Course material and discussions will consistently address issues related to both theory and practice. The course will begin by engaging the debate about how to define organizational culture and what key factors determine culture. We will explore different models of categorizing cultures, examine the implications of different conceptual models of culture for diagnosing culture, and consider the usefulness of a variety of tools for diagnosing culture. We will discuss the extent to which there is any solid evidence that culture is really related to performance as well as explore factors that may modify any culture/performance relationship. During this section of the course we will describe, compare, and contrast the cultures of different organizations--both those of the class participants and those of other organizations.

We will begin the second section of the course by examining both the theoretical and applied literature on organizational culture change. One of the central questions in the organizational culture debate is whether a culture, particularly of a large organization, really can be changed significantly. After developing a generic framework for the culture change process, we will read cases describing culture change efforts and hear from guest speakers who will discuss specific culture change efforts, successful and not. From this base, students will derive and articulate models of culture change. In addition, this section of the course will introduce students to specific organizational intervention strategies that can be used to facilitate culture change. In particular, we will discuss traditional top-down change strategies, Real Time Strategic Change, Appreciative Inquiry, and approaches to culture change in mergers and acquisitions.

During the last section of the course, the class will discuss individual, personal change management as a major factor in successful organizational change; other factors that are essential in most successful culture change efforts; barriers that can be expected; predictable but unintended side-effects of culture change efforts; and strategies for overcoming barriers and managing potential side-effects. Finally, students in this class will apply what they have learned about organizational culture change to their own organizations.


  • Attendance. Much of the learning that students will gain from this course will come from class discussions. Therefore, students who miss more than one class will fail to meet the course requirements and will not be eligible to pass the course. On the other hand, I am hopeful that most students will not find it necessary to miss any of the classes. Attendance at the first class is essential; since this is a course concerned with organizational culture, we will be attending to our own culture as a class and the first class is very important in establishing our culture.
  • Papers. This course will involve 3 papers. Details will be discussed in class.


Readings will be assigned from:

  • Schein, Edgar (2004). Organizational Culture and Leadership. Third edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Bridges, William (1992). Managing Transitions. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
  • Schein, Edgar (1999). The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Alvesson, Mats (2002). Understanding Organizational Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
  • Quinn, Robert (1996). Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Duck, Jeanie Daniel (2001). The Change Monster, New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Bulkpack