Friday, June 22, 2012

Organizational Culture and Change

Meyerson and Martin (1987) view organizations as cultures in which organizational change incorporates "changes in patterns of behavior, values, and meanings (p. 624). From their research, Meyerson and Martin (1987) identified three paradigms of organizational culture: integration, differentiation, and ambiguity.

Paradigm 1: Integration

Integration views of organizational culture identifies with those views that are shared: "for example, a common language, shared values, or an agreed-upon set of appropriate behaviors" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 624). Through an exhaustive search of cultural studies and theories, Meyerson and Martin (1987) identified three common characteristics for integration cultural theories: "consistency across cultural manifestations, consensus among cultural members, and -usually- a focus on leaders as culture creators" (p. 625). An integration culture would be found in most organizations that operate in a traditional top-down, controllable, manner.

Paradigm 2: Differentiation

Differentiation theories of organizational culture espouse diversity, where attention is paid to "inconsistencies, lack of consensus, and non-leader-centered sources of cultural content" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 630). Where an integrated culture is more closed, a differentiation culture is more open, influenced from both inside and outside influences (Meyerson & Martin, 1987). A differentiation culture would be found in organizations that operate with a flat or horizontal hierarchy, allowing more decisions to be made from front-line employees.

Paradigm 3: Ambiguity

Where paradigm 1, integration, resists ambiguity due to its rigidity, paradigm 2, differentiation, is more open to ambiguity so that it can be managed. For paradigm 3, ambiguity is accepted as "the way things are, as the 'truth', not as a temporary state awaiting the discovery of 'truth'" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 637). An ambiguity culture would be found in organizations that operate on a network theory or a complexity theory model.

Organizations address culture differently, partly based on the type of environment they operate in. Weick and Sutcliffe (2007) recommended to make your organization as complex as the environment - the more complex the environment, the more complex the organizational system will need to be in order to function accordingly. 

No one organization operates completely in one paradigm, there are usually portions of each type of paradigm present in any organization. When addressing change, it is recommended to view the change effort from each of the three paradigms rather than solely from one paradigm. As Meyerson and Martin (1987) pointed out: "An awareness of all three paradigms simultaneously would avoid the usual blind spots associated with any single perspective" (p. 643).


Meyerson, D., & Martin, J. (1987). Cultural change: An integration of three different views. Journal of Management Studies, 24(6), 623-647. Retrieved from

Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing The Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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