There are many different definitions of organizational culture, although almost all of the most widely accepted ones are similar and cover many of the same aspects.
Organizational culture refers to the general culture within a company or organization, and is often also referred to as corporate culture, though that isn't the best description since a large non-profit organization or charity could also have its own organizational culture even though they are definitely not corporations. Here are some of the many definitions of organizational culture that can be found.
Gareth Morgan has described organizational culture as: "The set of the set of beliefs, values, and norms, together with symbols like dramatized events and personalities, that represents the unique character of an organization, and provides the context for action in it and by it." Beliefs and values are words that will pop up frequently in other definitions, as well. Norms might be described as traditions, structure of authority, or routines.
Edgar Schein, another of the most famous and most respected theorists dealing with organizational culture says that the definition of organizational culture has to be general, or else you start to eliminate factors that actually are part of corporate culture.
Schein's definition of organizational culture is: "A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems that has worked well enough to be considered valid and is passed on to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems." Although the words are different, the two definitions are nearly the same in terms of content.
Another more simple way of looking at organizational culture is to view it as a group's general reaction to stimulus. An organizational culture is a group of people who have been trained, or who simply have learned by those around them, how to act in any given situation. In this way, corporate culture functions just as any social learning does.
The other aspect of organizational culture that is often true is that it becomes very deeply rooted. It is the identity of a company, and because of that, in some ways it becomes an identity of those who work there, as well. This is always important to remember, as culture becomes like a circular argument. The people end up affecting the culture as much as the culture is affecting them.
Because culture is so deeply rooted in an organizationâ€™s history of success or failure, and because of its collective experience, any organization that needs to work to change it will be facing an uphill battle and a huge investment in time, resources, and work. In this situations, it is often best to find some professional outsiders to at least help out, people who haven't been exposed and sucked into the bad habits of a dysfunctional organizational culture.
So while there are many definitions of organizational culture, all of them focus on the same points: collective experience, routine, beliefs, values, goals, and system. These are learned and re-learned, passed on to new employees, and continues on as part of a company's core identity.