City Research Online

Managing long-lasting cultural changes

Canato, A. & Ravasi, D. (2015). Managing long-lasting cultural changes. Organizational Dynamics, 44(1), pp. 75-82. doi: 10.1016/j.orgdyn.2014.11.009


Research on cultural change has produced mixed results. Some studies celebrate the capacity of charismatic and visionary leaders to carry out rapid transformations in organizational norms and values. Other studies warn us that these changes may be short-lived: organizations tend to resist cultural change, and when coercive pressure from the top is relaxed, they often revert to traditional patterns of behavior.

Our longitudinal study of the implementation of Six Sigma at 3M suggests that organizational cultures may be simultaneously more and less receptive to long-lasting changes that currently believed. When asked to behave in ways that conflict with the usual “way we do things around here” employees may accept to revise their beliefs and habits if they experience changes as offering superior solutions to their problems. They will do so, however, only to the extent that changes are not perceived as threatening deeply-held, emotionally-laden “core” values, that they perceive as foundational, enduring and distinctive for the organization.

Our observations suggest a multi-layered conceptualization of organizational culture according to their relative malleability of its elements. They remind organizational leaders about the importance of assessing whether the changes that they envision will simply enrich the cultural repertoire of the organization or will require modifications in the widely-accepted, but not deeply-held beliefs and norms of behavior, or may challenge the core values that define the very identity of the organization and its members.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2015, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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