Edgar Schein on “A Healthy Culture”

Posted on: April 30th, 2014 by bobmorris

Schein, EdgarLong ago when first involved in efforts to help restore an ailing organization to good health, I realized that an organization is only as healthy as its people are, and, that one’s mental must be measured within four separate but interdependent dimensions: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those that are most highly regarded and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. Most of their people make sound decisions, are energetic, enthusiastic, and devoted to serving others, colleagues as well as customers. In a healthy organization, everyone thinks in terms of first-person plural pronouns.

Edgar Schein offers this comprehensive interpretative definition of culture as “the accumulated shared learning of a given group, covering behavioral, emotional, and cognitive elements of the group members’ total psychological functioning. For such learning to occur, there must be a history of shared experience that, in turn, implies some stability of membership in the group. Given such stability and a shared history, the human need for stability, consistency, and meaning will cause the various elements to form into patterns that eventually can be called a culture.”

I highly recommend Schein’s business classic, Organizational Culture and Leadership (Fourth Edition), published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (2010) and Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, published by Berrett-Koehler (2013).

Edgar Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of many articles and other books, including Helping, Process Consultation Revisited, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, DEC Is Dead Long Live DEC Organizational Culture and Leadership, and Career Anchors. He has defined the field of organizational culture and has consulted with many organizations in the United States and overseas on organizational culture, organization development, process consultation, and career dynamics. What has distinguished Schein’s work is his combination of sociology, anthropology, and social psychology.

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