The four faces of organizational culture

Bruce Fortado (Department of Management, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA)
Paul Fadil (Department of Management, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Publication date: 27 July 2012



The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast four different views of organizational culture. Specifically, it will compare the human relations view of culture with three more “modern” perspectives to determine whether the meaning and the research methods associated with this phenomenon has shifted over time.


Each face of organizational culture research (human relations; software of the mind; process consultation; and appreciative inquiry) are described and critiqued. Methods utilized by researchers in their respective eras are compared and contrasted.


In comparing the human relations approach to defining and researching organizational culture with the three more modern faces, one thing has become apparent: the meaning of culture, over time, has changed. It has become less a permanent, manifested phenomena, and more of a manipulable asset. It is assumed that cultures can be molded quickly and easily into whatever the organizations need. Additionally, the methods for researching organizational culture today are much shallower, as surveys continue to replace in‐depth interviews and long‐term observations. The multidimensional levels of culture require researchers to explore this phenomenon's varying depths, not just at the shallowest plane.

Research limitations/implications

The main research contribution of this article is that it is a true historical account of organizational culture thought going all the way back to the Hawthorne studies. It also highlights the research methods in this important area and calls for attention to historical rigor.


This paper fulfills the need to compare and contrast organizational culture paradigms and formally critique the current research methodology in the organizational culture field.



Fortado, B. and Fadil, P. (2012), "The four faces of organizational culture", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 283-298.

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