What matters more? The impact of industry and organizational factors on organizational culture

Ling Yuan ( Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc. Deerfield United States )
Jia Hu ( University of Notre Dame Notre Dame United States )
Robert A. Cooke ( University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago United States )

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 3 March 2016



Writings on organizational culture suggest that cultural values and norms are influenced by factors at the organizational, industry, and societal levels. While the effects of societal and organizational factors have been researched extensively, those of industry factors have not received commensurate attention. This paper investigates the relative importance of industry versus organizational variables in explaining the cultural norms reported by individuals within organizations.


The effects of two industry characteristics, (growth rate and research and development intensity) and two sets of organizational factors (leadership behaviors and human resource practices) on the strength of constructive, passive/defensive, and aggressive/defensive organizational cultural norms were investigated.


Results of hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) analysis of survey data from 3245 respondents in 424 organizations in twelve different industries revealed significant between-organization variation but no significant between-industry variation in the three types of cultural norms measured. Furthermore, while industry-level factors were unrelated to culture, significant variance in the culture measures was explained by leadership behaviors and human resource practices (use of rewards and fairness of performance appraisal).

Research limitations/implications

The strength of cultural norms and expectations within an organization evolve in response to attributes specific to the organization and do not necessarily reflect industry characteristics. The results indicate that organizations using surveys to assess their cultures may learn as much (if not more) by comparing their feedback to data on organizations across a spectrum of industries as opposed to organizations exclusively in their own industry.


Most of the frameworks developed to examine and describe the cultures of organizations delineate specific dimensions or types that are assumed to be relevant to all organizations regardless of the industries within which they operate. The purpose of this paper was to explore the validity of this assumption by investigating the relative impact of industry and organizational factors on organizational culture.


Chaudhry, A., Yuan, L., Hu, J. and Cooke, R. (2016), "What matters more? The impact of industry and organizational factors on organizational culture", Management Decision, Vol. 54 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-05-2015-0192

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