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This is the Fourth Edition of a "business classic" that was first published in 1985. I am always curious to know how a book with a 400-page narrative is organized. In Part I, Schein defines and describes culture as a structural concept; in Part II, he focuses on the content of culture and the process of deciphering assumptions; in Part III, he describes and explains various mechanisms and processes by which culture changes, noting that change in organizational midlife "is primarily a matter of deliberately taking advantage of the diversity that the growth of subcultures makes possible"; in Part IV, he shifts his attention to "the difficult question of how to change culture when the normal evolutionary processes are not working or are too slow; and then in Part V, he shifts his attention again to "many new kinds of work units such as multicultural task forces, v ventures and partnerships, and v networks. These new kinds of organizations will require a different kind of culture management because they will be [begin italics] multi [end italics] cultural. There will also be muticultural challenges that must be met with effective multicultural leadership.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Schein's coverage.

o Five Examples of How Culture Helps to Illuminate Organizational Situations (Pages 9-11)
o Culture Formally Defined, and Culture Content (18-19)
o Basic Underlying Assumptions (27-32)
o Three Generic Subcultures: Operating, Engineering/Design, and Executive (57-67)
o Shared Assumptions About Mission, Strategy, and Goals (74-85)
o Creating a Common Language and Conceptual Categories, and, Defining Group Boundaries and Identity (93-100)
o Levels of Reality (117-119)
o Subculture Variations: Planning Time and Development Time (129-130)
o Assumptions About the Nature of Space (135-137)
o Assumptions About Appropriate Human Activity (146-149)
o Basic Characteristics of Role Relationships (152-154)
o Group Formation Through Originating and Marker Events (198-204)
o Culture Beginnings Through Founder/Leader Actions (219-231)
o Transition to Midlife: Problems of Succession (280-283)
o Rapid Deciphering -- A Multistep [Ten Step] Group Process (315-325)

As authors of "classic" business books often do, Schein provides early on (Page 7) the essence of what he will explain in the 21 chapters organized within five Parts: "Culture is an abstraction, yet the forces that are created in social and organizational situations deriving from culture are powerful. If we don't understand the operation of these forces, we become victim to them. Cultural forces are powerful because they operate outside of our awareness. We need to understand them not only because of their power but also because they help to explain many of our puzzling and frustrating experiences in social and organizational life. Most importantly, understanding cultural forces enables us to understand ourselves better." These are among the dimensions of exploration within which Schein guides his reader during a journey of discovery.

He concludes the Fourth Edition this way: "We have examined cultures, microcultures, macrocultures, and subcultures. The details and content of what goes on varies enormously, but the fundamental cultural dynamics are much the same at every level. If we remember that culture is our learned solution to making sense of the world, to stabilizing it, and to avoiding the anxiety that comes with social chaos, then we have taken the first important step toward deeper cultural understanding."

* * *

For those who are curious to know more about the author, here is a brief bio provided by Amazon: "Edgar Henry Schein (born 1928), a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has made a notable mark on the field of organizational development in many areas, including career development, group process consultation, and organizational culture. He is generally credited with inventing the term "corporate culture."

His published works include these three classics: Organizational Psychology, 3rd Edition (1979), Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development, Volume 1 (1988), Process Consultation Revisited: Building the Helping Relationship (1998), The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (2009), Organizational Culture and Leadership, Fourth Edition (2010), and most recently, Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help (2011).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 February 2013
The book is certainly not something of the one minute variety and is much more an overview of the main scientific theories on the subjects of culture and leadership and their applications, than a specific recommendation on how things are to be done.

In this way it requires a sufficiently cerebral reader, who will actually actively choose the approach most suited to their specific organization, to get the most out of it. But if you are blessed with patience and perseverance the book is a real tour de force.

The author provides a pretty comprehensive overview of theories and aspects of culture and leadership and equips the reader with arguments for / against a specific approach in a given setting, or put differently, a map of settings where the approaches would work best.

While the examples largely come from the author's own prolific consulting experience and include a multitude of organizations, the majority still stems from the two companies where Schein worked most thoroughly - the DEC and Ciba Geigy. As these two are in many ways polar opposites, they work well for illustrating the points made.

As everything is derived from practically first principles, you really get lots of insights into how to identify, explore, understand and finally shape various aspects of culture. This makes the book a useful guide for someone new to an organization (and creating a picture for oneself of it), for someone leading an organization and wanting to change aspects of it, in an M&A context, where companies get merged and acquired (and where the cultural compatibility and the minefields associated therewith are often neglected prior to the deals being struck), etc.

As long as you are not expecting answers to fall at your feet within the first handful of pages, and understand yourself as an active participant in discovering the route and then carrying out the journey, the book makes excellent sense. If you are changing into a different organizational (or national) culture with your next job assignment, it is a blessing to at least be prepared with the right mindset / questions, before embarking on the journey.
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on 5 December 2011
If, like me, you are a student of corporate communication, you've probably found that Schein's name keeps on cropping up. That makes this book a must-read for gaining insight into one of today's leading organisational culture theorists, who builds on the work of Kurt Lewin.
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on 28 December 2010
Classic text updated into short readable chapters. Other writers are more complex and perhaps more current, but in the field of culture and leadership there are only so many variations on a theme and Schein had it covered!
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on 11 August 2013
Although Schein has been the thought leader in organisational cultural studies those who know his work will find little that is new. He misses latest developments in cultural studies (e.g. emergence theory), especially those related to how changes in the social world provide newer ways to see culture.
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on 18 June 2015
Thought this would be heavy going but it makes a lot of sense.
Probably ideal for anyone doing a management or leadership course.
Pretty comprehensive so don't expect to get through it quickly
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on 16 October 2013
Rather dated now, relies way too much on old data (I remember DEC but none of my students will) and pretty much exclusively uses American case studies. Too anecdotal and doesn't reflect sufficient academic rigour.
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on 17 August 2011
What I have read so far I really like. The topic is thought provoking and the way Schein has written it makes it easy to get your mind around the sometimes nebulous concept of 'culture'.

His ideas about how culture is made up and the impact you can have on it is really helpful.
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on 14 March 2014
Schein always writes well and in a contemporary rather than academic way. I feel this makes the subject matter he writes about much more accessible. This was excellent for my MBA studies but I'd recommend this as an interesting read in itself
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on 5 January 2014
Very well written, clear and concise on the subject.
Very good source of knowledge bringing ideas together.
Recommended for any students/practitioners in the subject.
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