The Use of Johnson's Cultural Web to Improve Under-standing of Organisational Culture: A Critical Review

McDonald, Seonaidh; Foster, Richard A.
December 2013
International Journal of Management;Dec2013, Vol. 30 Issue 3 Part 1, p340
Academic Journal
Notions of culture, by which we mean the shared meanings, priorities and practices of a group, have long been applied to organisations. Understanding organisational culture is seen as important in several areas of the management literature including organisational behaviour, change management and strategy implementation. Johnson's Cultural Web (1992), is a theoretically diverse and inclusive framework for the study of culture in organisations. In this model, six cultural elements (power structures, organisational structures, control systems, stories, rituals & routines and symbols) are depicted as contributing to, and perpetuating, an organisational cultural paradigm. The power of this model lies in the fact that it is on the one hand, a simple, clear presentation of cultural elements and on the other, a complex integration of several approaches to the study of culture that are have often been segregated in the management literature. Martin (1992) outlines three distinct social science approaches to research on organisational culture: An integration approach which centres on that which is shared by all members of an organization; a differentiation view which is founded on the notion that each organisation may have a series of 'tribes' within it, each holding different cultural tenets; and a fragmentation view which centres on ambiguity and inconsistencies in organisational practices and perspectives as a way of articulating organisational culture. Each of these perspectives is underpinned by different ontological assumptions about what constitutes culture and how it can be studied. Since each of these views privileges and silences different aspects of culture, Martin believes that for the most complete understanding of culture, researchers should incorporate all three into their study of organisations. This paper takes up this methodological challenge and examines Johnson's Cultural Web, to see which perspectives it has been aligned with in the past, and how it could be used in ways which meet the demands of other perspectives.


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