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Hybrid working: skills for leadership
Hybrid working: skills for leadership

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1.5 Defining culture: the gold standard

Schein’s iceberg model (Schein, 1992), reproduced below, is a useful way of illustrating that some cultural aspects of an organisation are visible while others are hidden and difficult for outsiders or newcomers to interpret.

The diagram shows an iceberg at sea with the sea level only allowing a small amount of the iceberg to be visible above water. Three levels are noted: Above water and fully visible: Artefacts – Tangible manifestations of culture. At water level so partly visible: Values – Ethical statements of rightness. Below the water line and so invisible or unseen: Basic assumptions – Unconscious and taken for granted ways of seeing the world.
Figure 2 Schein’s iceberg model of culture.

Examples of visible cultural aspects include written documents, strategic plans, job descriptions and disciplinary procedures. Less visible, however, are a culture’s values, beliefs and norms, which can be much harder to identify and interpret. The key to Schein’s model is that, through analysing the three levels shown in Figure 2, a better understanding of the different components of culture in organisations can be achieved.

Culture is not static, it is never ‘finished’, and it grows and evolves – as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a leader, you will need to be really clear on what your culture is and ensure that your employees know what it is and are comfortable within it. You don’t want to have a culture and strategy clash; if you do have one you should look for ways to address this. There is no such thing as a perfect culture but it should support your employees and organisation in the best possible way. Throughout this course you will explore how to create a healthy culture, with psychological safety and effective communication.