Organizational Culture’s Impact on Change Management Strategy

By: Christina Olivarria

Organizational culture and organizational strategy implementation are two intertwined components that project managers must be aware of when managing projects. When one considers the statement “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it is vital to first define what organizational culture is and the various types of culture types that have been defined by theorists. Once these elements have been defined, the relationship and implementation strategies for each type can then be better planned for. Considerations of the level of change and an organization’s espoused values must be made by management otherwise the organization’s culture will wind up managing the strategy.

An organization’s culture is defined as, “A of set beliefs and shared values that unifies members of an organization and consolidates them under the cover of potent behavioral norms and rules.” Cultures can be categorized into either strong or weak. Strong cultures exist when a team responds to stimuli based on their shared beliefs. Weak cultures, on the other hand, rely heavily on bureaucracy and procedures to implement initiatives due to little team alignment with organizational values. Understanding the scale to which the organization falls on this spectrum is imperative in order to properly plan. Strong cultures have a higher likelihood of adoption of strategy if they feel that it aligns with the assumptions of the organization. Edward Schien surmised that these organizational assumptions were fostered out of the organizational members learned as they figured out its problems so they are incredibly deep-rooted and impossible to ignore when implementing a strategy.

“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.”
– Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently

No management idea, no matter how good, will work in practice if it does not fit the culture. The key then is aligning an organization’s strategies and initiatives to its culture. There are four predominant culture archetypes:

  • A clan culture is one that is familial in nature, held up by traditions and loyalty. These organizations are typically led by a mentor or team builder and there is emphasis placed on communication and commitment. If implementing a strategy in this type of organization, a change manager should consider team involvement and collaboration in the process.
  • An adhocracy culture that drives a dynamic and creative environment, that promotes innovation and risk-taking. Organizational leadership is typically more entrepreneurial and visionary in nature and there is an emphasis on agility and transformation. These types of organizations thrive with change, but the strategy should focus on process improvement and creative solutions, versus forced ideology.
  • A market culture is one that is results-driven, goals oriented, and competitive in nature, bonded by the drive of winning and success. Organizational leadership is drivers and producers that focus on achievement and profitability. If implementing a strategy in this type of organization, the change manager should focus on performance metrics, highlighting how the strategy would improve productivity and competitiveness.
  • A hierarchy culture is traditional in nature and bureaucratic in structure, where members are bonded by procedures and policies. Organizational leadership is typically more hands-off in nature, monitoring programs and organizing resources, focused on uniformity and efficiency. If implementing a strategy in this organization, the change manager should catch up on reading Weber and Fayol, and tools, measurement, and error detection.

Considering the types of cultures and the ideas of underlying assumptions, one can see how difficult it could be to implement change.

Culture is a part of every organization, whether intentional or unintentional. There has been increased emphasis placed on creating cultures that teams want to be a part of. Organizations that align their strategies with their culture are proven to be more successful and outperform those who do not. It is because of this fact that organizations must first assess their culture type then create change management plans that are tailored to meet the needs of that culture.


Ahmadi, S., Salamzadeh, Y., Daraei, M., & Akbari, J. (2012). Relationship between Organizational Culture and Strategy Implementation: Typologies and Dimensions. Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal4(3), 286–299. Retrieved from

Organizational Culture Types. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Suda, L. V. (2008). Aligning strategy, leadership, and culture for project success. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2008—EMEA, St. Julian’s, Malta. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.