II: Human Centered Organizational Culture in Business

Human Centered

Organizational Culture in


Assessment of the Theoretical Evolution of Organizational Culture: Pending Need for Human Focus

Ostvaldo Morales, Gareth Rees,

Sergio Morales


This chapter presents a theoretical overview of seven decades in the evolution of the tradition of the Organizational Culture (OC) concept from the perspective of the following notable authors, Pettigrew, Ott, Schein, Denison and Alvesson. This chapter has a dual purpose. To review the importance of OC in organizational development and management, and also to compare their theories how they diverge from the traditional human resource (HR)/human resource management models of the industrial past and to what extent they convergence and align with the new human centered paradigm embedded in Human Centered Management (HCM) model (Lepeley, 2017).

In the 21st century, organizations are affected by disruptions from a global volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) environment. Constant change presses organizations to assess old structures and evaluate the costs of perpetuating the status quo against the benefits to advance a human focus as a necessary condition for attaining high productivity, competitiveness and long-term sustainability. It is in this sense that Lepeley’s HCM reveals as an OC approach for the future to reclaim the importance of people at the center of OCs worldwide.

Assessment and Evolution of the OC Concept

Andrew Pettigrew and the Origin of OC

Four decades ago, Pettigrew defined culture as a system of public and collective accepted meanings operating for a given group at a given time and introduced through concepts such as symbols, language, ideology, belief, ritual and myth to illustrate aspects of cultural and expressive components of organizational life (1979). Although widely used in anthropology, these concepts were not integrated into the mainstream of organizational theory. According to Pettigrew, the value of cultural components was related to the creation of new cultures and how managers provide order, purpose and commitment to organizations. Likewise, OC conceived as patterns of meanings and consciousness is generated by the feelings and actions of founders, therefore the essential problem of entrepreneurship is the translation of individual drive into collective purpose and commitment (Pettigrew, 1979).

For Ehrhart, Schneider, and Macey (2014), Pettigrew’s essay demonstrated the application of anthropological methods and concepts to the study of organizations at a time when business studies showed an unprecedented focus on human behavior. In this context, management consultants discovered the importance of studying organizations including the experiences of all their members (Ehrhart et al., 2014). Pettigrew’s essay was important because he defined culture as a collection of concepts, analyzed its evolution over time and developed the functional role in terms of integration, management and commitment, highlighting the role of founder’s in the firm imprint (Ehrhart et al., 2014). As such, Pettigrew’s work demarcated the beginning of contemporary scholarly interest in the topic (Ehrhart et al., 2014).

For Ehrhart et al., Pettigrew formally introduced the anthropological study of cultures to the organizational research literature, in stark contrast to the individually focused psychological research on organizational climate (2014). Similarly, for Schneider and Barbera (2014), Pettigrew’s essay stimulated attention to a culture perspective on organizational life considering organizations as human entities and not just as financial institutions or operational settings for productivity alone (Schneider & Barbera, 2014).

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