The first step to assessing organizational culture is to have the enterprise’s leadership define what is meant by organizational culture. Organizational scholars such as Edgar Schein have definitions such as:
Organizational Culture = pattern of basic assumptions, values, norms, and artifacts shared by organizational members or “the glue that holds things together” or “the way we work”.
The point is simply to reach agreement on the definition.
After establishing the corporation’s definition for culture, assessing said culture begins with what we can observe, either the actual behaviors of members or the visible artifacts such as mission statements within the organization. Following the observations, the next step is to try and uncover the unwritten norms or “rules” for how the business members should operate and interact with one another. Those norms are governed on a deeper level by the values of its members — values about what is appropriate or not, values about how people should or should not interact or be treated. At the deepest level we all have basic assumptions about what it means to be human and how the world functions – in essence our world view. Schein (1991,1999) posits that our personal values emerge from these basic assumptions about humanity, and these personal values drive our norms, which in turn translate into observable behaviors and artifacts.
The best approach to ascertain all of the above levels of culture is to use multiple assessment methods. After leadership input regarding the critical elements of culture, the acquiring team can determine if generic instruments will assess all the critical dimensions necessary for successful cultural integration or if in-house instruments should be developed. At any rate, multiple methods that allow the team to collect data by combining quantitative tools such as surveys with qualitative approaches such as in-depth interviews or focus groups should be pursued.