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IB DP Business Management Study Notes

Factors Shaping Culture

Understanding the diverse elements that sculpt organisational culture is crucial for comprehending how businesses develop their unique environments and work ethics.


The leadership style and behaviours of those in managerial positions are fundamental in shaping the organisational culture. The leaders act as role models, exhibiting behaviours that are mimicked by employees.

  • Influence: Leaders’ values, ethics, and behaviours significantly impact how employees act and make decisions.
  • Expectation Management: Effective leaders manage and align employee expectations, instilling a sense of direction and purpose.
  • Communication: Open and transparent communication from leaders fosters a culture of trust and inclusiveness.

Leadership Styles

  • Autocratic: This top-down approach can potentially foster a culture of dependency and lack of autonomy among employees.
  • Democratic: Invoking a culture of inclusion and participation, democratic leaders facilitate a supportive and collaborative environment.
  • Transformational: Leaders who inspire and motivate create a vibrant and innovative organisational culture.

Values and Beliefs

Values and beliefs act as the compass of an organisation, guiding actions and decisions while shaping daily operations and strategies.

  • Core Values: These are fundamental beliefs that drive organisational behaviour and decision-making.
  • Shared Beliefs: Commonly held attitudes and perceptions within the organisation that influence collective behaviour.
  • Ethics: The moral principles that guide decision-making and strategy, impacting internal and external perceptions.

Embedding Values

  • Code of Conduct: Establishing a framework that outlines expected behaviours reinforces values.
  • Recognition: Acknowledging and rewarding behaviours that align with core values reinforces their importance.
  • Training: Regular training ensures that employees are aligned with organisational values and understand their importance.

Practices and Rituals

Practices and rituals, from daily operations to special occasions, fortify organisational culture by providing tangible expressions of the culture and values.

  • Onboarding Practices: Initial experiences shape newcomers’ perceptions and adaptation to the culture.
  • Recognition Rituals: Celebrating achievements and milestones enhances belongingness and reinforces positive behaviours.
  • Decision-making Practices: How decisions are made, who is involved, and the variables considered, illuminate the priorities and norms within the culture.

Consistency in Practices

  • Alignment: Ensuring that practices are coherent with stated values and beliefs solidifies cultural authenticity.
  • Adaptability: A willingness to evolve practices in response to internal and external changes sustains relevance and viability.
  • Engagement: Encouraging employee participation in rituals and practices enhances connection and reinforcement of the culture.

External Influences

External elements, such as market trends, societal norms, and global events, shape organisational culture by influencing adaptations and strategic shifts.

  • Market Trends: Prevailing market dynamics and competitive landscapes influence risk-taking, innovation, and adaptability within the culture.
  • Societal Norms: The wider societal beliefs, ethics, and norms influence the organisational alignment with societal expectations and social responsibility.
  • Global Events: Events such as economic crises, pandemics, and technological breakthroughs necessitate cultural shifts to navigate through changed landscapes.

Navigating External Influences

  • Resilience: Building a culture that is robust yet flexible in the face of external pressures is crucial for sustainability.
  • Ethical Alignment: Ensuring that organisational culture aligns with societal ethics fortifies reputation and stakeholder relationships.
  • Strategic Agility: Cultivating a culture that can pivot strategies in response to external changes ensures longevity and relevance.

By comprehensively understanding the facets that shape organisational culture – leadership, values, practices, and external influences – one can decipher how these aspects intertwine to form the unique, intangible environment within an organisation. It is through the meticulous analysis and understanding of these factors that one can begin to comprehend how culture, while unseen, pervasively influences every aspect of an organisation from its strategies to its daily operations. This lays a foundational base for HL students in IB Business Management to critically evaluate and discuss various organisational cultures in varied contexts and applications.


Mergers and acquisitions can precipitate significant disruptions to organisational culture, as they often bring together entities with disparate values, practices, and norms. Cultural clashes, if unaddressed, can derail the integration process, causing operational disruptions and employee dissatisfaction. To mitigate this, conducting a thorough cultural assessment during the due diligence phase can help identify potential clashes. Developing a clear, unified culture for the merged entity, and transparently communicating this to all stakeholders, alongside providing training and support during the transition phase, can facilitate a smoother integration and alignment of cultures.

To realign organisational culture with new strategic objectives, a company may employ various strategies. Communication is pivotal: ensuring that the new objectives and desired cultural shifts are transparently and consistently communicated to all employees. Additionally, leadership should embody the new cultural norms, establishing a visible model for employees to emulate. Training programs to develop requisite skills and mindsets, recognising and rewarding behaviours that align with the desired culture, and potentially restructuring to enable and reinforce the cultural shift are also potent strategies. Throughout, maintaining an open dialogue to address concerns and gather feedback ensures an inclusive, adaptive cultural transition.

Organisational culture profoundly impacts a company's approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A culture that emphasises ethical behaviour, sustainability, and community involvement will likely adopt a proactive stance towards CSR, embedding socially responsible practices into its operations and strategy. For instance, a company with a culture that highly values environmental sustainability, like Patagonia, will integrate practices that minimise its ecological footprint and actively contribute towards environmental conservation. Moreover, such a culture may influence the company to engage in advocacy, partner with ethical suppliers, and implement initiatives that advance social and environmental welfare, underscoring that organisational culture is not only a internal guide but also shapes a company’s external interactions and impact.

Yes, organisations can have multiple cultures coexisting, often referred to as subcultures. These arise when various departments or teams within a business develop their own set of norms and practices, which can be both beneficial and challenging. Subcultures might foster innovation, as different teams can explore diverse approaches to problem-solving. However, they can also pose challenges if the divergent cultures clash or if they counteract the overarching desired organisational culture. Thus, management needs to ensure that subcultures align with and reinforce the primary culture and strategic objectives of the organisation to harness their potential effectively.

A misalignment between leadership and organisational culture can undermine business performance by creating incongruence in values, practices, and strategic direction. In such scenarios, employees might receive mixed signals about what behaviours are acceptable or desired. For example, if a leader promotes a culture of innovation but fails to allocate resources for R&D or penalises failed initiatives, it creates a dissonance that can demoralise employees, stifle creativity, and hinder strategic progression. Consequently, ensuring that leadership styles and actions cohesively mirror the espoused organisational culture is pivotal in fostering a conducive environment that bolsters unified, strategic advancement.

Practice Questions

Discuss how leadership styles can significantly influence and shape the organisational culture within a business. Provide examples to illustrate your points.

A paramount factor shaping organisational culture is leadership, as leaders embody and propagate the values and behaviours that permeate through the entity. Autocratic leaders, for instance, may foster a culture where decision-making is centralised and employee input is minimised, potentially dampening innovation. Conversely, democratic leaders tend to facilitate an inclusive culture where employee feedback is valued, often fostering innovation and higher job satisfaction. The transformational leadership style usually breeds a culture of innovation and change, as leaders inspire employees to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the organisation, encouraging creativity and change initiatives. Ultimately, the chosen leadership style should align with the organisation's desired culture and strategic objectives to propel coherent and consistent behaviours throughout.

Evaluate the impact of external influences, such as societal norms and global events, on the development and evolution of organisational culture. Use real-world examples to enhance your argument.

External influences undeniably weave into the tapestry of organisational culture, instigating shifts and adaptations in response to prevailing contexts. Societal norms, representing collective beliefs and expectations, guide an organisation's ethical stance and CSR initiatives; for instance, the shift towards sustainability seen in companies like Unilever in response to mounting environmental concerns. Moreover, global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitated a recalibration of organisational cultures towards more agile, digital, and empathetic work environments. Many organisations, like Twitter and Shopify, adopted remote-working cultures to safeguard employee well-being whilst maintaining operational continuity. Therefore, it is palpable that external influences are not mere backdrops but active shapers of organisational culture, necessitating strategic and adaptive responses from businesses to navigate through the oscillating external landscapes successfully.

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Written by: Dave
Cambridge University - BA Hons Economics

Dave is a Cambridge Economics graduate with over 8 years of tutoring expertise in Economics & Business Studies. He crafts resources for A-Level, IB, & GCSE and excels at enhancing students' understanding & confidence in these subjects.

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