Diagnosing Cultural Misalignment

An organizational culture with a conflict in artifacts, espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions indicates an organization with an identity crisis. This could indicate a leader out of touch with his organization.

First, evaluate the development and implementation of the espoused values. These are values the organization claims to uphold and are often the public representation of the organization’s culture. (Schein, 2010, p. 15) The leader may have led the development of these values without understanding his organization’s existing culture, or the the leader has done a poor job of implementing the espoused values.

Next, it is time to look at the existing artifacts of the organization. Artifacts are cultural elements that give an organization it’s look and feel. (Schein, 2010, p. 23) A disconnect between the espoused values and the artifacts could indicate a shift in the organization the leader is attempting to accomplish, or possibly a disconnect between the leader and other members of the organization.

Finally, the basic underlying assumptions need to be evaluated. These serve as the operating system of the organization running in the background. Basic underlying assumptions are unconscious behaviors predetermined by the individuals of a cultural group over time. (Schein, 2010, p. 24) It is this deeper level of cultural existence that reveal the true identity of an organization.

A misalignment of these elements discovered in a cultural analysis, could indicate one of two things: leadership’s desire to shift the current culture to a new desired culture, or a disconnect between the leader and the people. If a shift is the goal, better communication and vision casting is needed to move espoused values to assumptions. If harmony is the desired outcome, leadership will need to engage at a deeper level with the organization and bring espoused values into alignment with current organizational culture.


Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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