Understanding Organizational Culture


Mats Alvesson

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    I have spent a significant part of my work time during the last 15 years developing and applying cultural perspectives on organizations. Despite considerable irritation with many uses of the culture concept in organization studies and elsewhere, I still feel that a cultural focus offers a very inspiring and potentially creative way of understanding organizations, management and working life. My interest has resulted in several books and numerous articles with theoretical and/or empirical ambitions. The present book summarizes and in particular develops and expands this work.

    One of my previous books had the title Cultural Perspectives on Organizations and was published by Cambridge University Press in 1993. It was fairly short and condensed. The book was positively received by academics, but possibly less so by students. It was reprinted a couple of times, but when it eventually went out of print I decided to revise and expand the book, making it much more accessible. I had in mind a significant revision and expansion, but as typically happens, this moderately ambitious task soon became an entirely new and rather energy-demanding project, i.e. a new book. This increased level of ambition and the length of this text reflect the expansion of the literature on the subject, my own recent and current conceptual work and empirical studies in neighbouring areas and, more generally, my enthusiasm for the field. About a third of the present book is based on my earlier book, but also this material has been thoroughly revised and up-dated. It is primarily Chapters 2, 3 and 7 that draw upon material from the 1993 volume. In addition, there some sections which review or draw upon my earlier or parallel work. Some of this is in collaboration with Yvonne Billing and Dan Kärreman. I am grateful for their permission to incorporate joint work in this text. References are mentioned in the text.

    The present book has benefited from feedback from Yvonne Billing, Mike Chumer, Simon Down, Bob Kreishner, Alan Lowe and Martin Parker, as well as from the participants of a PhD course on ‘organizational culture’, autumn 2000, taught by the author at Department of Business Administration, Lund University, and of a course on ‘advanced organizational communication’, taught by Diane Grimes, Department of Speech Communication, Syracuse University. The feedback from the students encouraged me to make the text more accessible. The cheeky comment that while journalists sometimes have the rule to not write sentences containing more than seven words, I seem to limit myself to seven subsidiary clauses per sentence, triggered some revisions. I assume that at least junior readers will appreciate these.

    Lund just before Christmas 2000 MatsAlvesson
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