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date: 15 December 2019

Summary and Conclusion

Abstract and Keywords

In this final chapter of the Handbook, the volume editors summarize what they consider to be the central themes that emerge across chapters, and provide key exemplars of these themes. The 10 major themes are: (1) Everything that happens in organizations is due to climate and culture and everything that happens affects climate and culture; (2) climate and culture are reciprocally related; (3) climate and culture are multilevel phenomena; (4) climate and culture are differentiated phenomena; (5) organizations have multiple foci for climates and cultures; (6) organizational culture and climate emerge and can change over time; (7) leadership is central to climate and culture formation and maintenance; (8) climate and culture emerge from systems of stimuli; (9) climate and culture are measurable; and (10) climate and culture can yield competitive advantage.

Keywords: competitive advantage, culture and climate change, culture and climate formation, culture and climate measurement, foci for climate and culture, leadership, multilevel phenomena, organizational climate, organizational culture, reciprocal causation


This effort began with a simple idea: People’s experiences in work organizations are a function of a complex set of stimuli and this very complexity requires them to integrate their experiences to derive meaning from them. The challenge for the Handbook, of course, was to identify the set of complex stimuli people experience and to further identify the meaning they derive from them. One can never identify all stimuli, and it is not necessary to do so as we learned from Gestalt psychology. That is, people attach meaning to incomplete sets of stimuli that they perceive to form some meaningful pattern. So, the chapters do not deal with every issue relevant to understanding people’s experiences at work but the contributions here clearly reveal the great variety of stimuli people experience and the great variety of meanings they derive from them.

We asked authors to think about meanings from two interrelated vantage points simultaneously: organizational climate and organizational culture. To date, little integration across these constructs has been done. Despite this, the chapter authors clearly rose to the challenge, and in doing so helped to expand and enrich our understanding of these key constructs.

Concluding this Handbook is no short order given the caliber of the chapters that are contained within. As we discussed the writing of this last chapter, we saw two possibilities for summarizing what they had to say. First, we could summarize each chapter, but that seemed of limited value because each chapter has its own summary. Second, we could provide a series of learnings that we derived across the chapters, and this is the option that we have chosen. Thus, this chapter summarizes what we consider to be the central macro themes that (p. 680) emerged for us and notes key exemplars of these themes.

Ten macro themes emerged and are summarized. These are presented below, but no particular order of importance should be inferred because they exist concurrently and simultaneously as attributes of the climate and culture literatures.

  1. (1) Everything that happens in organizations is due to climate and culture and everything that happens affects climate and culture.

  2. (2) Climate and culture are reciprocally related.

  3. (3) Climate and culture are multilevel phenomena.

  4. (4) Climate and culture are differentiated phenomena.

  5. (5) Organizations have multiple foci for climates and cultures.

  6. (6) Organizational culture and climate emerge and can change over time.

  7. (7) Leadership is central to climate and culture formation and maintenance.

  8. (8) Climate and culture emerge from systems of stimuli.

  9. (9) Climate and culture are measurable.

  10. (10) Climate and culture can yield competitive advantage.

Everything that Happens in Organizations is Due to Climate and Culture and Everything that Happens Affects Climate and Culture

It is tempting to believe when reading the typical unidirectional causal models for what happens in organizations that unidirectional cause is the way the world works. All those boxes and arrows going from left to right and, especially the claim that randomized experiments is the only way to truly document cause, are difficult to counter. But the chapters herein make unidirectional cause obsolete with regard to organizational actions and behaviors. In short, what happens in organizations emerges from climate and culture and, in turn, everything that happens affects climate and culture.

From selection (chapter 2 by Ployhart and colleagues) to socialization and training (chapter 3 by Feldman & O’Neill) to performance management (by London & Mone in chapter 5), and from career environments as portrayed by Hall and Yip (chapter 12) and Jex and colleagues’ chapter 10 on stress to justice (chapter 19 by Rupp & Thornton), the ways organizations function is determined by the climate and culture that exist. However, the very ways organizations carry out these practices in turn determine the climate and culture of the setting. For example, who gets hired by a firm is partially determined by the culture of the firm and a route to culture change is to hire a different profile of people —individuals who are oriented to the changes envisioned. Similarly the issues appraised by companies in their performance management schemes are determined by the existing culture of the setting, and changes in those policies, practices, and procedures are vehicles for organizational change. In short, an organization’s climate and culture put limitations on how the organization carries out the panoply of human resources management practices it uses and those very practices reinforce what exists; but it is changes in those as Burke shows in chapter 24 that can produce changes in climate and subsequent changes in culture. These issues of organizational change are explicated well not only by Burke in chapter 24 but also in chapters 29, 30, and 32 that describe change efforts in 3M (Paul and Fenlason, PepsiCo (Church and colleagues), and McDonald’s (Small & Newton), respectively.

Climate and Culture are Reciprocally Related

Climate and culture are inextricably connected, mutually reinforcing, and also reciprocally related. Culture (values, basic assumptions, beliefs) causes climates to emerge through the policies, practices, and procedures that define climate, which in turn are the bases for cultural values, beliefs, and basic assumptions.

The chapters by our practitioners in Part 6: Climate and Culture in Practice perhaps most clearly exemplify the mutuality between climate and culture. At Tata Industries (chapter 33) Sarkar-Barney shows how the orientation of the founder leads to both internal functioning practices and ideals and also relationships between Tata and the larger community in which it operates. Then, when change is required, new policies, practices, and procedures are put into place to key the values and basic assumptions as the company moves forward. In chapter 30 Church and his colleagues clearly reveal mutual relationships between climate and culture at PepsiCo, especially in the way local work unit climate is said to both reflect and be reflected in the larger organizational culture.

The chapter on organizational change by Burke (chapter 24), to which we will frequently refer, also shows the importance of thinking about reciprocal relationships. It argues that the way to change (p. 681) an organization’s culture is to change climate first because culture change requires actual changes in the policies, practices, and procedures that create new meanings. The new meanings lead to new behaviors, which in turn are the foundation for the values and basic assumptions that through the productive and counterproductive behaviors and norms Ehrhart and Raver say they create (chapter 9) come to characterize organizations. Explication of how organizations grow and develop over time—a concept infrequently addressed in climate research—also shows this reciprocal causation; culture determines how organizations are likely to evolve, but organizations take some control over the way they evolve over time through climate change (see chapter 13 by Flamholtz and Randle on organizational life cycles).

Climate and Culture are Multilevel Phenomena

The chapter on PepsiCo by Church and colleagues (chapter 30) makes the explicit point numerous times that climate exists at the work group level in companies and culture exists at the organizational level—and, further, that responsibilities for these exist also at different levels of leadership in organizations. This same viewpoint is represented across a multitude of chapters. The chapters on leadership (chapter 6 by Day et al.), health care (chapter 18 by West et al.), positive and negative affective climates and cultures (chapter 8 by Ashkanasy & Härtel), engagement (by Albrecht in chapter 21), productive and counter-productive work behavior (Ehrhart and Raver’s chapter 9), careers (chapter 12 by Hall and Yip), sustainability (chapter 14 by Howard-Grenville and her colleagues), and teams (chapter 20 by Salas and his colleagues) all make similar arguments—and Chan helps us understand how to most effectively study multilevel phenomena (chapter 25). The argument is something like this: At the local level, climate is more under the direct control of the local leader because it is he or she who implements the policies, practices, and procedures that send the message to employees about what is important and how things work. The local level is where corporate strategy is implemented, and it is how it is implemented that determines local climate.

Of course there are limits on what local leaders can do, those limits being the larger culture of the organization in which the local units exist; variability is possible but not unlimited. Thus, a corporate culture that is strong presents some limits on what is possible at the local level just as national culture provides some limits on what is possible within organizational cultures (see chapter 15 by Dickson and his colleagues on national/organizational culture relationships and chapter 34 by Lundby and his colleagues on multinational companies). The point is that various levels of analysis have an impact on the behavior observed in a setting, whether the setting be a work unit, an organization, or a nation. Zohar in his chapter on safety (chapter 17) makes this clear with an example from research by Zohar and Luria (2005). In that study, both top management emphases on safety and local emphases on safety had significant joint effects on accidents in work units and companies.

Climate and Culture are Differentiated Phenomena

With inputs that range from the micro individual differences of people in settings (chapter 4 by Latham and Sue-Chan on people’s motivation; their individual KSAOs as described by Ployhart et al. in chapter 2) to the national culture in which firms operate (chapters 15 by Dickson et al and 34 by Lundby et al.) it is clear in the Handbook’s chapters that assumptions about the organization’s climate and/or the organizational culture are not useful because they presume an over-simplification of reality. Martin (2002) has been perhaps the most persistent voice with regard to the multiple climates that exist in organizations, arguing that what she calls the integrative perspective (there is a culture) is more unusual and the differentiated culture is more usual.

There are at least two ways to think about the fact that organizations have multiple differentiated climates and cultures. First, as a function of the level (work unit versus overall top management) within the organization we can see main effects for both the local work unit and the larger organization for outcomes of interest. For example, the chapter by Zohar on safety climate (chapter 17) reveals that both local practices relate to accidents as do the larger organizational practices. Similarly, for the chapter on national culture by Dickson and his colleagues (chapter 15), we learn once again that both organizations and nations have main effects on organizational culture (House et al., 2004).

A second way to think about the differentiation within organizations is to explore functional and occupational differences, that is, subclimates/subcultures. For example, in chapter 18 on health care settings by West and colleagues we learn that nurses can have different climate and culture experiences from physicians and that these differences likely (p. 682) emerge from occupational norms and training—with both sets of norms having main effects on patient safety, patient satisfaction, and even patient mortality. As Salas and his colleagues report in some detail in chapter 20, such subcultures can hinder collaboration in cross-functional teams of all types and thus hinder the effectiveness of such teams but ameliorative tactics exist, as they demonstrate.

From a methodological vantage, the fact that organizations may have differentiated climates and culture presents some analytic problems. Chapter 26 by González-Romá and Peiró on climate and culture strength deals with these issues in considerable and excellent detail. The chapter shows that variability in climate and culture perceptions has consequences for the relationship between those perceptions and other important variables. In brief, the excellent tables in this chapter summarizing the literature suggest that high variability in perceptions depresses the potential relationship between the climate or culture of interest and other outcome variables. One possibility, of course, is to explore the role of different levels (work unit focus versus organizational focus) or other subgroup/differentiation attributes (function, occupation) as the potential culprit; to our knowledge such research on strength has not been done.

The chapters on McDonald’s (chapter 32 by Small & Newton) and on service climate (chapter 16 by Yagil) reveal another interesting facet of the differentiated nature of climate and culture at least insofar as other stakeholders to the organization are concerned. Here we refer to the perceptions and experiences of those organizational stakeholders outside of the more traditional focus of climate and culture research on employees. At McDonald’s, franchise holders and suppliers are also responsive to and make input into the organization’s culture. Similarly, the research on service climate is concerned with the impact of such climate on customers, especially customer satisfaction. And, of course, chapter 18 by West and colleagues on health care climate and culture clearly identifies the critical—literally—impact of climate and culture on patients in hospital settings. It may be of interest to note that research by Schneider, Salvaggio, and Subirats (2002) not only linked service climate to customer satisfaction but also revealed that (a) climate strength moderated the relationship between service climate and customer experiences such that the relationship was significantly stronger when strength was high and (b) when unit climate strength was weak, the variability in customer satisfaction reports for those same units was significantly higher than when climate strength was high.

Perhaps the chapters on sustainability (chapter 14 by Howard-Grenville and her colleagues), the Tata Group (chapter 33 by Sarkar-Barney) and 3M (chapter 29 by Paul and Fenlason) best exemplify the idea that climate and culture extend beyond the organization’s formal internal boundaries into the community at large rather than only to immediate stakeholders like customers and patients. Such thinking is not a frequent focus of either organizational climate or organizational culture theory or research. Sustainability refers to issues about the larger world and larger environment in which organizations function and the implications of this kind of external focus on internal employee experiences. The Tata Group and 3M cases make this perfectly clear when they emphasized their role in the larger community both because they believed this was part of their mission, and also as a way to portray to employees their concern for the larger world in which they operate.

Organizations Have Multiple Foci for Climates and Cultures

The idea that organizations have a climate or a culture is patently false and an overstatement of what the various chapters in the Handbook reveal. All of the following organizational process climates and cultures simultaneously exist in organizations: ethics (chapter 22 by Mayer), justice (chapter 19 by Rupp and Thornton), productive and counter-productive work behavior (by Ehrhart and Raver in chapter 9), sustainability (Howard-Grenville and colleagues in chapter 14), stress (chapter 10 by Jex et al.), engagement (Albrecht’s chapter 21), and employee well-being (Ashkanasy and Härtel in chapter 8). In addition, these strategic foci also simultaneously exist in organizations: safety (Zohar in chapter 17), service (chapter 16 by Yagil), and we also could have had chapters on climates and cultures for quality and/or innovation (cf., Michela & Burke, 2000) and/or any other strategic outcome of interest. The point is that these climates and cultures simultaneously exist in organizations to some degree or another. The surprise is that research on more than one such focused climate or culture at a time is very rare indeed (Kuenzi & Schminke, 2009).

One example of such research simultaneously exploring multiple cultures was accomplished via a meta-analysis of research data relevant to the competing values framework (Hartnell, Ou, & Kinicki, (p. 683) 2011). The meta-analysis revealed that (a) the presumed competition among the four kinds of cultures did not much exist because cultures were positively intercorrelated and (b) there was a positive relationship between each of the four cultures and a variety of organizational outcomes (market value, customer satisfaction, employee attitudes). In other words, positive cultures are somewhat generalizable across culture types and more positive cultures yield superior organizational performance against a broad range of outcomes.

Perhaps one reason why multiple climates or cultures have not been simultaneously studied is a presumed methodological barrier to such studies. Suppose, for example, that one had a data set with 7 foci for climate and culture (safety, service, justice, ethics, well-being, productive behavior, and careers) and wished to study these and their relationship to organizational performance outcomes such as employee turnover rates, customer satisfaction, and market value. How would one proceed? Certainly the option most used to date would be to put the seven scores into a multiple regression equation and the resultant beta weights would be the answer.

But if organizations are systems and climate and culture are ways of attempting to capture more of that system—the gestalt if you will—then perhaps the alternative of profile analysis would be an option. As Ostroff and Schulte show in chapter 27, it is possible to array all of the foci as a profile for each of the companies in the sample and then statistically cluster those profiles into a set of companies with similar profiles within a cluster but different profiles between clusters. It would then be possible to explore outcome differences between the clusters and thus more fully use the available systems attribute data.

Organizational Culture and Climate Emerge and Can Change Over Time

Organizational culture and climate emerge and can change over time, sometimes through formal change interventions but always naturally to survive in the larger environments in which they operate. Perhaps the best examples of this are the chapters contributed to the Handbook by our colleagues in the world of practice. These chapters provide very rich data on organizational change. For example, sometimes they change because they have to (see chapter 32 by Small and Newton about McDonald’s), sometimes because they want to (see chapter 31 by Berry and Seltman on The Mayo Clinic), and sometimes due to the presence of a new CEO who has a different vision for the future of the company (see chapter 29 by Paul and Fenlason on 3M). But a really very interesting and seemingly little-explored facet of change discussed in these chapters on change is how there is an emphasis on retaining what is/was useful and good about the company. This point is especially made manifest numerous times in Sarkar-Barney’s chapter 33 on The Tata Group as the company evolved over time to become one of the largest multinational corporations in the world. And they did this while also retaining an emphasis on the role of family, customers, and quality in multiple market segments (from the $2500 everyman’s car, the Nano, to Jaguar and Land Rover) and on its positive role in the communities in which it operated.

With regard to change, we wish to emphasize chapter 13 by Flamholtz and Randle in the context of the practice chapters because of the emphasis by them on the necessity for natural and planned change to happen. What is surprising to us in this context is the relative paucity of academic research on natural change within the climate and culture of organizations. It is almost as if organizations are the way they are when we study them, and how they got that way and what they will look like in 10 or 20 years are almost nonissues. Aldrich and Ruef (2006) put it this way in their wonderful review of the academic literature in their book entitled Organizations Evolving: “Organizational scholars have done an excellent job of explaining how things work in organizations that have been around for a while, but not how they come to be that way” (2006, p. 3).

The importance of “how they got that way” comes through clearly in Burke’s chapter (24) on organizational change. That is, he shows how the way an organization is today has very deep roots in its own past (as Schein, 2010, would also say) and it is those very roots that make change difficult. Burke’s proposed solution is to emphasize the importance of climate change as the vehicle to attain culture change. That is, he proposes (as do Church and colleagues in chapter 30 on PepsiCo and West and colleagues in their chapter 18 review of climate and culture issues in health care) to work on policies, practices, and procedures (climate) as vehicles for beginning the change process that can eventuate in changes in values, beliefs, and basic assumptions (culture).

Leadership is Central to Climate and Culture Formation and Maintenance

We choose not to reference all of the chapters in which leadership is mentioned because it is implicitly (p. 684) and frequently explicitly important in almost every chapter. It is important because all of the policies, practices and procedures we keep saying require attention come mostly from top management as implemented at the local level, and the behaviors that are rewarded, supported, and expected clearly are a local leadership issue. As in our earlier discussion of the idea that climate and culture are multilevel phenomena, here we want to illuminate the multilevel nature of the leadership construct, especially the explicit consideration of it in the chapter on safety climate by Zohar (chapter 17) and the chapter on health care by West and colleagues (chapter 18) as well as all of the practitioner chapters.

Leadership is a hard topic to easily summarize and it occasionally feels like we perhaps put too much pressure on leaders to make the right things happen—to take their goals and values statements and ensure they get enacted in ways that help to achieve those goals and values. As we have noted in this summary, the literature indicates that climate—things that happen and the meaning they imply—leads inexorably to the beliefs and basic assumptions that constitute an organization’s culture. The best conceptualization we have read about “what happens” is the one first described by Schein (1985) and repeated subsequently into the fourth edition of his book (Schein, 2010). The chapter of interest is the one on culture embedding mechanisms. In short, Schein notes that the early actions by leaders with regard to the issues to which they pay attention, how they handle crises, to what they allocate scarce resources, and the structures they create as a basis for organizing in the aggregate create meaning for people with whom they work and establish the foundation for the later organizational culture that emerges as the organization succeeds. The reason why founders leave long legacies is because they attract, select, and retain additional leaders who are similar to themselves, thus perpetuating the organization’s style and operations (Schneider, 1987). Over time these ways of thinking and operating can become implicit and in fact become the basic (subconscious) beliefs and assumptions that guide action.

Not often noted is that Schein makes explicit the thought that these culture-embedding mechanisms are only determinant to the extent that they are associated with the growth and development of the firm. Lots of potential embedding tactics do not work and they do not become part of the culture. Schein also does not note in great detail the importance of not only top management leadership but the fact that the espoused values of the firm are useless unless at lower levels these become enacted values—and that it is enacted values that are important, making lower level leadership in the firm essential—again, the importance of thinking about climate and culture within a multilevel framework.

Climate and Culture Emerge from Systems of Stimuli

As Keyton effectively notes in chapter 7, climate and culture emerge from patterns of many actions that communicate messages to people. Numerous chapters in the Handbook do a wonderful job of explicating in detail the complex set of issues requiring attention to produce specific kinds of climates and cultures. For example, chapter 12 on careers by Hall and Yip presents the details that comprise the climate and culture for careers. They clearly show the many elements of organizations requiring attention that send the message about the creation of a context that supports—or fails to support—people’s careers. Or, consider the details in Albrecht’s chapter on engagement (chapter 21); the details that comprise such a climate (plus a measure) are presented. Another comprehensive treatment of the many activities that send such climate and culture messages is in chapter 5 by London and Mone on performance management. These examples reveal that the creation and maintenance of climate and culture are complex, multifaceted, and multilevel phenomena. Further, the chapter by Howard-Grenville and her colleagues on sustainability (chapter 14) presents in considerable detail the many ways organizations promote sustainability in the external environment and the consequences for internal climate and culture of doing so. And chapter 7 by Keyton on communication reveals the more subtle ways organizations send messages to their people about their values and beliefs and the foci of the organization. This chapter makes it perfectly clear that everything that happens in organizations, from massive changes to e-mail exchanges, has the potential to be fitted to an existing schema or to engender a new schema to lend meaning to the experiences organizational members have.

Of course, this is the point: When a pattern is perceived in the messages sent to people in organizations, then that is what makes the organization real for the people there. Organizations are real for people based on the substance they attribute to the setting, and they attribute that substance based on their experiences in the setting. As Whetten and Foreman (chapter 23) so clearly emphasize, it is the patterns of stimuli and the meaning attached to them that constitute the identity of the organization for (p. 685) people there. This identity emerges for them out of the variety of stimuli they encounter and the meanings attached to them. Organizations have no control over whether the meaning attached to systems of stimuli will occur; they can only determine what that meaning will be through the patterns of stimuli they send to their people and they must understand that everything that happens is a message. It is clear that the more integrated ways organizations find to send the systems of messages they wish to send the more likely it is that the climates and cultures created will be strong and have the intended effects as González-Romá and Peiró document so well in chapter 26. In many ways, in the aggregate, the chapters we have assembled in the Handbook reveal the numerous ways by which organizations actually function and the very many ways they send their messages; when those are integrated into meaningful systems of messages, then the organizational climates and cultures that emerge will be strong.

Climate and Culture are Measurable

There are well-established principles for the assessment of climate and culture and for the analysis of such data. Such analyses, as shown in many chapters in the Handbook, reveal reliable and robust relationships between (a) the assessment of specific kinds of strategic climates (health care, service, safety) and important organizational outcomes (patient/customer satisfaction, accidents), and (b) the assessment of process climates (fairness, affective climate, stress, ethics, careers) and important human outcomes like commitment, engagement, and job satisfaction.

There is more agreement on the measurement of climate than on the measurement of culture, but in the past 25 years the measurement of the latter construct looks more like climate measurement than it did in the past (Schneider, Ehrhart, & Macey, 2013). Early culture research decried the use of surveys as unable to capture the full meaning of an organization’s culture; qualitative methods were positioned as the only way to do that (Schein, 1985; Trice & Beyer, 1993). But the study of one organization at a time, although certainly appropriate for a single organization as a means to understand itself, presented difficulties in making generalizations about the relationship of culture and outcomes across many organizations. So, surveys began to dominate work on culture as well as work on climate, especially among consultants to organizations. We do not have much discussion of such measures in the Handbook because the practitioner chapters are each about a specific organization understood in detail. Ehrhart, Schneider, and Macey (2014) discuss several such survey measures of organizational culture, and if one Googles “questionnaire measures of organizational culture,” then there will appear a plethora of such possibilities.

Keyton in chapter 7 in her very interesting and insightful chapter on a communication perspective of culture and climate would argue that this approach to understanding the measurement of these constructs is approaching measurement from the vantage point of management and its obsession with organizational effectiveness rather than understanding organizations from the vantage point of those in them. Her preferred method is to observe and attempt to understand the ways people in organizations negotiate the meaning they ascribe to the many communications they experience—and everything they experience is a communication. This negotiation is an attempt to interpret collectively what the organization is and what it means—in the terminology of chapter 23 by Whetten and Foreman, it is an attempt to derive the identity of the organization.

There is considerable sentiment expressed for the use of both survey and case study methods simultaneously when possible. The logic is that survey measures accompanied by norms developed over time across organizations provide a standard frame of reference for an organization receiving feedback. This information can serve as stimulus to take action where the survey data indicate this would be useful. But, when such quantitative data are supplemented by more qualitatively gathered organization-specific information as Burke in chapter 24 proposes, then the benefits of using both approaches becomes clear. A good example of the benefits of such a combined approach is provided in Yauch and Steudel (2003).

Climate and Culture Can Yield Competitive Advantage

We see climate and culture as potential keys to competitive advantage—not only for firms being better than in the past but being more effective than the competition. The language of competitive advantage—being better than the competition—is strangely missing from most work in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior—including work on organizational climate—but a few scholars are beginning to introduce the concept to us (e.g., Ployhart, 2012). The basic issue here concerns conceptualizing human issues in the workplace as a firm’s resource (Barney, (p. 686) 1986, 1991), the basis for the so-called strategic human resources approach to Human Resources Management (HRM). Thus, strategic management researchers think of unique firm attributes as resources and, because of their uniqueness, conceptualize them as potentially yielding competitive advantage. We say “potentially” because it is clear that uniqueness itself does not yield competitive advantage but it is uniqueness in positive ways as perceived by the marketplace that does this.

But for competitive advantage to emerge from firm human resources those human resources must be unique. For example, we referred to the “so-called strategic human resource management approach to HRM” and call it “so-called” because it basically says to do your HRM work very well: hire well, train well, appraise well, and manage well. There is not much unique in that because if companies did those and did them well they would all look alike. Contrast that approach with one demonstrated by Ployhart and colleagues (2009, 2011). They show that when a service organization implements HRM practices targeted on producing service quality for customers as opposed to just doing HRM well then the firm becomes a repository of unique human capital resources. They (Ployhart et al., 2009) show through multilevel growth modeling that firms that increase the aggregate customer orientation of their human resources also improve customer satisfaction over time.

Barney (1986) argued that organizational culture might be a source of competitive advantage. The reason why cultures can yield competitive advantage, he noted, is because they are difficult to imitate and inimitability is the key to competitive advantage. It is hopefully clear now why we chose the great variety of chapters we did for inclusion in the Handbook: The potentially interrelated set of systems issues the chapters address offer choices organizations can make to produce unique and inimitable climates and cultures that might yield competitive advantage. What is most interesting is to carefully read through the ways McDonald’s (chapter 32 by Small and Newton) works at uniqueness and difficulty to imitate and, similarly, the ways 3M (chapter 29 by Paul and Fenlason) has evolved. Both have achieved competitive advantage in their marketplaces not by doing what each other or anyone else is doing; they have focused on different possible elements of interrelated systems to achieve the status—and competitive advantage—that they have.

A very useful feature of the “big data” work by Guzzo and his colleagues in chapter 11 is how they show that a package or collection of HRM practices when examined together the way they actually exist in companies can provide insights not otherwise available to firm management. This is again consistent with the configural approach advocated by Ostroff and Schulte in chapter 27.

In the field of marketing, they discuss bundles or packages of features offered with products and services, the bundle or package defining uniqueness. We see the challenge for the creation of climates and cultures that will produce competitive advantage as requiring a similar logic: Companies must find bundles or packages of interrelated systems elements that will define uniqueness for them and then pursue them with vigor through many multilevel and multifunction policies, practices, and procedures to enact the message they wish to send to create the values and beliefs that will define at what people will devote their energies and competencies in service to the firm. When the bundle or package for the strategic focus is built on a positive human culture it will succeed also for the good of the people in the firm as well. It is difficult to do but it will be unique and inimitable and it will work. And it will work because as Hogan and his colleagues so interestingly propose in chapter 28, we have evolutionarily developed to profit from the collections of people that constitute modern organizations so that through coordinated effort under leadership providing direction we can survive and prosper. There is no doubt that as humans we will cluster into organizations and the more effectively we do this the better off we will all be over the long run.

In Conclusion

It is likely clear to readers how much we feel we have learned from this wonderfully complex assortment of excellent chapters by some of the world’s leading academics and by practitioners who make these ideas work every day. Collectively the chapters yield insights into the many activities that can influence climate and culture—and how climate and culture influence the ways such activities will be enacted. In our opinion the academic reports of research and theory, when combined with the practice chapters on how to put many facets of organizational functioning in place simultaneously, offer a broad and useful road map for the creation and maintenance—and change—of organizational climate and culture. As the Nike ad says “Just Do It.” (p. 687)


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