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date: 15 December 2019

(p. 441) Conceptual and Methodological Issues

Handbooks typically separate conceptual from methodological concerns, but we present them here in the same section because they so depend on each other. Well-thought-out concepts lead to possible new directions for research, new approaches to operationalization and methods for research, and in the best cases, both. The first conceptual chapter, chapter 23 by Whetten and Foreman on organizational identity, introduces especially climate researchers to a concept that has received increasing attention in the organizational culture world the past 10 or 15 years. Organizational identity refers to the sense people have of “who we are” and “what we stand for” as a company. It, like organizational culture, has not suffered from issues of levels of analysis or other such nitty-gritty details since it has from the outset been conceptualized and studied at the organizational level of analysis. Whetten and Foreman make the point that the organizational level of analysis has not characterized research on climate, and they are correct about that, a point to which we shall return in our last chapter of the Handbook, chapter 35. Hogan, Kaiser, and Chamorro-Premuzic in chapter 28 present a perspective on organizational climate and culture, an evolutionary perspective, which will be new and interesting to most readers. They argue that humans have evolved as group-living organisms and, as such, have found group life to be the key to long-term survival. However, group life presents not only benefits, but also tensions and the key to effectiveness for the group is the management of such tensions—and the key to the management of such tensions they propose is effective leadership.

Both the chapter on organizational identity and the chapter on the evolutionary understanding of organizational culture assume the group/organization as the unit of analysis, and this is a theme throughout the Handbook. Some chapters in the Handbook, notably chapter 13 on organizational life cycles, address change in organizations, although most do not. Burke’s chapter 24 on organizational change presents a comprehensive vantage point on methods related to planned change in and for the group/organization. Burke introduces planned change in climate and culture framed within the broader context of the organizational change and development literature. Drawing on both consulting examples and the research literature, he then basically proposes that a key for bringing about change in organizations is to focus first on the tangibles of climate; through this focus and the behavior change that this yields, the deeper held beliefs and assumptions that characterize organizational culture can be changed. Inherent in this viewpoint is that it is easier to change climate than culture, but culture change is indeed possible. We see some real-world examples of this in the practice chapters in Part 6 of this Handbook.

Given these conceptual and methodological frames, the research methods chapters that are included in this Part take on increased salience. Chan, in chapter 25, presents the levels issues in (p. 442) climate and culture from a conceptual standpoint, setting the ground against which he presents the figure of the statistical issues that have been resolved in doing multilevel climate and culture research. In chapter 26, González-Romá and Peiró present a complete review of the research literature on organizational climate and culture strength. Although “strength” (consistency/agreement) has been a foundation concept in culture thinking and research (the word “shared” has always been a part of the definition), it has been studied for only the past decade or so in climate research. But the research has proved interesting in that it appears that under some circumstances, strength (variance in perceptions within the groups being studied) may moderate the relationship between climate/culture level and outcomes. Finally, in chapter 27, Ostroff and Schulte return to original conceptualizations of climate and culture as features of organizations that somehow capture many dimensions of organizational life. They show that most climate and culture studies, however, treat dimensions of climate and/or culture one at a time rather than as a system of dimensions. They show in very nice and understandable detail how profiles of dimensions of climate and/or culture may be studied to yield increased insight into how these macro perspectives on the meaning of organizations may be reflected in organizational processes and performance.