Every organization—whether a business, a not-for-profit entity, or government—reflects and operates from a unique culture. It’s an inherent and essential element that brings order to the internal and external environments1 and reduces uncertainty2 among members of the group. The quality and strength of cultures explain many of the differences in organizational performance. But culture often operates below the surface of an organization, so that studying the abstraction of culture is elusive.
Organizational culture is especially important to the workings of a knowledge transfer business, such as investment management, because much of the work produced is intangible, and the environment changes so rapidly. Accordingly, culture is a critical component of any professional service firm, and we have made culture the introductory topic for this book.
Culture is a subject that has occupied management consultants and academics since the 1950s. One definition that we have found useful was put forward by Edgar Schein, an early scholar on culture and leadership, and today professor emeritus of MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He writes:
“The culture of a group can . . . be defined as a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel.3 . ...