Posted on January 24, 2019

National Culture and Organisational Culture - how are they different?

One very common source of confusion is the relationship between National Culture and Organisational Culture. Because Professor Hofstede's definition of culture, the programming of the human mind by which one group of people distinguishes itself from another group, describes culture in general, it can be applied to both. Yet, it is clear that National Culture and Organisational Culture are not the same. By reading this article, you'll learn more about how Organisational Culture differs from National Culture, and about the relationship between the two.



National culture

Like we have emphasized before, culture is a group phenomenon. Personality always plays an important role in one's behaviour and the characteristics of National Culture tend to be less apparent when you're looking at a small group of people. Yet, the larger that group becomes, the more noticeable National Culture will also be.

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For example, if you deal with a single French person, what you will notice are his or her individual qualities. If you see a small group of French people, it's entirely possible that they are, for instance, a group of friends and share similar individual qualities but still vastly differ from most of the nation. It's also possible that their individual qualities have very little in common and you might have difficulties spotting any similarities.

If you deal with a large number of French people at the same time, the individual qualities of each will be less noticeable and you'll begin to see what they have in common.



Organisational culture

The example above already describes one of the key differences between National Culture and Organisational Culture. The small group of French people mentioned in the example could be the employees of a small French organisation. Because these people would not represent French culture as a whole, it would be wrong to assume that the culture of their organisation would be identical to French culture. Still, the company would have a culture of some sort.

Organisational Culture is the result of many factors but tends to be more straightforward and precise to measure than National Culture. This is because most organisations have clear objectives and requirements. Most of the activities within the organisation are then designed to meet those objectives and requirements. While size of the organisation and personalities of its members, especially the more influential ones, still play a large role, Organisational Culture is easier to observe and define than National Culture.

When we talk about Organisational Culture, the groups in Professor Hofstede's definition usually are the organisations. So, we talk about how the members of the organisation relate to each other, to their work and to the outside world, and we are interested in how all this is different in one organisation compared to another. How this one group of people distinguishes itself from another group.

While differences between National Cultures are most apparent in the values, differences between organisations within the same nation can most clearly be seen in the practices of the organisations. This is also why Organisational Culture, unlike National Culture, can be changed by changing those practices.

Read more about Organisational Culture