Organizational Culture Assessment Inventory

Steinhoff, C. R., and Owens, R. G. (1988). The Organizational Culture Inventory: A metaphorical analysis of organizational culture in educational settings. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association.

Comments: This instrument was developed as an objective measure of organizational culture. Two major questions were of concern: (1) What are the essential factors that define the metaphor, Organizational Culture? and (2) How can these factors be evaluated objectively in a given organization? Organizational culture is a pattern of basic assumptions developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration. The study of patterns of these assumptions has focused on control mechanisms, values, norms, history, traditions, ceremonies, rituals, heroes, symbols, and informal networks, as well as internalized solutions to internal and external problems.

Scale Construction: A taxonomy structure of organizational culture was developed from a review of the literature. This taxonomy has six dimensions that define the culture of a school: (1) the history of the organization; (2) values and beliefs of the organization; (3) myths and stories that explain the organization; (4) cultural norms of the organization;

  • traditions, rituals, and ceremonies; and (6) heroes and heroines of the

Sample: The development of the instrument constituted two samples: (1) Several classes of graduate students provided 56 responses representing 47 individual schools. (2) Data were collected from eight elementary schools, which represented the major themes identified in the initial analysis.

Data Analysis: The analysis of the initial data produced descriptions of four cultural phenotypes that differentiate in terms of the metaphorical language recognized by respondents as characteristic of the schools in which they work.

  1. The Family—Approximately one-third of the respondents referred to their schools as the family, home, team, or The principal was described as a parent (strong or weak), nurturer, friend, sibling, or coach.
  2. Modern Times—Many respondents described their schools using the metaphor of the machine. They were described as well-oiled machines, political machines, beehives of activity, or rust
  3. The Cabaret—Some respondents described their schools as a circus, a broadway show, a banquet, or a well-choreo- graphed ballet performed by well-appreciated
  4. The Little Shop of Horrors—A small percentage described their school as unpredictable, tension-filled nightmares having the characteristics of Paris during the French Revolution. Teachers in these schools lead isolated lives; there is little social


Owens, R. G., and Steinhoff, C. R. (1989). Towards a theory of organizational culture. Journal of Educational Administration 27:6–16.

Organizational Culture Assessment Inventory

1. Every school has a unique history all of its own. Teachers know something of that history even if they have not worked there for a long time, because people talk about things that went on in former times. Some of these events may have been powerful incidents in the community that affected the school, and others may be purely internal matters that might seem unimportant or even mundane to outsiders.

Please describe in a brief paragraph some of the more important events or trends that helped to shape the character of your school as it is today.

2. Schools usually espouse some official, formal, public set of values and beliefs. Ordinarily these appear in hand- books, newsletters, speeches, and so on. But in day-to-day work, a school may sometimes seem to be operating from values and beliefs that are different from the official public statements. The latter values and beliefs are, of course, often implicitly understood but not often talked about.

In a brief paragraph, please describe the actual, functional values and beliefs that are important in your school.

3. People who work in schools very often tell stories—perhaps mythical, or apocryphal, or humorous—that help to explain what life in them is really like.

Briefly describe a common story that is likely to be told to a newcomer by an “old hand” in your school to impress upon the individual “how things are really done around here.”
4. Every school has established but unwritten expectations for behavior on the job.
In a brief paragraph, please describe some of the most important expectations that have to be met in your school in order to get along.

5. Schools often develop informal customs, or rituals, that are more or less unique. For example, in one school that we know of there is a bridge game going on in the teachers’ lounge every day with different people sitting in as they come off of hall and cafeteria duty. In another school, the principal has an informal coffee klatch in the school kitchen every morning, and so on.

In a brief paragraph, please describe any such rituals that are important in the daily life of your school.

6. Schools seem to have at least one person, either now or in the past, who is thought of with great respect (or even reverence) because he or she is/was so outstanding in the life of the school.
If you can think of such an individual in the history of your school, please describe in a brief paragraph why it is that the individual is so well-regarded.

  1. In responding to the previous questions, you have provided a rich description of important aspects of the culture of your school. But the culture of a school is a total entity, even greater than the sum of its parts. We now would like you to summarize the descriptions that you have provided by using metaphors as a way to convey the essence of the culture of your school. A metaphor identifies one object with another and ascribes to the first object one or more qualities of the For example, some administrators speak of the school as a family.

People often use metaphors to succinctly describe complex ideas. For example, when we say that a school is a “well-oiled machine,” that metaphor makes clear what that particular school is really like in the eyes of the people who work in it. For another example, for teachers to speak of a principal as being “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” tells us a lot about the impact of the behavior of that individual principal on the teachers in that particular school.

In this sense, considering the descriptions that you have already written, what one best metaphor would you use to complete the following sentences:

  1. My school “is” a (an, the) .
  2. Please explain why you chose this
  3. The principal in my school “is” a (an, the) .
  4. Please
  5. The typical teacher in my school “is” a (an, the) .
  6. Please explain why you chose this
  7. The typical student in my school “is” a (an, the) .
  8. Please explain why you chose this
  9. The community in which my school is situated “is” a (an, the) .
  10. Please
  1. What, in your opinion, would be the metaphor for the ideal school?
  2. What, in your opinion, would be the metaphor for the ideal school principal?
  3. What, in your opinion, would be the metaphor for the ideal teacher?
  4. What, in your opinion, would be the metaphor for the ideal student?
  5. What, in your opinion, would be the metaphor for the ideal school community?

Scoring: Responses are scored on the basis of school metaphor.