Strategy and organizational culture – Conceptualizing the interplay of key concepts in communication

Luisa Winkler, Ansgar Zerfass


Organizational culture and strategy have had a long and varied history in communication research. Different definitions go hand in hand at several levels to analyze their nature and impact. The cultural roots of organizations and the need for flexible strategic communication raise the question: What are the similarities between organizational culture and strategies and do both concepts influence each another?

Embedded in dynamic environments and coping with complexity, organizational culture and strategy seem to be two sides of the same coin – stability from the past and flexibility for the future. But strategies cannot be implemented by neglecting culture. Therefore, the paper’s purpose is three-fold. First, it will discuss via a literature review the resemblance between the definition of strategy and organizational culture as patterns that evolve over time. This will be applied to the CCO-principle, whereby culture and strategy are both an outcome of the four flows of communication and an influence on the constitution of the organization as well as on its identity. Finally, the paper will explain how organizational culture goes hand in hand with strategic communication and how this yields insights for science and practice.

In short, the paper will merge two important concepts of organizational communication. According to this, every strategy implementation has to consider culture – while culture implies stability and consistency, strategies require flexibility and change over time.


Culture; Strategy; Organizational Communication; CCO; Flexibility; Stability;

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