Overt and covert organization culture: a case study of the Office of Technology Assessment
Beale, William Mason Jr.
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The purpose of this study is to determine (1) whether current conceptual frames for understanding organization culture are adequate. This question is approached first by reviewing and categorizing organization culture literature. A case study of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) is presented so as to provide a detailed empirical picture of an actual organization culture. This study revealed three separate arenas of culture at OTA: an overt, or official culture; a covert, or unacknowledged culture testified to by a majority of OTA staff; and an area between these two that can be termed ambivalent or marginal. The overt culture was composed of the objective "company line" values and was characterized as "technoscience" culture, while the covert culture, characterized as reflexive science culture, was made up of deeper level motives or attitudes held implicitly at the personal level and that derive from the dynamics of the longer term developmental life cycle of individual OTA professional staff. The ambivalent arena contained both of these elements and constituted a kind of quasi-conscious awareness that both the other arenas of culture exist. The majority of OTA staff testified to the covert culture, indicating that a reflexive science approach was the one that actually energizes their research practice, rather than the traditional technoscience approach espoused officially by analytical research organizations such as and including OTA. The covert culture seems to be a major factor in OTA's success as a research organization in that it facilitates the meshing of the staff's personal development cycle with the agency's mission.
- Doctoral Dissertations