Six Levels of Culture

TMC’s unique concept of culture is at the core of the theory and practical application of the Cultural Orientations Approach.

TMC defines culture as the complex pattern of ideas, emotions, and observable/symbolic manifestations that tend to be expected, reinforced, and rewarded by and within a particular group. The Cultural Orientations Approach blends this theoretical concept with a practical appreciation of the impact of culture and the importance of cultural competence, which allows people to purposely reduce risk, enhance innovation, and maximize opportunities as they adjust to new environments and different conditions.

Culture results when people organize and interact, but this occurs mostly subconsciously and on the basis of their experiences, expectations, and beliefs about themselves, others, and their shared context. The Cultural Orientations Approach can be applied to each of the six levels of human organization and interaction at which culture operates. These six levels include:

  • National/Societal: The level of culture that deals with awareness of cultural dynamics and patterns by nationality. It is particularly relevant for (a) entering a new market for product, service, and/or talent; (b) cross-border division of labor; and (c) international outsourcing relationships.
  • Organizational Culture: The level of culture that focuses on the experience of cultural dynamics in an organization. This is especially relevant for global organizations and those involved in M&A.
  • Social Identity Group Culture: The level of culture for analyzing the diversification of society by gender, generation, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and other social groups. It is particularly relevant for workforce diversity and talent management concerns.
  • Functional Culture: The level of culture that addresses cross-functional effectiveness, based on the cultures created by specific business units. Cross-functional or management teams concentrate on functional cultures and leverage their differences carefully, bridging distinct cultural differences across their constituent units.
  • Team Culture: The level of culture that becomes apparent when teams develop a distinct identity and culture. To effectively build teams in global and matrixed organization, an understanding of how to collaborate in complex and dynamic situations is essential.
  • Individual Culture: The level at which the "building blocks" of culture are present,in both intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics. An understanding of this level is important for successfully addressing the concerns at any level of culture.