The influence of organizational culture on incremental change in higher education: A case study

Janet Lindner, University of Pennsylvania


In the rapidly-changing environment of a college campus, administrators seeking to lead routine, incremental changes are often left to their own devices, confronting resistance whose origins may be difficult to gauge. The individual manager may learn from the experience, but is often simply too busy to analyze the lessons learned to put them into practice in the next planned change. It is even harder for the manager to share lessons learned with others in the institution in any organized way; instead, the same problems with implementation are experienced repeatedly. This dissertation is a qualitative study using the case study method of inquiry designed to better understand the influences of organizational culture and subcultures on incremental change strategies in higher education. The study examined two incremental change initiatives that were implemented over several years at Yale University, to determine how certain factors within the organizational culture or subcultures may have influenced implementation of the planned changes. Using Bergquist's cultural model of the academy as a basis for understanding different cultures that are manifest in higher education, the study researched how the planned changes were initiated, and how faculty and staff perceived the changes based upon their affiliation with occupational or organizational subcultures. The results suggest that those leading incremental change in higher education should consider factors including the need for thoughtful planning and articulating desired outcomes at the onset of change, the need for organized training and communication efforts, the importance of working towards clear, measurable results and project end-dates, and the critical need for a culturally-sensitive approach to planned change.

Subject Area

Labor relations|Organizational behavior|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Lindner, Janet, "The influence of organizational culture on incremental change in higher education: A case study" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310495.