Humans are Political Animals

Organizational culture is a political-semiotic process [...]

Organizational culture is a political-semiotic process that addresses:

- The collective mental map that establishes the lens through which internal and external environment variables are perceived, analyzed and incorporated, orientating the individual’s attitudes and group behaviors, modelling a company’s way of being and influencing its strategic choices and operations.

- The way the group operates and interacts for the achievement of a defined goal within the time and space recognized by the individuals, with a defined set of - not necessarily explicit - norms and values for the resolution of conflicts, resolution of problems, decision-making processes, recognition, penalties, and execution.

- The nature of the bond that the individuals establish between themselves and with the business context into which they are inserted, combining affective and rational aspects.

Organizational cultures are, therefore, social constructions operated by groups, directed by leaders capable of articulating common interests, creating meanings, and implementing mutual obligations between all those involved, in a permanent interactive process of opposition, transformation and domination.

Over time, leaders and subordinates shape languages, traditions, norms, values, meanings, symbols, rituals, myths, processes, mechanisms of control and systems of recognition. Leaders do all this by means of a narrative that is presented as natural, neutral, credible, fair, and legitimate so that they are able to organize the social and psychological processes in this human grouping.

The distinctive expression of a company is therefore formed in relation to the others. Every organizational culture is inexorably the original expression of its own trajectory, in a continual dynamic defined by internal and external social interactions.

The organizational culture is established in three levels that combine elements that are concrete and visible, symbolic, and subjective, and even conscious and unconscious.

· Level 1: Observable factors - This is the easiest level to observe in a company. Everything that is seen, heard, and felt in the interactions with members of this company represent this, the most superficial layer, formed of visible organizational structures and observable behaviors. The decoration, the atmosphere, the way the people behave with each other, the language, the symbols, the rituals.

· Level 2: Shared norms and values – This is the middle level that guides the social interactions in a specific way, distinguishing the members of this culture from other companies, ensuring them a distinctive identity. The shared values are related to desires and aspirations, goals, and mental models, guiding the concepts of “good” and “bad”. The norms guide the concepts of “right” and “wrong”, and can even be developed formally, being reflected in policies, procedures, or manuals, or informally, regulating the social order in a semiotic way.

· Level 3 - Certainties and fundamental assumptions - This level is made up of a set of collective perceptions that define the real essence of the organization. It is formed of essential values, beliefs and thoughts that result in a process of collective learning, constructed over the course of the group life. Such basic certainties are the result of the historic collective success, as the group learns what functions best in its processes and environments, thus crystallizing a specific way of acting and interacting. However, these same certainties, with time, become automatic and unconscious, forging tacit rules or mental models that guide the ways of doing, thinking, and feeling, even when faced with a volatile context.

Such cultural, religious, philosophical, scientific, or artistic standards, in the face of the enormous malleability of human behavior, transform themselves into programs capable of organizing the social and psychological processes within a human group. It is through these strong ideological pillars and social references that a man transforms himself, for good or for bad, into a political animal.


Daniel Augusto Motta, PhD, MSc

Founder & CEO BMI Blue Management Institute

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