Systems & complexity

Organisational climate vs. organisational culture

Organisational culture has become a hot topic, with many leaders and experts talking about how particular organisational cultures can be implemented, or how organisations can make cultural change. However, in a post on, Tim Kuppler warns that “Unfortunately, the reality is that most of these leaders and experts are actually focusing their efforts on climate and not dealing with the deeper, more powerful subject of culture.”

So what’s the difference? As part of a paper1 looking at the links between organisational climate and managerial practices and innovation, Manuela Varsani discusses the differences and also the overlap between “organisational climate” and “organisational culture”.

The two concepts have different research perspectives, with the climate concept based on psychological field theory and the culture concept typically addressed by the anthropology discipline. They also have different implications: “The term climate means consciously perceived processes and factors of the environment that can be controlled by the organisation. The focus of climate is on the situation and its link to perceptions, feelings, and behaviour of employees.”

Further differences are listed in the following table.

Differences Organisational Culture and Organisational Climate Research

So, before engaging in a cultural adoption or change activity, make sure that it is actually organisational culture you are dealing with.


  1. Varsani, M. (2015). Organisational Climate – Links to Managerial Practices and Innovation. Humanities and Social Sciences Latvia, 86.
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Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and project management professional. He is a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. His expertise and experience includes knowledge management (KM), environmental management, project management, stakeholder engagement, teaching and training, communications, research, and writing and editing. With a demonstrated ability to identify and implement innovative solutions to social and ecological complexity, Bruce's many career highlights include establishing RealKM Magazine as an award-winning resource, using agile and knowledge management approaches to oversee an award-winning $77.4 million western Sydney river recovery program, leading a knowledge strategy process for Australia's 56 natural resource management (NRM) regional organisations, pioneering collaborative learning and governance approaches to support the sustainable management of landscapes and catchments, and initiating and teaching two new knowledge management subjects at Shanxi University in China.

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