Publication details [#7508]

Lyons, Brad. 2003. The use of metaphor as a tool for studying and diagnosing organizational culture. Fresno, Calif.. 175 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


A major development in the study of organizations occurred with the paradigm shift toward understanding organizational functioning in terms of the concept of culture. The literature supports the profound importance of organizational culture as one of the most important phenomena driving and shaping organizational behavior and dynamics. Much of the previous research limited itself to only single dimensions of culture, while frequently omitting many other critical dimensions. This qualitative study developed and tested both a model of organizational culture and a research/diagnostic methodology in order to provide a more sophisticated, yet practical, framework for organizational research and diagnosis. A model of organizational culture was developed integrating essential theory and research from multiple disciplines into a comprehensive, multidimensional taxonomy. The dimensions identified included (a) cognitions, (b) values, (c) symbolism, (d) differentiation, (e) fragmentation, (f) emotions, (g) the unconscious (processes and contents), (h) contracts, (i) relationship patterns, and (j) defining trait(s). This methodology utilized organizational members' metaphors as data. Metaphors (with research participants' explanations) were found to be an almost ideal form of data. The methodology advances the current state of research and diagnostic sophistication by providing new insights into many complex human systems dynamics that are far more difficult and time consuming, if even possible, to recognize and investigate well through other means. The application of this methodology and model yielded many insights into the group and organizational culture of the workgroup participants. The model was found to significantly enhance the data interpretation processes. The study found that the metaphors obtained from workgroup participants provided a holistic and thorough foundation for diagnosing the culture of the group and the large organization. Potential cultural implications, such as those found in this study, could be used as part of the diagnostic process or as part of academic research. This model provides a foundation for continued comprehensive theory building, and this methodology provides a useful template for the future use of symbolic data, expanding of the breadth and depth of the diagnostic process. (Brad Lyons)