To Change Culture, Start with Beliefs or Behaviors? A Multidisciplinary Answer

Abstract: Do organizations think themselves into a new way of acting, or act themselves into a new way of thinking? Conflicting opinions in the literature have made it difficult for leaders and organizational change consultants to know whether to start by changing beliefs or behaviors. A multidisciplinary review of 100 references on belief, behavior, and organizational change (table 1) was conducted in an attempt to discover commonalities and reconcile differences on this longstanding dilemma. Confusion can be attributed to imprecise terminology and incomplete modeling. To help narrow the scope of this issue, emphasis is placed on the type of organizational change that involves culture change. More precise terms are proposed along with a new schematic of the “organizational braking system” to help leaders and change agents understand the counterintuitive ways they can accelerate culture change.