Cultural web


The Cultural Web is a change management tool, which compares ‘as is‘ with ‘ what we would like it to be‘.

Also known as

The tool

The Cultural Web (developed by Johnson and Scholes) identifies six interrelated elements, which when examined, allows users to understand:

  • Organisational culture.
  • Barriers to change.
  • What adaptations to the organisation’s culture are required if change is to be effectively delivered and managed.
The paradigm is a the central circle surrounded by the six elements, each in its own circle.
The interrelated elements may be diagrammed in a ‘flower’ sructure.
Element ??
  1. Stories
  • What people, both within and without the organisation, talk about
Topics may relate to events and / or people. Who and what gets remembered is indicative of values, and topics of conversation provide an indication of what is seen as being important.
  1. Rituals and routines
  • Daily behaviour and actions of people.
This gives an indication of what is understood to be acceptable behaviour within the organisation.
  1. Symbols
  • Visual representations of the organisation.
These may include: logos; dress code; language used; office furnishings and décor.
  1. Organisational structure
  • The formal structure as recorded in the organisational chart and line management / reporting relationships as well as informal channels of influence and power.
Information channels indicate whose contributions are most valued.
  1. Control systems
  • How the organisation is controlled
The control systems which  include financial systems, quality systems and rewards.
  1. Power structures
  • Where does the real power in the organisation lie?

The people who are identified here have the greatest influence on decisions, operations, and strategic directions.

Note that individuals identified here may include those who wield power behind the scenes.

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Why use it

When to use it

The Cultural Web is used to:

  • Explore and expose cultural assumptions and practices
  • Identify where change programmes might be easy to implement or where change might meet with more resistance.

How to use it

By using the model’s elements as a focus for discussion, questioning and probing, the model enables you to set out assumptions of what the organisation is and what it is for. It represents what is taken for granted, rather than what strategy, policy, or ideals say the organisation should be like.


  • Makes explicit things that are taken for granted and which might otherwise be overlooked when managing change.
  • Enables implicit, underlying assumptions to be questioned.
  • Helps to identify barriers to change as well as areas where the existing culture aligns with the future strategy that is being sought.
  • Helps to plan for changes that need to occur, and how such changes can be managed.


  • The priority that is given to using the tool only with managers. Concentrating on the managers’ view might possibly give an inaccurate and incomplete view of the organisation.

Similar to

Use in conjunction with

Complemented by


Additional information