Culture and mission alignment in community colleges: An organizational analysis.

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

International Leadership Association Conference


San Diego, CA

Date of Presentation



Strong agreement of mission and culture has been found in more effective colleges (Fjortoft & Smart, 1994). For leaders, the culture of an organization provides the context for which decisions about organizational change processes can be made (Malm, 2008). The purpose of this study was to explore the culture present within a community college through the lens of institutional mission implementation and to examine the perceived relationship of the mission statement to culture by those within the organization. Using qualitative methodology, this research explored the mission of a state community college system in the Midwest and studied the existing culture of one institution within the system. Examined were the implementation of institutional mission, departmental understanding of institutional mission, and collective culture present within the Student Affairs division of the selected institution. Used as the constructs of culture in this study, Levin’s (2000) Five Windows into Culture: Inquiry Methods were adopted by the researcher to observe and codify the data. These windows ix were referred to in the research as constructs of culture. The constructs were as follows: leadership; norms and practices; symbols; stories and legends; traditions and rituals; and organization symbols. An additional inductive construct, space, emerged during data analysis. The construct of space became a significant part of the findings and implications of this organizational analysis. More effective use of mission has been correlated to the commitment of top management in developing and using it to drive their practice (Mullane, 2002). Three main implications were cited from this research. Each implication focused on the management of mission and recognition of culture development at the base of the organizational hierarchy. While it is important for leaders to be highly committed to organizational mission, engagement with mission related activities should not stop with leaders. The first implication for practice is the need for leader-guided institutional mission reinforcement activities for departmental staff. The second implication for practice is the need to take into consideration culture-focused goals and outcomes during strategic planning. The last implication is the need for intentional analysis and management of physical space to create desired culture focused outcomes. The gap that exists for leaders between mission use and culture development proves to be challenging. This organizational analysis provides insight into how leaders may more effectively approach culture development in relation to institutional mission. This Student Affairs department examined in x this research provided evidence of the culture supporting the formal institutional mission. The researcher found disconnect between this culture and staff members perceptions of the usefulness of the institutional mission. As a result, it is recommended that leaders approach culture development from this perspective. It could be the leader’s job in this context to guide staff to positive ways the formal institutional mission could be used to impact their practice at the base of the institution’s hierarchy. Allowing staff in non-leadership positions to interact with the institutional mission and align it with their personal workrelated values could make for a culture that embraces mission-focused strategic goals.