Cover: Identifying Promising Approaches to U.S. Army Institutional Change

Identifying Promising Approaches to U.S. Army Institutional Change

A Review of the Literature on Organizational Culture and Climate

Published Dec 5, 2017

by Lisa S. Meredith, Carra S. Sims, Benjamin Saul Batorsky, Adeyemi Okunogbe, Brittany L. Bannon, Craig A. Myatt


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Research Questions

  1. Which approaches would best help the U.S. Army commit to organizational change to meet challenges stemming from behavioral health issues, misconduct, and changing demographics?
  2. What are the drivers of cultural change in an organization, and how do these drivers apply to the specific culture of the U.S. Army?

The U.S. Army is facing challenges stemming from behavioral health issues, misconduct, and adjustment to changing demographics. Long-term solutions to these problems very likely require changes in the Army's organizational culture and climate, but institutional change in large organizations is typically very difficult. To deal with these challenges, researchers identify promising approaches to institutional change from the literature on organizational culture and climate. Researchers use findings from a systematic literature review, vetted by a panel of experts on organizational culture change and the military context, to develop recommendations. At the conclusion of this report, researchers recommend promising strategies for embracing change in the Army based on the literature. These strategies should help the Army prioritize organizational culture change; adopt a common definition of organizational culture; determine target problems amenable to culture change; assess the Army's current culture and climate in the problem context; develop a strategy for culture change with clear goals; engage stakeholders at all levels in the Army; and target training to maximize resources and uptake.

Key Findings

  • The drivers judged most critical to cultural change in the U.S. Army are goals and accountability.
  • Leaders set goals by stating intent, and personnel at subordinate levels work to realize that intent.
  • Accountability is seen as an inherent part of leadership in that responsibility is fixed at every leadership level.
  • Training is a continuous process in and of itself, but it is not sufficient to change culture and climate.
  • Any institutional change requires resources, and time is a critical resource, particularly for leadership.
  • Formal and informal leaders must also be engaged.


  • The Army should adopt a definition of organizational culture that is both specific enough to fit with the Army domain and general enough to cover changes within that domain.
  • The Army should first undertake organizational change within the context of a specific problem and then understand the cultural implications of that problem. Any attempt to change the entire Army culture at once should be avoided.
  • The Army should assess the current culture and climate to best determine how to address the most pressing problems, then apply a holistic approach to specific problems.
  • Senior Army leaders should clearly articulate strategic goals to prioritize competing initiatives or delegate that authority appropriately.
  • The Army should develop a clear strategy and goals to guide change planning and implementation.
  • The Army should engage all levels of leadership through the command chain and through noncommissioned officer support channels outside the chain of command to address both overarching goals and goals specific to different subcultures.
  • The Army should consider targeted training to maximize resources and uptake.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Foundational Science Research Unit of the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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