I came across The Iceberg Model of Workplace Dynamics while I was reading the ‘Unfolding Leadership’ blog by Dan Oestreich.   Here is a summary of my learning of the model.

The Iceberg Model of Workplace Dynamics which was developed by Stanley N. Herman of TRW Systems in 1970.












The model is divided into two halves and helps us understand workplace dynamics or organizational culture. The upper half represents the visible or formal aspects of an organization such as systems, structures, policies, technologies of an organization. The lower half below the water line represents the hidden or informal aspects of an organization such as attitudes, beliefs, values, and perceptions etc. which stand for the real world interactions from which an organization is also made of.

The author very much emphasizes on the importance of having a balance between these two aspects of organizational culture. In an over-managed organization where the upper half dominates the lower half there are problems of paper bureaucracies, systems, a policy for everything and a parent-child management.

In contrast, in an over led organization; people ignore the water-line and try to succeed solely on effective relationships, intelligence or entrepreneurial spirit. In doing so, they also overlook the systems and processes of the organization.  None of the two scenarios in their extremes are effective for an organization.

In an organization the formal and the informal aspects both need each other.  And as the author so well wrote it, “Order and opportunism, policy and good judgment, goals and passions, strategic plans and a sense of belonging – head to heart”.

In conclusion, he says that when the alignment between the two halves is there, people in an organization perform. I encourage you to read this post and explore the blog, as the author highlights an example from his personal experience.


1.  http://www.unfoldingleadership.com/blog/?p=61

2. Image: http://www.unfoldingleadership.com/blog/?p=61