Business Case Studies, HRM / OB Case Study, Organisational Culture, Tony Hsieh Wrapping Zappos

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HRM / OB Case Study

Case Title:

Designing an Organisational Culture: Tony Hsieh Wrapping Zappos’ Organisational Culture?

Publication Month and Year :  June 2009

Authors:  Sravanthi & Vara Vasanthi

Industry:  Not Applicable

Region: Global

Case Code:  OB0026

Teaching Note:  Available

Structured Assignment:  Available


This case study illustrates the importance of organisational culture for a company and the role played by the founder, Tony Hsieh, in shaping the organisation culture. It helps in triggering a debate on the correlation between an organisation’s culture and the nature of its business.

Building a billion dollar company through organisational culture is by no means a small achievement. Nevertheless, this is what, one of the major online shoe retailers, has accomplished. In less than a decade, Zappos established itself as a company that can churn out $1 billion merchandise sales, and was ranked 23rd in the Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For. The main feature that sets apart from its competitors is its organisational culture. Under the leadership of Tony Hsieh, this organisational culture has become a pillar of strength for the company. Zappos has an army of employees who believe in the company's core values and deliver "WOW" customer service. This is the prime reason for the company's repeat purchasers (who are about 75% of Zappos' clients) and word-of-mouth marketing. The case study helps us to debate whether the organisational culture of a company can be designed, oblivious of the inherent nature of its industry. And if it can be done, would it lead to a complete mismatch between the nature of the work and the organisational culture designed for the company? In other words, does it make better sense for any company to take note of the inherent nature of its industry before it embarks upon designing its organisational culture?

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To have an in-depth understanding of organisational culture/corporate culture - What are the components that constitute the DNA of an organisational culture?
  • To examine the differences between the organisational culture and a work culture
  • To debate on the appropriate type of organisational culture required for different types of businesses
  • To examine the role of a founder CEO's values, belief systems, attitudes, mental framework, etc., in designing an organisational culture and to debate the same in the case of Zappos
  • To analyse the effects of a founder CEO's exit on the company's organisational culture.

Keywords :  Culture, Organizational Culture, Corporate Culture, Work Culture, Creating and Sustaining a Culture, Culture as an Asset, Culture as Competitive Advantage, Employee Acculturation Process, Work Ethos, Corporate Culture Vs Work Culture, Work Attitudes, Work-related Behavior, Zappos, Tony Hsieh, Organizational Behavior, OB, Organizational Behavior case study, Motivation Case Study, MBA, MBA Program, Course Mapping


  • Tony Hsieh – The Fickle Entrepreneur?
  • Life at Link Exchange
  • Zappos' Organisational Culture – Scripting the DNA
  • Interview with Tony Hsieh

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