Investigating the organizational culture of CrossFit


Schein (2010) proposed that any group's culture can be analyzed at three levels: artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic assumptions. Given the exponential growth, popularity, and success of CrossFit (Helm, 2013), it is beneficial to explore and better understand its culture. The purpose of this study was to investigate the organizational culture of CrossFit using Schein's (1985) conceptual framework. Focus groups were conducted with 17 participants from a CrossFit gym in northern Ontario including five new members (under 6 months), six veteran members (over 1 year), four coaches, and the two owners. The interview questions were structured around Schein's three levels of organizational culture. Support for all three levels of Schein's model of organizational culture was found within the CrossFit gym. Perceptions of culture were not dependant on status within the gym as all groups of participants (new members, veteran members, coaches and owners) perceived a similar culture. Artifacts reported included the rugged, industrial appearance of the gym (visual structures and processes) and the social nature of members' prior to/following each workout (observable behaviour). Espoused beliefs and values identified by the participants included pride in the gym and their workouts, inclusion of all abilities, and a strong sense of community that extended beyond the gym. A shared underlying assumption by all members, coaches and owners was the common goal of improving their health and well-being. This research has helped us better understand CrossFit's organizational culture and the values that have made it a successful organization.