Organizational Culture Change – 6 Advantages to Enhance Performance


If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there! What the rabbit said to Alice is also true when reversed. If you don’t know where you are now, you’ll never get where you want to be.

This is what happens to some managers and organizations. They’re working to achieve goals and enhance performance. But 80% of their endeavors generate 20% results or even less. That’s not because their goals aren’t properly set. They are. The only thing lacking is a precise bearing. Standing precisely here, what would be the most effective way to reach that future?

So, having your goals set and preparing to change, spend 15 minutes to assess your organizational culture. Why? Because culture is found to make the difference. It is why up to 70% of organizational culture change programs fail. Wouldn’t it be great to avoid just that? Make your change endeavors more effective, aiming for 20% endeavors generating 80% results, and take your current organizational culture into account. Learn the current potential and possible resistance right here, right now, before your feet. Knowing it is dealing with it. Overcome resistance and mobilize your organization’s potential. It is a powerful starting point for successful change. Leave no sooner than after you’ve done this!

Are you ready? Just follow me!

Fifteen minutes will do for managers and staff to assess their organizational culture quickly, easily and reliably. The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) is developed by professors Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn and is a validated research method. No wonder that the OCAI is currently used by over 10,000 companies worldwide. How come that this instrument takes only so little time and is still valid?

The Competing Values Framework

Cameron & Quinn learned from statistical analysis that out of a list of thirty-nine indicators of effectiveness for organizations, only two dimensions made the difference. So four quadrants were constructed, corresponding with four organizational culture types that differ strongly on these two dimensions:

  • Internal focus and integration VS External focus and differentiation
  • Stability and control VS Flexibility and discretion

Organizations in the two left quadrants are internally focused, like: What is important for us and how do we want to work? The two quadrants on the right consist of organizations that are externally focused on: What is important for the market, competitors and customers? The upper quadrants desire flexibility, while at the bottom organizations value stability and control.

In short, the four archetypes of culture are:

1. Clan Culture: A friendly, people-oriented working environment where colleagues have a lot in common, similar to a family. They value teamwork and consensus. Executives are seen as mentors or father figures. There is great involvement. Success is defined as addressing the needs of clients and caring for people.

2. Adhocracy Culture: A dynamic and creative working environment. Employees take initiatives and risks. Leaders are seen as innovators. Experiments, innovation and prominence are emphasized. Success is growth and creating new products or services.

3. Market Culture: A results-based organization that emphasizes finishing work and getting things done. People are competitive and focused on goals. Leaders are hard drivers, producers, and rivals at the same time. Market penetration and stock are the definitions of success.

4. Hierarchy Culture: A formalized and structured work environment. Procedures are leading. Leaders are efficiency-based coordinators. Keeping the organization functioning smoothly is most crucial. Reliable delivery, smooth planning and low costs define success.

Of course these descriptions are a bit short and therefore monochrome. They’re just meant to give you a quick glimpse of the four types. You can check a more extensive and nuanced explanation about the OCAI.

Six key features

To find your organization’s core values and thus the dominant culture type, you need to complete a short survey. Just assess the following six features of organizational culture:

  • dominant characteristics
  • organizational leadership
  • management of employees
  • organization glue
  • strategic emphases
  • criteria of success

The organizational culture assessment shows four statements for each of the above key features of culture. By dividing 100 points over these four descriptions, you’ll get a weighed assessment of the current culture mix.

Just like in reality you don’t need to choose just one culture type. Reality is ambivalent and so is organizational culture. The Competing Values Framework states that the values and the corresponding organizational cultures compete with each other. Organizations can spend their money, attention and time only once, so they tend to emphasize certain values. Quinn and Cameron found that flexible organizations are the most effective, which sometimes leads to contradictory behavior. Research shows that there is no single “best” culture type. The best mix of culture types depends on the situation. In a saturated market for instance, you could flourish with a competitive market culture, while this culture would produce opposite effects in a start up company that thrives on innovation, creativity and serving new developing markets.

You can find your unique culture mix of for instance, people-oriented clan culture and results-oriented market culture. Knowing your specific mix of internal focus and flexibility (clan culture) versus external focus and stability (market culture), you can prepare a successful pathway to the preferred situation.

In the assessment you also define the preferred situation. Just rate the six key aspects of organizational culture again, but this time you keep the preferred future in mind. You divide 100 points while you imagine it’s five years from now and the desired situation has come true.

The outcome!

Now you know where you stand and where you want to go! In just 15 minutes an entire team or organization can assess their starting point and their goal.

Before there was an automated version of the OCAI, it was a lot of work to calculate the profiles by hand. Nowadays, there’s an online automated OCAI tool available that is free for individual participants and at a very reasonable price for teams and organizations.

Using this online tool, every participant receives their personal profiles of current and preferred culture by email. A team of participants can discuss their personal profiles and create a joint profile as a basis for their change program.

In case of large corporations with a great number of participants, you can work with the collective profile, constructed by averaging all the individual results. This provides a clear, quantified starting point for change.

A culture profile gives a lot of quantified information:

  1. The dominant culture and its strength
  2. The difference between present and preferred culture
  3. The congruency of the six features
  4. Comparison with the average for the sector or industry group
  5. The developmental phase of the organization

ad 1: Imagine that you have a very dominant market culture (48 out of 100 points): this indicates that people experience a culture of competition and getting things done.

ad 2: For instance, you see that employees would prefer 10 points more of a people oriented clan culture. The difference between current and preferred profiles indicates your organization’s readiness to change (or their current discontent) and gives an impression what kind of change or approach would be motivating.

ad 3: Congruence means that the 6 key features of culture align, so that they all emphasize, for instance, market culture. Mostly this works smoothly, while incongruence means that there are inconsistencies that can take a lot of time, energy and so on.

ad 4 and 5: It’s interesting to compare your culture profile with your economic sector and see how mature your organization is. Cultures evolve over time from extreme flexibility to more stability and an external orientation.

Qualitative fine tuning

Once you have this quantified picture, you might color and detail it with some qualitative information. Instead of doing interviews through the organization, as some consultants tend to do, you could simply settle for an OCAI workshop. Interviews are not only a lot of work but also produce loads of information that is difficult to standardize or combine to a meaningful whole. Working with your results in an OCAI workshop is adding qualitative information, fine-tuning your profile, understanding it better and working on consensus about the current and preferred situation. When this is accomplished, you mobilize people’s readiness to change. That’s a lot of potential to work with. It’s great energy to start a change, I can tell from experience.

In my next article I will tell you how you can work with your results and start your change program effectively with the OCAI workshops.

6 Advantages to Performance

Conclusively, diagnosing and changing organizational culture can actually pay off if it’s done correctly. Don’t neglect culture since it’s such an important factor. Let culture work for you and enhance performance.

As a consultant guiding organizational change I got enthusiastic about using the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument. A discriminate factor for success that beforehand was considered “vague” and impossible to manage, was made easy to grasp and even utilize, mobilizing employees beyond their “normal” resistance to change.