Organizational Culture Change: Why and How, part 2

by Marcella Bremer on June 22, 2011

If you haven’t done so already, first read Organizational Culture Change: Why and How, part 1.

Let’s take a brief look at the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) designed by professors Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn from the University of Michigan.
It was discovered by statistical analysis that only 2 factors were really decisive for organizational effectiveness and organizational performance. Those are 2 choices that organizations have:

  • To have internal focus and integration or external focus and differentiation.
  • To aim for stability and control or for flexibility and discretion.

Cameron & Quinn discerned 4 types of organizational culture that differed on these 2 dimensions.

  • Clan culture: internally focused and flexible: working like a clan, very friendly and people-oriented. Keyword: cooperate.
  • Adhocracy culture: external focus and flexible: working to create new things, innovate, experiment and do things your own way like entrepreneurs. Keyword: create.
  • Market culture: external focus and stability: focused on competing and competition, getting things done, working hard, results-oriented. Keyword: compete.
  • Hierarchy culture: internally focused but aiming for stability: working according to clear procedures and structures, valuing reliability and predictability. Keyword: control.

Organizational Culture Assessment Intrument

Dominant Organizational Culture

Reading this, you might already get an idea of your dominant organizational culture in the current situation.
Most of the time the organizational culture is a mixture of these 4 “types”. There is no “good” or “bad” organizational culture, there is just a good or bad fit.

If your call centre embraces hierarchy culture, your customers will be annoyed with internal procedures while they just want their problem solved quickly. A dominant adhocracy culture may be the perfect fit for an internet start-up but may cause many problems if it is widespread and very dominant in an insurance company.

Key aspects of organizational culture

If you want to know your current organizational culture, you simply take the assessment that takes 6 key aspects of organizational culture into account:

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

Assessing these once more for the preferred situation, you get an organizational culture profile that you would like to accomplish in the future.

The difference between the current and preferred organizational culture implies the need that people feel for organizational culture change. Or for any change at all. Explore your change program, and see how it matches the current organizational culture. You might get an impression why 70% of change programs do not succeed.

Utilizing the OCAI, you get a good idea of organizational culture change. Using the online organizational culture assessment will take 15 minutes and you can ask as many employees as you wish. That is a different ballgame compared to doing in-depth interviews in an organization taking you loads of time to compare and examine.

Moreover, once you’ve got the graphic and quantitative results of all executives and employees in an organizational culture profile, you can go along with the OCAI change method to engage everyone. Here’s the qualitative part, filling in the figures in a much more structured way than interviews.
Organizations are able to conceive an organizational culture change program that people are willing to put into practice since they had a say in it and now “own” it. In the process, hidden objections and resistance are turned around, better and realistic plans will be made and the concept of organizational culture is chunked down further compared to Schein’s levels. We will work with organizational identity, beliefs and capacities, and come down very practically to daily behavior and measurable results. This is a requirement for successful organizational culture change that will stick. And that will appeal to the top executive team and will also make sense to R&D, marketing, HR, sales, shop floor and so on.
It sounds extensive, but you really win a lot of time, effort and money if you take this seriously.

(Organizational Culture) Change is the only constant. Heraclitus was right. So let’s enjoy it!



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