Diagnosing Culture

There is a culture diagnostic tool developed by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn in 2006. It essentially states there are four types of organizational cultures, which exist along a competing values framework. The competing values are:

  • Flexibility & Discretion vs. Stability & Control
  • Internal Focus & Integration vs. External Focus & Differentiation

Using these values, Cameron and Quinn group organizations into four cultural categories depending on their results:

  • Clan Culture: collaborative, friendly, teamwork abounds, colleagues are like family, leaders are mentors, emphasizes loyalty, tradition, cohesion, and concern for people.
  • Adhocracy Culture: creative, dynamic, entrepreneurial, cutting edge, risk-taking, initiative and freedom are encouraged, being an industry leader is important
  • Market Culture: competitive, results and goal oriented, hard-charging, productive, concerned with reputation, success, and winning
  • Hierarchy Culture: controlled, structured, formal, rules and procedures emphasized, dependability, stability, performance, and efficient operations are prioritized

First, identify the culture you want.

Many governments identify as a Hierarchy Culture and aspire to be different. But it is important to be specific and articulate what kind of culture you want, so the differences become clear. As you complete a diagnostic process, make note of the differences between the culture you have and the one you want.

Second, interview and observe.

  • Observe the common behaviors in your organization and ask others to observe them as well.
    • Which behaviors contribute to your goals?
    • Which behaviors detract from your goals?
  • If you were performing at your best, which behaviors would be common? Which would be gone?
    • How would we treat residents differently?
    • How would employees exchange ideas with one another?
    • How would challenging issues get raised and resolved within the organization?
  • Notice what words people use when they describe the challenges and opportunities in their organization
    • Do they say “us” and “we” or do they say “they” or “them.” The latter may indicate a lack of ownership in both the problem and the solution.
      • For example, do people talk as if “data” is someone else’s domain, like the IT department?
    • Do they say “can’t” or “won’t” or “shouldn’t” more than they say “can” or “could” or “should?” These words choices indicate the level of risk aversion and innovation among employees.
    • Do they more frequently talk about challenges than opportunities? Or is it the reverse?
    • Do they contribute to each other’s ideas or tear them down?
    • Do they talk about they way things used to be with nostalgia? Or do they talk about the way things could be with optimism?
    • Can they explain why they do certain activities or why your programs operate the way they do? Or do they put those answers to a person higher in the organization?
  • Conduct interviews with employees at all levels of the organization. Focus on those who are well respected, informally influential, and attuned to the organization's culture.
  • Ask everyone who they consider the ultimate stakeholder. The differences in perspectives will reveal cultural disconnects and opportunities for alignment around a common mission and vision.
  • Interview stakeholders about their perceptions of the organization? Ask them about their experiences as a “customer” and write down the common words they use to describe those experiences.
    • Treat perceptions of the organization as facts.
  • Identify the sub-cultures and micro-cultures through interviews, and analyze social media feedback and differences between component perceptions.

Fourth, consider how the following factors are influencing your culture:

  • Organizational Structure and Process
    • Centralization vs. decentralization
    • Autonomy vs. micro-management
    • Reporting structures and spans of control
    • Decision making processes
    • Information flows
  • People
    • Leaders
    • Managers
    • Front Lines
    • Customers
    • Stakeholders
  • Incentives
    • Compensation
    • Seniority
    • Recognition
    • Access
  • Performance Management
    • Results/Evaluations
    • Feedback
    • Frequency
    • Remediation/Accountability

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