By Sourajit Aiyer
Sourajit Aiyer is a business writer, author, guest-lecturer and corporate executive.
In which culture would you stand the best chance of surviving, and thriving? Quin’s Competing Values Framework, one of the most useful frameworks used by businesses globally to identify what makes an organisation effective, can help identify the best organisational culture for you.
This framework uses two dimensions. The first deals with flexibility and consistency in methods, that is, some cultures prefer stable, predictable and consistent methods to be, while others emphasise flexibility and adaptability. The second deals with internal and external orientation, that is, some cultures prefer to look at internal integration and collaboration while others prefer to look at external competition and rivalry. Taken together, all these dimensions form four quadrants, each representing a distinct organisational culture. However, what are the four distinct cultures that emerge from this framework and which type of individuals would be the best suited for each?
The four organisational cultures
A ‘hierarchy culture’ prefers a stable, predictable and structured environment. This culture is effective in large companies where a uniform way of working is needed. It is best suited for people who prefer to work within set rules and are willing to navigate hierarchical layers of management, even if it borders on bureaucracy. Such employees prefer to follow an established chain of command and do not mind sacrificing flexibility. They prefer timeliness, conformity and adherence to established processes in completing tasks. Such businesses are often willing to test process control and quality tools to measure and monitor efficiency. The senior management uses its hierarchical position to manage the staff and get work done.
The ‘AdHocracy culture’ prefers a flexible, adaptable and transformational environment. This is effective in new companies where an inventive way of working is needed to generate growth. It is best suited for people who want to experiment with new creative ideas while responding quickly to external changes. It calls for constant change and innovation and building new standards. Employees who prefer this model do not mind a disorganised working environment and are willing to take the occasional calculated risk to get the project done. Such people like to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest changes. The senior management is dynamic and entrepreneurial in its search for growth and likes its employees to show the same qualities. Since this approach focuses on innovation, it is best for people who do not mind experimentation.
The ‘Market culture’ prefers to look at external competition and rivalry. This culture is effective in companies where a disproportionate degree of external relationships have to be initiated and cultivated to improve competitiveness. It is best suited for people who can easily build relationships and work with outside stakeholders, be it clients, suppliers, regulators, or investors. People who work best in this environment are result-oriented—sometimes aggressively so. They prefer to think of customer preferences more than organisational preferences. Since this culture focuses on competitiveness and productivity, it often produces better financial outcomes, and so is best for people who are primarily motivated by profit.
Finally, the ‘Clan culture’ prefers internal integration and collaboration. This is effective in companies that use a paternalistic, nurturing and mentoring style of leadership. It is best suited for people who prefer mutual support and participation as a way of working. Such people like to work in a more family-type environment. They value employee development as a perk. Such people prefer open-communication channels, team-work and consensus. The senior management expects loyalty and shared goals, given its commitment to building a cohesive unit. Since it focuses on doing things together, it often produces better worker satisfaction and morale, and so it is the best for people who are motivated by this.
The significance of an organisational culture
While each organisation has its specific culture, the same institution may house different cultures depending on the specific business-area or project in question. People have to identify those businesses and projects according to the dimensions above to see which one fits best with the work at hand. Keeping these options in hand would help them identify which organisational culture is best suited for them.
Management gurus may advocate that every person should work in all cultures for all-round development and contribution, but it may be best for each individual to stick to one’s own sweet-spot, just like a national economy sticks to its own area of competitive advantage. This produces the maximum and quickest results down the line, both for the business and the individual!
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