Diagnosing Organizational Culture

Today I read a thread on Diagnosing Organizational Culture, where someone was asking for recommendations on tools to use to undertake this task.

If you are only looking for isolated culture tools then the following should be considered (in no particular order):

  • Diagnosing Organizational culture – Harrison
  • Denison Organizational Culture Survey – Denison
  • Corporate Culture Questionnaire – SHL
  • The Creatrix – Byrd (http://www.creatrix.com/ ) looks at the culture for innovation and effective leadership
  • Organizational Dynamics – Kotter (book with diagnostic)
  • Diagnosing & Changing Organizational Culture – Cameron, Quinn (book with diagnostic)
  • and many many more….

Many instruments will claim to be ‘normed’ – be careful of this – we know the difficulties in ‘norming’ personality psychometrics – well imaging that complication multiplied ten fold per person employed… each person acts and interacts with another in a different way – I would love to see the data to be verified for this – the psychometric publishers would love to have such technology!

Context based Cultural Review

There are many approaches to looking at culture and for each firm their will be an appropriate tool based upon:

  • Current culture (ironically)
  • Goals of undertaking the survey
  • Desired outputs

I have been part of a team looking at what makes an effective firm for over 10 years now and have used many, many instruments from around the world looking at organizational culture. To my mind they all have one fundamental flaw – they assume there is a right way to run a business.

While there may well be a preferred approach of empowerments, engagement etc, I have worked with many firms that use an autocratic style very effectively, and when changed often people feel less secure and over time those firms fail to perform to the level they once did.

Change the culture at your peril

Having worked with over 700 firms in the last 10+ years I have discovered that the best culture to have is the culture that best suits the owner/ CEO and their natural style, then it is about getting consistency across the organization.

To change the culture without the TOTAL commitment from the CEO (and the CEO having appropriate one-to-one support to change their own style first) is pure folly. Change of culture must be led from the top if it is to be sustained and add value to the organization.

It’s more than just culture change

In addition, looking at culture on its own is meaningless – the systems, structure and processes need to be congruent with the culture, and just looking at culture in isolation is folly for short term feel good but little long term added value.

Any diagnostic process as part of an organizational development intervention needs to be as holistic as practical to avoid duplication of effort at a slightly later stage (clients get diagnostic’ed out)

Going truly Holistic

Many OD practitioners talk about holistic reviews – but are they truly holistic? Do they look at the way Finance, Marketing and Operations are run in the organization? are these put in the context of the culture and the stated/ desired goals of stakeholders?

The BIR (Business Improvement Review) not only looks at culture, style and values but puts it in the context of operations and the goals of the organization. It does not assume there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ to run a firm, nor does it assume a single management model. The BIR provides the coach or consultant to start a meaningful discussion based upon a common understanding. This creates ownership in the key decision makers and as a result has a high proportion of participants take meaningful action post diagnostic. They own the results and the reason for change.

If you would like more information on the BIR please visit www.rapidbi.com/bir or email me for further details.

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Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via www.rapidbi.com/

© This article is copyright RapidBI 2008 – it may be copied providing the authors are credited, and direct links maintained

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