Four Organizational Culture Types

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Four Organizational Culture Types
Bruce M. Tharp

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE WHITE PAPER

04.09

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE WHITE PAPER

Four Organizational Culture Types

Acknowledging that organizational culture is an important aspect for space planners, this paper provides an overview of four organizational culture types: Control (hierarchy), Compete (market), Collaborate (clan), and Create (adhocracy). This typology reflects the range of organizational characteristics across two dimensions that were found critical to organizational effectiveness. The spatial implications for each type are presented so that workspace planners might be able to interpret the results of an organizational culture assessment in their process of designing environments that support the way companies THE COMPETING VALUES FRAMEWORK work and represent themselves. The first dimension places the values of flexibility, ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE Through decades of empirical research, scholars have established abundant links between organizational culture and organizational performance. While previously businesses were either unaware of culture’s importance or believed it too difficult to manage, today they recognize that it can be used for competitive advantage. This is something that Apple Computer gets. By leveraging their culture of innovation toward product as well as internal processes, they have been able to survive — despite incredible competition — as well as venture into new and profitable markets. But in order to use culture strategically, a company first needs to understand its culture. And there’s the rub. Culture is a complex issue that essentially includes all of a group’s shared values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, artifacts, and behaviors. Culture is broad — encompassing all aspects of its internal and external relationships—and culture is deep in that it guides individual actions even to the extent that members are not even aware they are influenced by it. Scholars tend to agree that the root of any organization’s culture is grounded in a rich set of assumptions about the nature of the world and human relationships. For example, the underlying belief that people are selfish and only out for themselves might unwittingly influence a company’s attitudes and behaviors toward

outside salespeople, vendors, and consultants. This is profound stuff that is largely invisible, unspoken, and unknown to an organization’s members. So is it possible to really know a company’s culture? While admittedly it would be a daunting (and some might claim impossible) task to fully account for all components of a company’s culture, the dominant attributes can generally be identified. In focusing on “effective organizations”, research has uncovered many critical dimensions. John Campbell (1974) and his fellow researchers identified thirty–nine important indicators. While such a list is helpful, it is still impractical for organizations to account for so many dimensions. Realizing this, Robert Quinn and John Rohrbaugh (1983) reviewed the results of many studies on this topic and determined that two major dimensions could account for such a broad range. Their Competing Values Framework combines these two dimensions, creating a 2x2 matrix with four clusters.

discretion, and dynamism at one end of the scale with stability, order, and control on the other. This means that some organizations emphasize adaptation, change, and organic processes (like most start-up companies) while others are effective in emphasizing stable, predictable, and mechanistic processes (like NASA, Citigroup, and most universities). Competing Values Framework

FLEXIBILITY DISCRETION DYNAMISM

INTERNAL FOCUS INTEGRATION UNITY

EXTERNAL FOCUS DIFFERENTIATION RIVALRY

STABILITY ORDER CONTROL

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04.09

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE WHITE PAPER

The second value dimension is marked by internal orientation, integration, and unity at one end of the scale with external...
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