Managing Teams, Strategy

What Comes First Culture or Outcomes? Part 2

Quinn’s Competing Values Framework (CVF) describes four distinct types of organisational culture depending on the mechanistic vs organic and internal vs external focus of the organisation.


This is the traditional approach to business where there is high levels of policies and processes and respect for procedure.  Leaders are generally coordinators and organisers who keep tight control over what is happening.


This culture also has high levels of policies and processes however it has an external focus.  Leaders are generally competitive with delivering the goods and the organisation is driven by results.


There is less focus on structure with people being driven by vision and shared goals, the focus is flexibility.  Teams are more autonomous as the organisational chart has flattened out in comparison to the traditional hierarchy.  Leaders take on a more supportive, parental role and whilst rules exist they are not always formally documented


With more flexibility and independence than the clan the adhocracy is agile and suits rapidly changing business environments.  Expect to see experimentation and prototyping rather than long term projects.  Leaders are visionary and innovative with the ability to take calculated risks.

It’s important to remember that each cultural dimension has it’s time and place in an organisation.  Whilst the media tends to focus on adhocratic cultures of technology start-ups, this isn’t always the ideal culture for every business.  However, there may be elements of your business that could benefit from increased flexibility and it’s OK to create subcultures as long as they facilitate your organisational goals.

For example, if you have an innovation department, it could benefit from loose rules, the ability to experiment and one would expect that it would be outwardly focused, attempting to meet the next market need.

So how can you influence your business culture?  Firstly, like any journey, you need to know where you are now.  Then where you want to go.  Next you want to explore the levers that available to you to pull.

The simplest way is to consider how mechanistic vs organic your organisation is.  To do this, plot your starting and desired ending points of the following organisational elements.

Job Roles:  Are they specialised or broad?

Role Definition: Are they defined by the individual or someone else?

Task Understanding:  Do people require this to be directed by a supervisor or are they self-directional?

Commitment:  Are people committed to just their job or to the whole organisational process?

Communication:  Is it vertical or horizontal?

Knowledge:  Is knowledge held at the top of the organisation or throughout the ranks?

Information:  Is information shared throughout the organisation or held only by a few?

Interaction:  It is a command & control or Consultation & Discussion?

When you’re finished you should have something that looks like this:

Now review your work.  Ensure that your desired Mechanistic Vs Organic scale reflects your desired CVF map.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong here, you just need to ensure that your desired culture will work with your corporate strategy.

Next step is to break down how you will make the shift in culture.  This could be by transitioning decision making down the line, shaking up incentives or increasing transparency internally.

In Part 3 we look at some case studies on how levers were pulled and the outcomes that were achieved.

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