Culture Transformation Part 1: The Importance and Diagnosis of Culture

main.jpgIn my post, 'An Approach to Dealing with Resistance in Your Organization', I discussed how change in your organization could cause resistance, and I suggested strategies to work through it. This post will focus on culture in an organization and why it is important to understand the culture of an organization before, during, and after implementing change – a Part 1 if you will. Part 2 will focus on what you can do during organizational change and how to ensure culture change sticks. It is important to remember that an organization does not have culture; it is the people that create, form and maintain a culture. Culture can dictate if an acquisition, merger, or organizational change goes successfully, and it is vital to understand how structural changes will impact said culture.

To understand culture and its impact on organizational change, we must first know what it is. The culture of an organization encompasses the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of the people within that organization; often referred to as "the way we do things around here". While people within an organization uphold the culture, it is the leadership, polices, procedures, and structures that dictate and reinforce the culture. A new leader that is hired as CEO or other high-level leadership position can shift the organizational culture by the policies and practices they change and implemented. This is demonstrated within companies like HP or 3M, where various CEOs have instituted their own practices and changed the organizational structure. 

There are many tools used to diagnose and categorize an organizational culture. One tool named the “Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument Online” was developed by Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron, and is based on “The Competing Values Framework.” This framework positions culture in one of four areas, providing tactical solutions and strategies on how to move your organization towards a different area. Those four areas are:

  1. Clan – People strongly identify with the group, as in a family, placing a strong emphasis on the team and teamwork. Organizational members are loyal and friendly.
  2. Adhocracy – Innovation is prized, with organizational members having a large amount of independence and autonomy. The organization emphasizes developing cutting-edge products and services and leading the market.
  3. Hierarchy – Tradition and formality are dominant values. The emphasis is on stability, rules, and efficient processes.
  4. Market – Organizational members are competitive, hardworking, and demanding. Productivity and beating the competition are emphasized.

Perhaps you see where your organization fits into one of the above categories. If not, there are many other ways for diagnosing organizational culture, but the above lays some groundwork. Once you have the groundwork for where your culture is situated, you can begin the process of cultural transformation within an organization. My next post will delve into this process, how we as millennials are changing organizational culture every day, and what we can do to ensure successful cultural transformation. For additional reading on ‘The Competing Values Framework’ please see my sources below.  

  • Anderson, D. L. (2014). Organization Development: The process of leading organizational change. 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Cameron, S. K. & Quinn, E. R. (1999). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc, New York, NY.

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