Check the Culture before you Change

ebook-200Are you engaged at work? Are you content, productive and contributing your best? Are you thriving? Most people would answer these questions with a firm No. According to the infamous Gallup research, only 13% of workers is engaged, worldwide. This means there is a staggering 87% of untapped potential while the world is struggling with serious challenges such as the climate, sustainability, pollution, poverty, human rights, inequality, globalization, de-industrialization, refugees and migration, banking crises, tax havens, war, and conflict…

This means there is a staggering 87% of untapped potential…!

Organizations need everyone aboard to transcend their challenges of increasing global competition, the battle for efficiency and low cost, staying up to date with the technology race, recruiting and retaining the best people, etc. – or else, they can’t contribute to the world with their products and services.

Change is a core competence

Change has become a core competence for all organizations. Not only disruptive, dramatic, transformational change but also small continuous change – improvements, adjustments, updates of technology, systems, processes, collaboration, etc. – is needed to keep organizations functioning.

However, many organizations are dangerously bad at change. Their culture and structure are holding them back.

Whether small or big – change is the name of the game. Whether your project is a huge merger, a major new strategy, a relocation, downsizing, or “just” the implementation of a new IT system, another appraisal procedure or intensified contact with multicultural freelance workers – check the culture before you start, check the culture that you’d need, and apply positive leadership wherever you can to engage everyone involved.

In my new E-book, we’ll look at how organizational change can be successful, and the fundamental reasons why it often fails. We will see how organizational culture can help or hinder.

Organizational Culture can help or hinder…

We’ll map the culture with the OCAI culture survey based on the Competing Values Framework, and engage people in small Change Circles. We’ll check into the relatively new field of Positive Leadership that can make a huge difference to positive organizational change and culture. Ultimately, our aim is to create positive organizations where both people and performance thrive.

If you want to learn how to work with culture and the OCAI culture assessment to develop successful change, check out the eBook “How to guide Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership”.

Copyright Marcella Bremer 2016. All rights reserved.

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Increasing Willingness To Organizational Culture Change: Train Your Brain

After completing the organizational culture assessment, you can decide to realize a few changes in your team or organization. But a number of people are reluctant or simply resist organizational culture change. Or they change a bit but return to business-as-usual the moment you turn your back on them.

What makes people worry about change? Why do we all think it’s hard? Let’s look at a few ideas to increase willingness to change.

Many people fear change. Change means going into a different world and brand new encounters. You aren’t quite sure what to expect: will you be “safe and sound”?

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is wise to handle change with caution. The familiar condition might not be perfect but at least provides protection: “Maybe there is a cave bear outside the cave, better stay inside.”

This perspective is what the development of the human brain is based on. Likewise, our appreciation increases when we see people repeatedly (because they become harmless and familiar). We tend to consider things that happen over and over again as true and evident. We get accustomed to the circumstances as they are. We adjust our conduct to circumstances and begin to appreciate it: because we get used to it.

Rewire your brain and move out of the cave

However, this behavior doesn’t always lead to the best results. The unfamiliar territory may turn out to be safer, more fertile, or better than the familiar ground. But you won’t know if you don’t delve into it. Eagerness to change will lead to progress to humanity (and organizations). So leave the cave!

Anyone can train readiness to change step by step. Getting through the typical manners of thinking and acting will provoke innovation and development on several levels. It commences genuinely simple by breaking through everyday routines that are not emotionally charged and hence becoming acquainted with the “strangeness” of change.

The more you test, the easier it will be to change, even when it doesn’t concern a routine task. The brain will make new links and get accustomed to feeling unaccustomed.

This makes it easier to manage with change. Likewise, by doing elementary tests, the brain discovers that “change ended up better than presumed, that you were still in safe hands, that nothing bad has happened.” Furthermore, you have gained new information.

Getting into the habit of feeling unadapted

So when you’re facing reorganization, merger, or other changes in the near future, get yourself ready and have a go at this:

  • Fold your arms. You will always do this in a particular way: right or left arm up. From now on, do it exactly the other way round, until it doesn’t feel uncomfortable anymore.
  • Change places when sitting at the table or change desks with a colleague. Your perspective will literally change.
  • Take a different route when going to work. What new information does this provide?
  • Have quite different foods for lunch than you typically have. What information do you get?
  • Follow the example of a co-worker—somebody who has a totally different routine—and imitate their manner of working. What do you learn?
  • Reschedule your pause. Spend it in a different place or pause more often doing exercises. Afterward, the same work may feel different.

Do you have any other good tips to enhance willingness for change? Please share them here!

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Assessing Organizational Culture

Lots of change programs within organizations and teams simply go under. There’s an expression that goes: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. And you could concur on altering your strategy or your customer service, but if this change does not align with the current organizational culture, you will not be successful…

Organizational culture defines what you appreciate, the way you view things, your ideas and opinions about work and so on and thus: your behavior. Because culture influences behavior so avidly, it’s what makes the difference when it comes to results! The start of putting change into practice and enhancing performance commences in the brains of executives as well as people on the floor. It’s all about shared culture. The trick is to let it work for you instead of hinder change.

How could that be realized? Unless you have some reference you don’t know where you stand. The OCAI which stands for Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument, has proven to be a clear beginning for nearly any change process. This method is certified and developed by professors Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn and is currently used by more than 10,000 organizations across the world.

Looking at the Competing Values Framework there are 4 culture types with competing values the OCAI distinguishes. Those are:

  • Hierarchy Culture, based on Controlling
  • Clan Culture, based on Cooperating
  • Adhocracy Culture, based on Creating
  • Market Culture, based on Competing

Participants assess 6 important characteristics of their organization’s culture when finishing the online survey. The result is a profile of the current culture, that is a combination of the 4 archetypes above.

Mostly one of the culture types is prevalent. For instance, some people have a dominant Clan Culture, sharing information and ideas, connecting and smiling.

People measure their preferred culture for the future, after the change has taken place. It’s very interesting and helpful to compare these two profiles. There could be a large gap between the current and preferred circumstances, suggesting that people are all set for solid change and that they’re currently feeling unsatisfied about their working climate.

Measuring organizational culture is the first step to thriving, sustainable change. It shows you where your team or organization is currently and where they want to go. It’s very instructive to discover numerous subgroups and find out where for instance executives and employees differ. That gives ideas on what to do next: what exactly do employees expect, how could executives make the change program better, how could you overcome resistance, and so on.

Specifying your results in a workshop takes you from the simple but clear-cut four-typology to customized solutions for your organization. Working with every member, you will be able to work out differences and truly get people to not only say YES to the change program but act like YES and really apply the new behaviors. That’s what you need to develop successful change.

If you want to know how to work with culture and the OCAI culture assessment to help your organization change successfully, check out the eBook “How to guide Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership”.

For more blog posts and applications of the OCAI, please check the official OCAI Blog or try the OCAI culture assessment online.


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Organizational culture in financial organizations

Many organizations are still pulling through the credit crunch. The wicked ones: banks and other financial organizations.
What would the overall organizational culture be in financial organizations? We analyzed the profiles for the Dutch financial sector: a results-oriented business indeed with more focus on people than thought and a sound wish for less performance and more innovation. But should we endorse that ?

About the Assessment

The Organizational Cultural Assessment Instrument (OCAI) was completed near September 2009 by 133 respondents. They all work in the industry group Financial and insurance activities.
The OCAI measures the results on four culture types: Clan culture, Adhocracy culture, Market culture, and Hierarchy culture. Check out the OCAI model for more information or take the test yourself: OCAI One.

Profits and productivity

In the current financial culture, the results-oriented market culture is number one with 27.68 out of 100 points. This culture values winning, reputation, competition, and achieving goals and targets.
Most people who commented on the assessment acknowledge this: a “work hard, play hard” culture with massive bonuses and a board of directors consisting of successful males that are all highly motivated and dominant. Indeed, profits and productivity rule. It’s this part that got a lot of media exposure and that is assessed as having caused the credit crunch.

Concern for people and procedures

But there is more. The real profile is much more balanced with hierarchy culture counting for 27.30 points. This culture type cares for control, structure, careful planning, clear procedures and efficiency, standardized rules, and stability.

Also, clan culture scores 25.23 points. This people-oriented culture is flexible and friendly.
Least prominent in the present culture is adhocracy: 19.78 points. The financial sector is least a dynamic, entrepreneurial, and creative workplace right now. Even though some eminent bankers have been proven to be very inventive with numbers.

Less performance and more innovation, please

As you can see in the profiles below, the red current profile reveals a pattern focused on results and structure.
financial insurance activities
Compare this profile with the blue preferred profile and we find an interesting discrepancy.Financial people desire an upward shift to more flexibility. Adhocracy culture increases 11.7 points and hierarchy culture decreases 9 points.
With a discrepancy of 10 points or more, it’s often imperative to take action. These scores illustrate dissatisfaction or readiness to change, and you can see them as a call to action.

More innovation: desirable?

Both managers and employees favor the flexibility and dynamics of adhocracy culture that appreciates initiatives, professional freedom, experimenting, and so on. As long as you innovate and deliver quality, it’s OK.

It may be understandable that they like this. But should we favor this culture type for our financial institutions? It appears that banks have been too innovative already, inventing financial constructions that no one could control, and taking too much risk.

We could also argue that a new method of working is desirable in the financial sector. Another culture type could become a healthy focus point for the time to come with less concentration on profits and money. Some European Banks began working on a culture that takes ethical issues into account, a working climate that develops dialogue and allows critical thinking.

It’s an interesting process. The financial professionals that we met in the Netherlands acknowledge the current and preferred culture. They see the call for more adhocracy culture coming from employees who have little space to breathe and occasionally feel crushed by their production targets and an abundance of procedures. All say that the sector is very conservative and does not have good, let alone inspiring leadership in many places. So, maybe, it’s time for innovation indeed.

If you want to learn how to work with culture and the OCAI culture assessment to develop successful change, check out the eBook “How to guide Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership”.

For more blog posts and applications of the OCAI, please check the official OCAI Blog.

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Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) explained

The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) developed by  Cameron and Quinn is a method to assess organizational culture.

Substantial research was involved in developing the OCAI. Professors Cameron and Quinn developed the model of the Competing Values Framework which consists of four Competing Values that correspond with four types of organizational culture.
Every organization has its own combination of these four types of organizational cultures.
This mix is found by the completion of a short survey. This assessment is a valid approach to looking at organizational culture and the wish for change. The OCAI is currently used by over 12,000 companies worldwide.

OCAI questionnaire

The test taker must split 100 points over a total of four descriptions that matches the four culture types, according to the present organization. This method determines the blend of the four culture types that dominate the current organizational or team culture.
By answering the questionnaire a second time, this time dividing 100 points according to what the respondent would like to see in the organization, the preferred organizational culture and the desire for change can be calculated.

Test takers assess six key characteristics of their corporate culture:

  • dominant characteristics
  • organizational leadership
  • management of employees
  • organization glue
  • strategic emphases
  • criteria of success

By averaging all individual OCAI scores, you can work out a combined organization profile. In smaller teams, it’s also possible to use all the distinct individual profiles and talk about them.

A culture profile illustrates the following:

  1. The dominant culture
  2. The strength of the dominant culture (the amount of points given)
  3. Discrepancy between present and preferred culture
  4. The congruency of the six features. Cultural incongruence frequently leads to a desire to change, because different values and goals can take a lot of time and debate
  5. Evaluation of the culture profile with the average for the sector
  6. Comparison with average tendencies; in what phase of development is the organization?

The outcome

From Quinn and Cameron’s extensive study, it was found that most organizations have developed a leading culture style. An organization rarely has only one culture type. Time and again, there is a mix of the four organizational cultures.
The Competing Values Framework states that the values and the corresponding organizational cultures compete with each other. Organizations can spend their money, attention, and time only once, so they tend to emphasize particular values.
Quinn and Cameron found that flexible organizations are the most successful, which sometimes leads to conflicting behavior. The “best” organizations can address the competition within this framework well and use all four value sets when needed.
A culture type performs best in the activities domain that aligns with that specific culture type. In the healthcare sector, for example, we discovered a lot of clan culture. This type genuinely fits in with the profession of looking after people. There is no final “best” organizational culture. Only in a particular circumstance will one class of culture serve better than another.

The Competing Values Framework

From a list of thirty-nine indicators of effectiveness for organizations, two vital dimensions were discovered by statistical analysis.
Cameron and Quinn made four quadrants corresponding with the four organizational cultures that differ deeply on these two dimensions:

  • Internal focus and integration vs. External focus and differentiation
  • Stability and control vs. Flexibility and discretion

competing values frameworkTo the left in the graph, the organization is internally centered (what is important for us, and how do we want to work?), and to the right, the organization is externally focused (what is valuable for the outside world, the clients, and the market?).
At the top of the graph, the organization desires flexibility and discretion, while at the bottom the organization values the opposite: stability and control.

The Four Culture Types

The Clan Culture
This working environment is a sociable one. People have a lot in common, and it’s like one big family. The executives are seen as mentors or maybe even as father figures. The organization is held together by commitment and tradition. There is great involvement. The organization emphasizes durable Human Resource development and connects fellow workers by morals. Success is identified within the framework of addressing the needs of the clients and caring for the people. The organization encourages teamwork, participation, and consensus.
Leader Type: facilitator, mentor, team builder
Value Drivers: Commitment, communication, development
Theory of Effectiveness: Human Resource development and involvement are effective
Quality Improvement Strategy: Empowerment, team building, employee participation, Human Resource development, open communication

The Adhocracy Culture
This is an energetic and creative working environment. Employees take risks. Leaders are innovators and risk takers. Experiments and innovation are the bonding materials within the organization. Prominence is emphasized. The long-term goal is to grow and create new resources. The availability of new products or services is seen as an achievement. The organization encourages individual ingenuity and freedom.
Leader Type: Innovator, entrepreneur, visionary
Value Drivers: Innovative outputs, change, agility
Theory of Effectiveness: Innovativeness, vision, and new resources are effective
Management Theory: Surprise and delight, creating new standards, anticipating needs, continuous improvement, finding creative solutions

The Market Culture
This is a results-based organization that highlights completing work and getting things done. People are competitive and concentrated on goals. Leaders are hard drivers, producers, and competitors at the same time. They are tough and have high expectations. The importance of winning keeps the organization together. Reputation and success are the most important. Long-term focus is on rival activities and reaching goals. Market penetration and stock are the definitions of success. Competitive prices and market leadership are key. The organizational style is based on competition.
Leader Type: Hard driver, rival, producer
Value Drivers: Market share, goal achievement, profitability
Theory of Effectiveness: Aggressively competing and customer focus are effective
Quality Improvement Strategy: Measuring client preferences, improving productivity, creating external partnerships, improving competitiveness, getting customers and suppliers to participate

The Hierarchy Culture
This is a formalized and structured work environment. Procedures decide what people do. Leaders are proud of their efficiency-based coordination. Keeping the organization functioning effortlessly is most crucial. Formal rules and policy keep the organization together. The lasting goals are stability and results, paired with the efficient and smooth execution of tasks. Trustful delivery, smooth planning, and low costs are the characterization of success. The personnel management has to guarantee work and values predictability.
Leader Type: Coordinator, monitor, organizer
Value Drivers: Efficiency, timeliness, consistency, and uniformity
Theory of Effectiveness: Control and efficiency with capable processes are effective
Quality Improvement Strategy: Error detection, measurement, process control, systematic problem solving, quality tools

Why do organizations and teams make use of the OCAI?
The OCAI online culture assessment will supply you with the following:

  • Insight into the dominant culture of your organization
  • Insight into how market focused, hierarchic, personal and/or innovative your organization performs
  • A measure of satisfaction by assessing the discrepancy between current and preferred culture
  • A quick and straightforward point of comparison before and after restructuring, change, or merger
  • A clear feeling of the preferred culture as a preliminary point for a strategy of change
  • An awareness of culture as an important factor in success
  • An objective and validated measure of how culture is recognized, which is a starting point for change

Research shows that organizational culture is “the difference that makes the difference”—it is the reason why 70 percent of all mergers and reorganizations fail. The powerful cultural factor is really not as “undefined” as prejudice would have it. Culture is ordinarily experienced as obvious: people are not noticing. That’s why a description of it is not so straightforward while changing culture is even harder.
The power of the OCAI assessment is in the classification of your culture so that you can begin to see and explain it. It is the first step. OCAI offers you some grip to actually start changing; what course are we taking? With the OCAI Work Kit that OCAI Online offers you, you also have a step-by-step manual to fully make use of this system.

Use the OCAI method with its clear benefits for analyzing and changing the culture:

  1. It is valid: not only do people recognize their outcomes, but the OCAI is also validated and has a verified basis.
  2. It’s quantitative: providing a measurement from the test, completed by qualitative information during the process of discussing and working with the results to determine the desired changes.
  3. It’s involving: either by including all personnel or those who give direction and conduct change.
  4. It’s focused: it measures the six key dimensions that make a difference in success.
  5. It’s timely: both assessing and developing a change strategy can be accomplished in a sensible period.
  6. It’s manageable: it can be undertaken and implemented by a (management) team; no outside experts or consultants are required.

If you want to learn how to work with culture and the OCAI culture assessment to help your organization change successfully, check out the eBook “How to guide Positive Change with Culture and Positive Leadership”.

For more blog posts and applications of the OCAI, please check the official OCAI Blog.

By the way, I also have an OCAI video training for those who prefer watching above reading. You can enroll today 🙂

Copyright Marcella Bremer. All rights reserved.

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