Eight Types of Organizational Culture (Groysberg)
Culture is the social order of an organisation. It forms people's attitudes and behaviours in a wide range of ways. Cultural norms determine what is encouraged or discouraged and what is accepted or rejected within a group. Groysberg, Lee, Price and Cheng (2018) identified four attributes of culture: Shared, Pervasive, Enduring, and Implicit.
The researchers believe that two primary dimensions in a corporate organization define the type of culture it has: People Interactions and Response to Change:
- People interactions can be independent or interdependent or anywhere between.
- People's response to change fall on a spectrum from resistant to adaptive.
Based on the score on these two dimensions, they arrive at following 8 types of organisational cultures: Caring, Purpose, Learning, Enjoyment, Results, Authority, Safety, and Order.
- Focuses on relationships and mutual trust
- Has a warm, collaborative, and welcoming work environment
- 63% of the companies studied had a caring culture
- Example: Disney
- Improved teamwork
- Employee engagement
- Trustful communications
- Sense of belonging
- Slower decision-making process
- Lack of competitiveness
- Misses the opportunity of exploring alternatives
- Driven by idealism and altruism
- Has a tolerant and compassionate work environment
- 9% of the companies studied had a purpose culture
- Example: Whole Foods
- Sustainability and social responsibility
- Values diversity
- Overlooks practical and immediate concerns
- Focuses on exploration, expansiveness, and creativity
- Has an inventive and open-minded work environment
- 7% of the companies studied had a learning culture
- Example: Tesla
- Improved innovation
- Organisational learning
- Lack of focus on strategic goals and wastes time and resources
- Fails to make the most out of established advantages
- Presents fun and excitement
- Has a light-hearted work environment
- 2% of the companies studied had an enjoyment culture
- Example: Zappos
- Improved employee morale and engagement
- Lack of discipline
- Has compliance or governance risks
- Focuses on achievement and winning
- Has an outcome-oriented and merit-based work environment
- 89% of the companies studied had a results culture
- Example: GSK
- Strong execution
- Improved capability building
- Goal achievement
- External focus
- Possible poor communication and collaboration between employees
- Higher levels of work stress and anxiety
- Defined by strength, decisiveness, and boldness
- Has a competitive work environment
- 4% of the companies studied had an authority culture
- Example: Huawei
- More effective decision-making
- Quicker response to threats or crises
- Possible office politics and conflict
- Lower job security for employees
- Refers to planning, caution, and preparedness
- Has a predictable work environment
- 8% of the companies studied had a safety culture
- Example: Lloyd's of London
- Improved risk management
- Business sustainability
- Possible bureaucracy
- An inhumane work environment
- Focuses on respect, hierarchy, and shared norms
- Has a methodical work environment
- 15% of the companies studied had an order culture
- Example: SEC
- Higher operational efficiency
- Reduced internal conflict
- Greater civic mindset
One organisation can have more than one or several types of culture.
- Reduced individualism
- Lack of creativity
- Limited organisational agility
There is no right or wrong about any style mentioned above. However, due to their natural constraints and competing demands, some combinations could create difficult choices about which values to prioritise and how employees should behave. Effective leaders make use of the existing set of cultural strengths and have a clear idea of how to make changes if necessary.
The study asserted that organisational culture affects business outcomes. When the desired outcomes change, a company should deploy a new set of culture types to support its goal achievement. Four practices lead to successful culture evolution
- ARTICULATE THE DESIRED CULTURE. Creating a new culture starts with an analysis of the current one. Then leaders can identify what types of culture are missing for the future portfolio.
- SELECT AND DEVELOP THE RIGHT LEADERS. Candidates for leadership positions should be evaluated on their alignment with the target culture. Education on the importance of culture for strategies and outcomes also offers leaders a greater focus on culture.
- USE ORGANISATIONAL CONVERSATIONS. As leaders begin talking about a new culture explicitly, publicly and repeatedly, employees will realise what culture is now valued and encouraged and behave differently.
- REDESIGN THE ORGANISATION. If the existing mechanism does not support the new culture, leaders need to consider how to improve it. A structure, systems, and processes that aligned will make the culture change much easier.
As we have all heard, "culture eats strategy for breakfast". So to achieve business success by setting up our goals and implementing strategic plans, let's get our culture right first.
Source: Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., & Cheng, J. 2018, "The Leader's Guide to Corporate Culture", Harvard Business Review, 96 (1): 44-52.
More on Corporate Culture: