“The way we do things around here in order to succeed” is how William E. Schneider defines culture in his book The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work. He points out that an organization’s culture evolves from two major aspects:
- The way an organization proofs itself successful — Or in other words: The demands of the market or its environment. These are the demands imposed on the organization’s periphery.
- Its leader’s socialization — Or in other words: How the leaders think how the organization should be run. These assumptions manifest itself in leading style, processes and the way people (are allowed) work. This also explains why organizations in the same market and the same environment differ in their culture.
Schneider defines four main types of culture:
- Control Culture — It’s all about keeping work under control. This does not mean that employees are enslaved by management. A method like [Kanban for Software Development](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development) puts the team in charge of the process, but the process and the control over the team’s work are clearly in focus.
- Collaboration Culture — It’s all about teams and human interactions. Decisions are made in networks rather than by hierarchical processes, just like informations float through networks that through formal status reports “up” and feedback “down” the hierarchy.
- Competence Culture — It’s all about excellence. People compete intellectually for the best solutions. Decisions are made by experts rather than by a team or management.
- Cultivation Culture — It’s all about personal growth. This culture can seem a bit chaotic from outside. It’s about following the organization’s purpose and focussing on the outcomes, not on how it’s done. Teams and individuals are broadly free in how things are done. The organization creates an environment that supports experiments and growth.
However, things are not black and white. Every organization has a core culture that is supported by aspects of the other types of culture.
It’s also possible that your culture gets out of balance, because there are too many aspects of other cultures mixed in, resulting in personal and procedural conflict and ultimately in harm for the organizations productivity. Maybe this is, because there has been a change in leadership or the naive attempt to force feed the organization with an conflicting or complementary kind of culture, e.g. by adopting (instead of transforming to) Agile.
To find out what kind of culture you are in now, Schneider suggests taking this survey or handing it to your staff, respectively.
For more details on the topic and changing your culture read The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work by William E. Schneider (about 150 pages).