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Understanding organizational culture and personal management competencies
on December 17, 2011
In the introduction to this book, the authors share the familiar Tom Peters quote, "If you're not confused, you're not paying attention", because the purpose here is "not to offer one more panacea for coping with our turbulent times or to introduce another management fad." In the words of the authors, this book "provides a framework, a sense-making tool, a set of systematic steps, and a methodology for helping managers and their organizations adapt to the demands of the environment. It focuses less on the right answers than it does on the methods and mechanisms available to help managers change the most fundamental elements of their organizations" at the cultural level.
While the authors also state that other proposed approaches to measuring organizational culture have been proposed, and that their intent is not to provide an extensive review of this literature, they also provide what I consider important background information to the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), which includes the facts that the OCAI (based on the Competing Values Framework) is probably the most frequently used instrument for assessing organizational culture in the world today, and that although some versions are longer, some including up to 24 items that together describe organizational culture, the 6 items that are used in this book provide a simpler synthesis that addresses fundamental manifestations of organizational culture.
After walking through the OCAI current profile worksheet, which addresses basic assumptions (dominant characteristics, organizational glue), interaction patterns (leadership, management of employees), and organizational direction (strategic emphasis, criteria of success) that typify the fundamentals of culture, the authors present the two major dimensions organized into four main clusters that define organizational effectiveness. The first dimension differentiates effectiveness criteria that emphasize flexibility, discretion, and dynamism from criteria that emphasize stability, order, and control. The second dimension differentiates effectiveness criteria that emphasize an internal orientation, integration, and unity from criteria that emphasize an external orientation, differentiation, and rivalry.
These four main clusters can be visualized as the Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy, and Market quadrants of a graph. Because these quadrant names were derived from the scholarly literature, the authors also conveniently provide counterpart names to which they think business executives and other nonacademic audiences might better relate (Collaborate, Create, Control, Compete). The authors note that while designed to assess organizational culture, these clusters can also be used to assess leadership roles, organizational effectiveness, and management roles, and provide several examples that demonstrate applicability to these other areas. In chapter 6 and Appendix B, the authors even provide an extension to the Competing Values Framework based on the Management Skills Assessment Instrument (MSAI) to address the personal behavior change on which a change in organizational culture depends.
In my opinion, the nine managerial competencies addressed for management across the four quadrants are more tangible (Clan = managing teams, managing interpersonal relationships, managing the development of others, Adhocracy = managing innovation, managing the future, managing continuous improvement, Hierarchy = managing acculturation, managing the control system, managing coordination, Market = managing competitiveness, energizing employees, managing customer service), although while the authors present at length the fact that the four quadrants for organizational culture depend on a "Means-Does Not Mean" analysis to be completed by stakeholders in order to determine what chosen future state organizational culture actually means in a relative sense, this analysis is not provided in the context of managerial competencies directly since these are intended to lead to the desired future state organizational culture.
Overall, however, Cameron and Quinn present the process to diagnose organizational culture extremely well, and they do note repeatedly, as can be expected, that it is not possible to present a cookie-cutter approach because of the continuum nature of culture. From the perspective of a consultant, I especially appreciate the many examples that the authors provide that demonstrate example company profiles and shifts in company culture over time. The average culture profiles for various industry groups that the authors present are also well received, although it is important for potential readers of this book to realize that the categorizations for these groups are very broad.
For example, consulting services might technically fall under the "services" group, which obviously encompasses a wide spectrum of companies, although in such a case it might be beneficial to look at cultural profiles of client industry groups. As a consultant in the software industry, I could not help but notice that this book ties in well with a book I read several years ago entitled "Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed", by Barry Boehm and Richard Turner. While that text is narrowly focused on choosing a software development methodology, a culture dimension of plots reminiscent of those seen in the book under review here can be seen as output from what Cameron and Quinn provide.
Interestingly enough, while the term "changing" sits alongside "diagnosing" in the title of this work, it is really not until Appendix C and Appendix D that the former is addressed with any substance. It is actually understandable why this is the case - change is multifaceted and covered by numerous other titles - but I would personally like to see the authors expand on these appendixes in another book, because the content provides hints for initiating organizational culture change and improving personal management competencies that specifically address the quadrants discussed in the book. Well written and focused business text recommended to anyone seeking understanding of organizational culture or personal management competencies as they relate to their own situations or to situations of customers and clients.