Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Assess Organizational Culture

 Culture is intangible but powerful; culture is invisible but touchable. 

Culture is the most intangible, but powerful fiber surrounding business today, and it is one of the key factors in running a high-performance business. 

In order to improve and optimize organizational culture, first of all, the companies need to know how to assess their organizational culture objectively and systematically.

Identify the specific attributes of organizational culture. You will have to identify what are the specific attributes of an Organization Culture and which ones you are interested to assess. So the first question is "what do you want to know?”. Any cultural assessment starts on a premise that there is a particular angle on the organization’s culture which is important. With that in mind, you decide HOW to do it, which might or might not be using, what you are asking here as the BEST Organizational Culture Assessment.  

Identify the culture gaps between ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ state. Say, an organization wants to be more people-centric which is driven by the data from a recent pulse survey, a profile of the perceived as-is culture shows what people perceive the present profile to be across the following elements - overall profile, organizational characteristics, organizational leadership, management of employees, Organizational Glue, Strategic Emphasis, Criteria of Success. Obviously the perception is not absolute but a relative perception of how people see the culture (perception is reality). An as-is profile is created; a future profile is also developed and discussed. The gaps between the as-is state and future "help" leaders with what is perceived to be needed in order to achieve that future state - a road map of change is then developed.

Three dimensions of cultural perspectives: Multi-dimensional business values, behaviors and underlying assumptions. Some instruments assess culture from a Values perspective. Others assess culture by behaviors. Most of the culture experts believe there is no instrument that could possibly assess culture as it is too complex and overly focuses on the underlying assumptions which are a deeper level of understanding. Some cultural instruments are in fact measuring climate rather than culture. In the end, it comes down to which perspective you wish to take - Values, Behaviors or Underlying Assumptions. There’re few instruments that cover all three and hence why qualitative data is so important to pick up the richness and the 'invisible' aspects of culture, underlying assumptions and unwritten rules

Do employee surveys for their feedback about ideal cultures. What the assessment measures are the underlying motivational drivers -- whether an individual or collective organizational level -- that drives one's focus, mental map, decision-making style, relationship to norms, time and change, etc. Together these patterns ultimately drive behavior, actions, and performance. One part of the assessment is to get employees to identify what the ideal culture would look like and the instrument captures the current culture. It breaks down all cultures into constructive, passive-aggressive and passive defensive and assigns behaviors to each of these categories, a problem statement usually drives the process to profile and diagnosing the perceived as-is organization culture and helps with developing a future profile, then the prescriptive solutions can better fix the different matters more effectively. 

A culture assessment is tough, but it may be worth the effort. As strong, adaptive cultures tend to nurture higher business performers, compared to those with weak or non-adaptive cultures. But the qualities that make up those cultures are unique and specific to each of those organizations. So statistical validity, high correlations, rigorous design, etc. are all very important for selecting an assessment.


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