Aligning Your Organization Using the 8 Dimensions of Culture

May 16, 2022 2:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant, Stewart Leadership

How can you make your merger, acquisition, or reorganization go smoothly?  How can you optimize the value of the deal through an effective integration?  A recent Deloitte survey found that 76% of executives think cultural alignment is important to effective integration, but 1 in 3 said that it was not done effectively.  

Culture misalignment is one of the primary reasons why most organizational integrations fail. Understanding the culture of each team or organization is a critical first step in your efforts to create a culture that will optimize deal value by identifying issues early and preventing culture and talent challenges down the road. 

Use the Eight Dimensions of Culture to highlight similarities and differences from the start so you can develop effective strategies that bring everyone together. These Eight Dimensions of Culture, developed with our partners at Illumyx, provide you a behavioral snapshot of your culture using a series of continuums to describe how groups get work done. 

Each continuum consists of polar opposite approaches. Your organization will fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes on each culture dimension. Except for the engagement dimension, there is no one right answer for each culture dimension. The point is to understand where your culture currently is along each dimension, ensure that your culture is aligned to accomplish your strategic focus, and reshape your culture as needed especially where there are possible friction points with a merging organization.  

Together, these dimensions provide a picture of the workplace culture experienced by groups within your organization. The following is a general description of behaviors associated with each dimension. Score your team on each dimension in order to understand the culture you bring to the merger, and have the other team do the same. 

DIMENSION ONE: HOW YOU ORIENT YOUR WORK

RELATIONSHIPS <-->  TASKS

Relationship oriented cultures prioritize and value strong relationships. As they work, they give priority to interpersonal issues and value people for their unique perspective. When assessing change, relationship-oriented cultures focus on the impact on others and the feelings associated with change. 

Task-oriented cultures prioritize and value productivity and efficiency. These groups like to get right down to business and reward people for what they do, often on an individual basis. When assessing change, these cultures primarily focus on the impact on processes and business results 

DIMENSION TWO: HOW YOU ORGANIZE YOUR PEOPLE

TEAM <--> INDIVIDUAL

Team-focused cultures reward the entire team for hitting a goal. They emphasize skill-sharing and cross-training and approach problems through collaboration and peer-to-peer performance feedback. 

Cultures oriented around individuals prefer clear divisions of labor and approach problems through individual research and reflection. Performance feedback is leader-driven and performance metrics are tracked individually. 

DIMENSION THREE: HOW DECISIONS ARE MADE

EMPOWERED <--> DIRECTIVE

In an empowered culture, decision making is delegated to those closest to the issue. Leaders coach employees to make better decisions and when faced with uncertainty, employees make a decision and discuss it with the leader later. Leaders facilitate discussions resulting in team decisions. In empowered cultures, decision making can be slower but tends to have greater buy-in. 

In a directive culture, leaders make most decisions and override employees’ decisions when it is deemed necessary. Most leaders in directive cultures ask for input but make the final decision themselves. When faced with uncertainty, employees will not make a decision without approval from a leader. Decision making can be quick, but it is dependent on leaders having availability and bandwidth. 

DIMENSION 4: HOW DO YOU APPROACH PROBLEM-SOLVING

RESPONSIVE <--> PLANNING

Responsive cultures quickly jump to action and value being able to adapt to anything while making adjustments as the need arises. 

Planning cultures value being prepared for anything. They are methodical and detailed and make adjustments at planned intervals. 

DIMENSION 5: WHAT TIME HORIZONS DRIVE YOUR ACTIONS

SHORT TERM <--> LONG TERM

Cultures oriented to short-term horizons focus on tasks and meeting near-term objectives. Teams are motivated with a series of quick wins. 

In long-term oriented cultures, each decision is weighed with the long-term consequences in mind, and the team is motivated by moving toward the larger vision. 

DIMENSION 6: HOW YOU EXECUTE TASKS

END RESULTS <--> PROCESS

End-Results cultures value scrappiness and flexibility, doing what it takes to get the job done. Autonomy is emphasized and employees have freedom in their approach. The focus is on the “what” rather than the “how.”

In a process-oriented culture, reliability is valued. Compliance is emphasized and teams follow set processes to deliver consistent outcomes. 

DIMENSION 7: HOW YOU APPROACH UNCERTAINTY

CHANGE <--> STABILITY

Change oriented cultures rely on new innovations to achieve success. They value those who avoid stagnation and strive for transformational improvements. These cultures are comfortable with ambiguity. 

Stability-oriented cultures rely on a strong foundation to achieve success. They value team members who avoid unnecessary risks and strive for incremental improvements. They prefer predictability. 

DIMENSION 8: ENGAGEMENT, MORALE, AND DEDICATION

COMMITTED <--> INDIFFERENT

This is the one cultural dimension that has a desired answer--committed.  When organizations have an indifferent culture, there needs to be a strong effort to shift to a more engaged culture.  

In committed cultures, employees strive to exceed expectations. Teams give discretionary effort and show high productivity. Employees display excitement for meeting company goals and actively engage in crucial conversations, personal developments, and refer others for employment. 

In indifferent cultures, employees meet minimum expectations, arrive late, leave early, and miss work more often. They avoid openly and constructively addressing issues and engage in gossip, blame, and victimhood. Employees are indifferent or condescending toward company goals, and generally exhibit signs of unresolved tension. 

CONCLUSION

Where people are involved in a merger or reorganization, the culture must be taken into account in order to achieve success. By scoring your cultures against the eight dimensions, you can start the process of combining cultures by highlighting and emphasizing what you have in common while approaching differences using a shared language. 


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