Corporate culture is a complex subject. Yet analyzing your company’s culture can help you create a plan to improve it. This 15-question survey has been developed to serve as a starting point for your analysis.
by Debra Woog and Nicole C. Moss
Corporate culture is a complex subject. Yet analyzing your company’s culture can help you create a plan to improve it.
This 15-question survey has been developed to serve as a starting point for your analysis.
Answer each true/false question according to what is true most of the time. And answer based on how your organization actually acts — not how you would like it to be.
1. I know how my projects contribute to the success or failure of our organization.
2. Management here makes lots of announcements to employees.
3. I have colleagues from a wide variety of professional and personal backgrounds.
4. In this organization, people who are not ready to be promoted after a certain length of time at their level are generally encouraged to leave.
5. Departments or teams compete with each other for our organization’s resources.
6. When people are not getting along here, it’s a long time before we directly address the issue.
7. When it’s time for me to learn a new skill, training is readily available at no cost to me.
8. When the boss tells us to “jump!” we ask “how high?”
9. It takes a long time for this organization to address customer concerns.
10. Many employees expect to work at this organization for their whole careers.
11. Senior management says the door is always open — and they mean it.
12. It is fun to work here.
13. We have three or fewer layers of management.
14. We have performance reviews less than once a year.
15. Compensation and benefits are relatively low here.
Count your “True” responses in each third of the quiz (questions 1- 5, 6-10, 11-15). The section in which you have answered “True” the most times corresponds to the culture type your organization most closely matches. If you have the same number of “True” responses in more than one section, your culture matches this combination of types. On the next page, you’ll find a list of primary advantages and potential pitfalls of each one.
For questions 1-5:
If you had the most “True” responses in this set of questions, your company has a Deliberative/Traditional culture.
- This culture tends to be intellectual and thoughtful.
- People in this type of organization often consider issues carefully prior to making a change.
- The organization likely has many formal systems, yet flexibly forms and reforms teams in accordance with immediate client needs.
- This cultural type regularly hires groups of new employees, generating a valuable flow of diverse talent with fresh perspectives.
- Senior management communicates frequently to employees.
- Although plenty of communication usually flows from the top of this organizational type, management often does not indicate interest in feedback from all levels. Beyond making announcements from management, ask for regular feedback so you don’t miss critical information and/or valuable innovations from your staff.
- Be careful that your organization doesn’t discuss change for so long that you miss important opportunities to change for the better.
- Be aware of the cultural implications of fostering competition within a company. Internal competition may create resentment that drives costly turnover.
For questions 6-10:
If you had the most “True” responses in this set of questions, your company has an Established/Stable culture.
- This organization has most likely been around for a long time and/or is a family business. These organizations tend to have solid institutional memories, so they are likely not to waste resources by repeatedly “reinventing the wheel”.
- This type of company has processes in place to address most situations.
- Organizations of this type tend to cultivate employees by encouraging development through mentoring programs and/or formal training opportunities.
- This culture type is known for compensating its people relatively well.
- Typically this type of organization struggles to handle conflict well, often becoming either conflict avoidant or “command and control.” If your organization tends to be conflict avoidant, it may be time to address those problems that are out of hand, or that have been out of hand in the past.
- “Command and control” style leadership may yield feelings of disconnectedness among employees. Consider assessing employee morale immediately.
- Overall, this culture type tends to be wary of turnover, so take a careful look at your organization and consider whether it’s holding on to people who might best be let go.
- While established systems can be a positive sign of organizational health, make sure your processes are focused toward addressing customer needs in a timely matter. If your processes impede rapid resolution of customer problems, rework them right away.
For questions 11-15:
If you had the most “True” responses in this set of questions, your company has an Urgent/Seat of the Pants culture.
- This culture type features a positive work environment, with tight bonds among employees.
- It is likely that an aspect of your organization’s mission includes responding to crisis. People care deeply about the firm’s mission and work hard to achieve the organization’s goals.
- Employees who frequently hurry to beat the clock can create great results in a short time, provided that quality is a strong value in your organization.
- These organizations tend to have a flat structure that fosters communication and collaboration among employees and speeds the decision-making process.
- Caution: minimum rewards (both tangible and intangible) and minimum feedback are common to this culture type. Rewards and recognition are important not only to generate loyalty but also to foster collaboration.
- The constant rush to get things done quickly can lead to burnout and increase the ever-present danger of losing talent.
- Although this type of culture generally features frequent upward communication and grassroots change, top-down communication tends to be inadequate. Beyond staying accessible, take time to share important messages and expectations with your entire staff to keep them motivated and moving in the right direction.
- Making decisions under intense time pressure may lead to a reduction in the quality of your products or services.
Is your culture type consistent with your expectations? If so, you probably have a good handle on how your company behaves, its primary cultural drivers, and how to make improvements where necessary.
Is your type different from what you thought it would be? If so, you might have an unrealistic perception of your company’s character and values. Take a closer look at your answers above, and use the questions themselves as a guide to shifting your organization’s behaviors toward becoming the type of culture you would like to see.
About the authors:
Debra Woog, principal of connect2 Corporation, coaches leaders to be expert managers. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Moss provides emerging companies with recruiting consulting services through her company Blueprint. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com.