The case for using a cultural maturity model: I first became aware of the significance and importance of organisational culture in 1994 when I was involved in a business development exercise with a colleague and the significance of organisational culture - initially seen solely from a business development perspective - became firmly established on our radar.
What we rapidly discovered was that company's that seemed very similar in size and line of business behaved very differently.
We discovered that the business development/sales culture of the company was the differentiating factor.
We realised that we had to adjust our sales messages accordingly.
But first we had to figure out the type of sales culture we were dealing with.
The development of the idea of a cultural maturity model
We rapidly made 5 discoveries:
Cultural maturity model derived from a generic maturity model
Following this I formulated my own defintion of a generic maturity model:
"A maturity model is a structured representation of the stages of evolution of an organisation, as it transition through various developmental states and stages, in response to the impacts of changes in the organisation's operating environment.
This evolution represents progress to more developed or advanced states of learning, insight, understanding and practise that support its strategic goals."
The stages of evolution of the organisation in transition through various developmental states can be mapped from any or all of present positions of the various subcultures within the organisation, plus the perceptual positions [i.e. where directors think it is and where it actually is] to the desired position of where the change leaders want it to be.
The current positions and the path of progress of maturity of a company is totally subjective to that company.
Here is an example of a summary of the mapping of an HR consultancy
This template has been used on many companies and in many, many different situations over the years - overtly [with client involvement] and covertly [i.e. I use it but don't involve my client as it may not be relevant or they may not be receptive.]
With reference to the Template of an Organisational Culture Map shown in the link above:
(1) Culture Type
The dominant organisational culture can be unpacked in terms of
The historical culture - where you have come from e.g. an old family owned business
Where the company is now e.g. an MBO 2 years ago
Where the directors think the company is now e.g. vibrant and customer responsive etc
Where the company actually is - this will be an independent third party perspective - and may show that actually the company is not customer responsive and is very inward looking
The distinctions between these different perspectives of the dominant culture are very important because they represent potentially significant gaps in perception that either are or will be the cause of issues in a step change scenario.
Other factors here are the size of the company and the extent of change experienced within its relatively recent history - so the larger the company and / or the greater the amount of recent change - then there is a greater likelihood that these gaps in perception will be present.
There can also be 2 different types of subculture - those that are:
In step with or even ahead of the dominant culture, and those that are
Resistant to the dominant culture.
In both cases, the people concerned may either be aware and conscious of how they are and what they are doing or unaware and unconscious.
There may well be other types of sub culture present. The purpose of the template is to stimulate awareness of the possible existence of these entities within your organisation.
A sub culture can exist within an entity as small as 2 or 3 people or a much larger group such as a whole department, or anything in between. It usually evolves around and is focused on a specific function such a sales or accounts and /or a strong personality or dominant individual.
The importance of the sub culture is that reflects what the people within it really believe and their usually un-spoken attitudes and values - all of which are displayed in their behaviour and actions.
(2) Summary Definition
This is based on the evidence of the characteristics of the organisational culture and demonstrated in the major focus of the key players in this entity.
This definition is how you describe yourselves - the "look and feel" of how things really are e.g. a production or manufacturing culture, or a sales culture, or a typical family owned business.
(3) Evidence - The Characteristics of the Culture
This can include things such as:
Power Structure - Who exercises power? What are the sources of power?
Rewards/Incentives Financial? Non-financial? Do rewards match required behaviour?
Controls /Measurements - How are outcomes measured & monitored?
Communications - Who? What? When? How? Why?
Environment - Working routines? Style and atmosphere? Myths and legends?
(4) Key Issues Actions and Behaviours
Observable behaviours and actions that provide evidence of the key issues that result from this culture e.g. in a production culture these might be a cost control and quality related.
Observable behaviours and actions that demonstrate the real agendas of the key players in this entity (as reflected in its culture) - these will be highly subjective and relate entirely to the individuals concerned.
(5) Major Areas of Focus - Areas of Impact
These can identified by:
Major areas of impact arising from the key issues
Those things that receive the greatest focus in this culture e.g. in a production culture the major focus will be on doing whatever it takes to satisfy existing customers, developing and maintaining distribution relationships, understanding wider market factors and their impact on production processes.
Navigating through the issues to where you want to be
This template for a cultural maturity model is not exhaustive nor is it meant to be difficult - it was designed to be [and has proven itself to be] a very useful guide to identifying and unpacking the differing cultures and sub cultures that comprise an overall organisational culture.
The best test to find out if you have done this exercise accurately - is to see how other members of your team [especially junior members] react. If it is accurate and authentic then the pictures and schematics that you create and the narrative and words that you document will be instantly recognisable and "ring true".
Having established a cultural template of where your organisation is now, you can determine the template of how your organisation will look after your step change initiative and clearly see the gaps between these positions.
This, in turn, enables you to determine a route that will navigate you through the issues that will arise - and especially to help you identify the full impacts of the changes on those people who will be most affected and to plan accordingly.
Charles Johnston is a psychiatrist, author, and futurist. He is best known as the originator of Creative Systems Theory, a comprehensive framework for understanding purpose, change, and interrelationship in human systems.
Dr Johnston presents a societal view of cultural maturity with a distinct focus on the psychological, social, and leadership capacities that humanity will need to effectively address the questions that challenge us.