Cultural Maturity Model

The Case For Using a Culture Maturity Model

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:

    (1) That we can construct a simple matrix that can enable us to very rapidly identify the type of organisational culture we are dealing with [ embrionic cultural maturity model]

    (2) That these cultures are obvious and instantly recognisable and indisputable from the company's own perspective [i.e. they recognise themselves as such]

    (3) That these cultures as seen from a business development perspective form a maturity model. In other words, organisations migrate along a clearly identifiable and predictable path as their own business development skills evolved

    (4) That the structured template of this cultural matrix is universal and transcends our original business development perspective -i.e. you can use this template to define ANY organisational culture and thus build your own, company specific cultural maturity model.

    (5) That any organisation has more than one culture and that we are able to define a subset of characteristics of the likely orientation of these sub cultures in relation to the primary or dominant organisational culture

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."

Here is the original

Business Development Maturity Template

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With reference to our Business Development Maturity Model Template, you can see the structure of the template used to define an organisational culture, namely:

  • Type of culture
  • A summary definition of the culture
  • Evidence of the culture - i.e. its characteristics
  • Key issues faced and addressed by that culture as can be seen in actions and behaviours
  • The areas of major focus - or key areas of impact - of the culture

I am showing this early model because it is an excellent illustration of how the characteristics of an organisational culture are identified and summarised.

From this model we rapidly evolved the full Template of an

Organisational Culture Map which forms the basis for the creation of a company specific cultural maturity model.

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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

Example Cultural Maturity Map

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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.]

How to create a cultural maturity model

How to identify and unpack an organisational culture and sub-culture:

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?
  • Organisational Structure - Staff? Functions? Processes? Technology?
  • 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

cultural maturity model,change management,change managers,change management trainingThis 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.

And in conclusion - the reason why using the concept of a cultural maturity model is so important is that the cultures of your organistion are the single biggest determinant of how people in your organisation will behave - and especially in the context of a step change - and thus determines the success or failure of your initiative.

Cultural Maturity At The Societal Level

The concept of Cultural Maturity was first presented by Dr Charles Johnston 30 years ago with the book Necessary Wisdom: Meeting the Challenge of a New Cultural Maturity.

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.

Additional Resources

Merger Failures - value destruction and cultural conflicts - And how to avoid them!

Change Management Strategy - Key strategic leadership issues

Strategic Vision - and successful programme implementation

Pre-programme planning and review - the process

Return from "Cultural maturity model" to: Project Management Maturity Model

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