ChangeWorks & Cultural Typologies

Hi, Everyone!

Daniel Latch has written a great article comparing the ChangeGrid and the Model of Cultural Typologies proposed by Terrance Deal and Allan Kennedy.

With his permission, I share it here with all of you!


Organizational Culture: Deal and Kennedy + ChangeGrid
by: Daniel Latch

Organizational culture is “the way things get done around here.” — Deal and Kennedy


I was reminded of this quote recently when an associate suggested that the Deal and Kennedy Model of Cultural Typologies (DKMCT) is too limited. Let’s see if this model integrates with the ChangeGrid. If so it represents a dynamic new tool for fans of the DKMCT and perhaps new insights for the ChangeGrid.

In their classic 1982 book, “Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life,” Terrence Deal and Allan Kennedy proposed one of the first models of organizational culture. When the book was published, it had many supporters, although there were also many who felt the idea of corporate culture would be just a passing fad. Now that we are in the next century, the notion of corporate culture is widely accepted as important a business concept as financial control and employee satisfaction.

Deal and Kennedy measured organizations on two dimensions:

Feedback — Rapid means zero response time, instantaneous, cybernetic.

Risk — The degree of uncertainty in the organization’s activities.

Using these parameters, they suggested four organizational culture typologies. These are shown below rotated 45 degrees clockwise to match the ChangeGrid. The culture labels are overlaid on the tension lines and axis measures for both systems are shown for reference.

Overlay of the Cultural Model on the ChangeGrid

A quick review of the ChangeGrid adjective map shows each zone contains a plethora of good matches for the cultural typologies and the business environments that embrace them. It is notable that a central 2×2 block in each zone provides a laudable set of culturally accurate descriptors. The evidence suggests greater discrimination of the cultural types awaits the vigorous researcher. The juxtaposition of culture with the ChangeGrid leads to the potential to see each culture overlaid entirely on a separate ChangeGrid, quadrupling the available intelligence.

The Tough-Guy Macho Culture applies to driven cultures such as financial brokerages, police units, surgeons, and pro sports. This zone features moderate to quick feedback and rewards and moderate to high risk.

Adjective Map terms from the central 2×2 matrix in the outgrid zone:

UpGrid:  assertive, decisive, direct, fast

DownGrid:  determined, entrepreneurial, insightful

InGrid:  brave, independent,

OutGrid:  aggressive, demanding, dominating, forceful, relentless

Please check your Adjective Map for the descriptive fit on the cultural types described below and comment back your discoveries.

The Work Hard/Play Hard Culture is typical of fast paced or large organizations which strive for high quality customer service. These may include direct sales organizations, theme restaurants, and software companies. Such cultures are often characterized by high energy team meetings, jargon and buzzwords. Risks are few (uncertainty is low), allowing immediate error reduction and problems solving in an environment of moderate to rapid feedback on performance. Some of the descriptors sound like restaurant themes and others like pre-IPO company self-promotional hype.

The Bet your Company Cultures are typically involved in development or exploration projects which take years to come to fruition: these include public works and other mega-construction projects, energy prospecting, and hi-tech military arms manufacturing and research and development. Big stakes are at risk when changes are made but it may be years before the results are known, a very slow feedback and reward cycle, indeed. Be assured you will find plenty of descriptions that fit the bill of organizations high on science and technology.

The Process Culture is often associated with bureaucracies, banks, insurance companies and the like. There is little or no feedback and people become bogged down with how things are done rather than with what is to be achieved. Seemingly overly conservative and cautious and bogged down in red tape, process controls prevent errors to produce consistent results and weed out those who fail to conform or fall in line. Some of the descriptors read like movie stereotypes for the industries that fall into this cultural type.

Since the ChangeGrid zones match the DKMCT cultures so well, what about the measures upon which the two systems are based? The DKMCT vertical axis of feedback and reward is actually measuring a resource which mitigates the difficulty of higher levels of challenge. The message is that greater challenge requires faster feedback to stay on course. In the ChangeGrid model, resources fall under the heading of ability. For Deal and Kennedy, this particular resource serves to shape culture: for the ChangeGrid it serves to inform behavior to produce performance. Anything that meets a need or requirement for the success of a challenge is a resource. As with any resource, demand may or may not vary with respect to the level of challenge or risk.

Not surprisingly, increasing feedback and rewards is an upgrid maneuver as is boosting accountability through more frequent reports or more immediate feedback on reports submitted. This investigation serves as a reminder of the importance of optimizing systems of feedback and rewards.

Risk is the horizontal axis measure that defines the Deal and Kennedy cultural types. Risk is synonymous with uncertainty: the greater the uncertainty the greater the risk. If risk is the challenge, ability is the answer. Ability, the ChangeGrid horizontal axis measure, mitigates risk by reducing uncertainty through research and discovery, extensive planning, process controls, and continuous quality checks. As risk rises ability must rise to meet the requirements or wrong decisions and catastrophic failure may result. Risk acceptance, risk tolerance, tolerance for ambiguity: These are all resources that contribute to the ability to work in an environment filled with uncertainty; therefore, risk resolves into an ability to tolerate the conditions of the culture.

The findings of this investigation support fully integrating the Deal and Kennedy model of cultural typologies with the ChangeGrid. We discovered a strong correlation between every part of the Dean and Kennedy model of cultural typologies and the ChangeGrid. Further studies are needed to further validate the significance of these findings. This integration produces an array of possibilities for work and research in organizational culture using the ChangeGrid. The 40:1 improvement in resolution this integration provides suggests the users of the DKMCT can benefit greatly from learning more about the ChangeGrid and the ChangeWorks system.


So what do all of you think of Daniel’s article?



One Response to ChangeWorks & Cultural Typologies

  1. Marvelous piece. It continues to reinforce and make sense of all the different points of view — and so elegantly continues to bring it all into a unified whole.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: