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Introduction to Organizational Culture


Wittingly or unwittingly, your company adopted a corporate culture. To improve employee communications, organizational innovation, and streamline operations, getting familiar with and moving your company towards your desired corporate culture, aids in productivity and employee morale improvements. This article provides a brief overview of organizational culture and some of the benefits associated with moving your culture to the one best for your organization.


Competing Values Framework


The Competing Values Framework (CVF) can help managers remain relevant during trying and difficult times. The CVF developed in the 1980s, along with new research, aids managers in changing behaviors that promote employee innovation, communication, and engagement. Despite its age, the CVF retained its prominence in cultural theories and served as the backbone for various cultural and ideological surveys and assessments. Currently, evaluations based on the CVF are used by law enforcement, managerial, and business schools, as well as academia. Therefore, using the CVF will allow your organization to develop new ways of doing business that will move the company into a prosperous future.

Researchers developed the CVF by conducting extensive research on highly-effective organizations. Today, the CVF consists of two dimensions or areas of importance and focus, which are made up of four quadrants (cultures). One dimension focuses on discernibility, flexibility, dynamism, order, stability, and control. While the other dimension focuses on unity, orientation, rivalry, and differentiation, each of the four quadrants from distinct cultures, both forming the whole. Figure 1 illustrates the CVF displayed graphically.



Figure 1 – Competing Values Framework as adapted from OCAI-online.com

The four quadrants represent competing, and often opposite, ideals and characteristics. The upper left is the clan quadrant and represents fluid yet internal corporate focus while the lower right quadrant, the Market, represents a more controlling, external focus. The upper right is the adhocracy quadrant and identifies a fluid yet external corporate focus while the lower left quadrant, the Hierarchy, represents a more controlling, internal focus. In a nutshell, these four quadrants can be thought of as culture types.


Four Major Culture Types


To get a better idea of where we want to go, we must know our starting point. When using the CVF, there are four basic, over-arching, cultural types that all organizations espouse. No organization is strictly one culture. Simply, the purpose of the culture types is to give managers and leaders an idea of what is happening and provide a roadmap to the skills and abilities they need for the preferred future. The four major culture types are:


  1. The Hierarchy – A Control culture
  2. The Market – A Compete culture
  3. The Clan – A Collaborative culture
  4. The Adhocracy – A Creating culture


No single culture type is superior to another. Each of the cultures brings different values and actions to the table to bear fruit. However, some organizations favor one or two culture types more than others. Let’s briefly review the four cultures. Figure 2 is a synopsis of each of the culture types and the relation they have to each other.


The Hierarchy

The Hierarchy culture focuses on creating a bureaucracy to make the organization stable and efficient. Hierarchies tend to have well-defined management structures and focus on stability, efficiency, and predictability. When this culture dominates, specific rules govern behaviors, and deviation is discouraged.


The Market

Unlike the Hierarchy, the Market focuses on productivity through external controls. Profitability, competitive dynamics, and conducting transactions with external constituents governs the Market. Typically, these organizations emphasize customer service, improved competitiveness, and a commitment to beat the competition. When this culture dominates, production and profitability govern behaviors, and losing is discouraged.


The Clan

The Hierarchy culture focuses on collaboration, a family-type environment, and teamwork (Cameron & Quinn, 2011, pg. 46). Employee development, cooperation, looking to the customer as a partner, and team-based goals govern the Clan. Instead of focusing on rules, the Clan forms quality circles to brainstorm and develop better ways of doing things. When this culture dominates, teamwork, and corporate concerns for the employees govern behaviors, and low commitment is discouraged.


The Adhocracy

As the name implies, this culture is defined by temporary innovations, jumping from one new product or service to the next. Flexibility and creativity guide decisions. Here, there are no hierarchical levels because power is given to each employee, depending on the assigned project and expertise things. When this culture dominates, risk-taking, and individuality reign, and the status quo is discouraged.


CVF Matrix

Figure 2 – Competing Values Framework as adapted from artstrategies.org


Culture must be carefully integrated because it impacts many business-related functions. historically, culture affects employee willingness to adapt and change, how well or not people work together, and leaders’ decision-making styles. Therefore, as your organization prepares to move into the next phase of its growth, strengthening the company culture will and aid in improving employee morale, fostering innovation, and fostering resilience.


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Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., & Cheng, J. Y.-J. (2018, February). The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.

Hultman, K., & Gellermann, B. (2002). Balancing Individual and Organizational Values: Walking the Tightrope to Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.