Adaptive cultures

According to Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, there are four types of organisational culture: Clan, Adhocracy, Market, and Hierarchy. Last week we looked at the prevalence of Market and Hierarchy cultures in Africa. We noted that they are structured and controlled, with a focus on efficiency and stability. Company cultures with market focus tend to be results-oriented, with a focus on competition.

Much progress has been achieved by these types of organisation. But, as I move around the corporate space, I sense that leaders are frustrated. It’s almost as if they have gone as far as they can to grow business by top-down leadership. They are meeting resistance to Western-style cultures that demand ruthless competition and the absolute subordination of employee interests to those of the body corporate.

To put it in human terms, Africa produces people who are still more socially engaged than many of their western peers. Interested in doing the right thing by one another. Helping each other out; and giving respect where it is due. Overlaid on this we now have the complex value sets of Generations Y and Z. As you will have read, these younger people prize opportunities to make individual contributions to the organisation and to be recognised for them. So, authoritarian company cultures now fit poorly with modern social norms.

Fortunately, Quinn and Cameron’s work identified two further culture types – worth considering in this situation:

Clan culture. A friendly working environment where people have much in common and strongly resemble a large family. Leaders are viewed as mentors and maybe even father figures. The organisation is held together by loyalty and tradition. There is a high level of engagement. The emphasis is on the long-term benefits of human resource development and great value is attached to personal relationships and morale. Success is usually defined as the ability to address the needs of the customer and take proper care of its people. The organisation attaches great value to teamwork, participation and consensus.

Adhocracy culture. A dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative working environment where people stick their necks out and take risks. Their leaders are viewed as innovators and risk takers. The binding agent that keeps the organisation together is a commitment to experimentation and innovation. Longer term, the organisation’s emphasis is on growth through new products and services. Being a pioneer is considered important, so the organisation encourages individual initiative and freedom.

It’s time for modern business leaders to acknowledge that culture is fundamental to enterprise success and to try something different. Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside in Africa

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