May 14, 2012

Organizational Culture and Social Business Networks

Among experts who work on the important area of organizational behavior and development, there’s a model for evaluating corporate culture called the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI). A good description of the model and its application is available here.

An interesting evaluation model came out of the OCAI work, called the Competing Values Framework, which establishes two dimensions along which an organization’s culture can be evaluated:

  • Internal focus vs External focus, or integration vs differentiation
  • Stability vs Flexibility, of control vs discretion

Plotting Culture
The result is a 2×2 matrix, and the ability to map an organization in a kind of radar plot, based on the degree to which it operates in each quadrant. And example model is shown below.


Culture Matters
The four resulting types of organizational culture, shown in each quadrant above, were given names and attributes:

  • Clan (Internal and Flexible)
    • Cultural value: Cooperating
    • Leader Type: facilitator, mentor, team builder
    • Value Drivers: Commitment, communication, development
  • Adhocracy (External and Flexible)
    • Cultural value: Creating
    • Leader Type: Innovator, entrepreneur, visionary
    • Value Drivers: Innovative outputs, change, agility
  • Hierarchy (Internal and Controlled)
    • Cultural value: Controlling
    • Leader Type: Coordinator, monitor, organizer
    • Value Drivers: Efficiency, timeliness, consistency, and uniformity
  • Market (External and Controlled)
    • Cultural value: Competing
    • Leader Type: Hard driver, rival, producer
    • Value Drivers: Market share, goal achievement, profitability


Cultural Dimensions and Social Platforms
From our perspective this framework seems to beg the question: which organizational cultures are best suited to adopting social business networks?

Though we at Convo are naturally oriented toward organizations that adopt a social platform, it’s clear to us from experience that some cultures are less conducive to the value inherent in the more open, collaborative and highly communicative environment that Convo enables.

Stated the other way, some organizations may have a culture that makes it more difficult to adopt a social platform.

Flexibility vs. Control
The dimension that seems to have the most obvious correlation with the value of social business is the flexibility end of the vertical axis. The two upper quadrants have values such as cooperation and communication, on one side, and creativity and innovation on the other. These are clearly where social platforms can add tremendous value.

This is not to say that the two other quadrants – Hierarchy and Market – will be unable to get value out of social platform. It probably means that in those cases, the processes and policies must be more clearly spelled out before the organization will be comfortable with the adoption.

There doesn’t seem to be much written out there that correlates organizational culture and the Competing Values Framework with adaptability to social business, but it seems to be an important consideration.

Making it Work
The bottom line is, as with everything, the key is to “know thyself,” as the ancient Greeks used to say. In this case, it’s important to understand the kind of prevailing culture in your organization before adopting a social media platform.

Some high-level guidance on adopting social business based on your organizational culture:

  • For Clan cultures, where sharing and collaboration are already highly valued, a key focus should be in connecting people. This should include developing rich and informative profiles enabling people in the organization to search and discover colleagues.
  • For Adhocracy cultures, where creativity and innovation are essential, an important consideration is get people sharing and collaborating on substantive content as soon as possible. This could be in the form of shared work artifacts, or references to external information sources. Communities of Practice and Interest might work particularly well here, as environments to catalyze insights and innovation.
  • For Hierarchy cultures, policies and guidelines are certainly important. But another key to success is empowering and enabling the organization from the top down. Getting executives to implement communication processes by way of social platforms – from status reports to market insights – will be essential to success.
  • For Market cultures, which are known to be competitive and fast moving, you might need to enable the mobile version of Convo first. Beyond that, you might want to institute some form of reward system, that encourages and recognized insights shared from which others get value.

There’s certainly room for all cultures within the social business environment. But playing to your cultural strengths will increase the odds of success.

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