How to define company culture – a framework

Company culture can be a fuzzy and nebulous topic. Honestly, I’ve often struggled with it. It can be like juggling jelly, trying to understand what a company is really like. And yet we’re all striving to somehow create a great culture within our organisations. 

This belter of an exercise from Phil Dearson at N2D is based on Professor Geert Hofstede’s study into how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. Professor Hofstede’s called this ‘National Culture’. 

Phil is suggesting adapting Hofstede’s study and applying it to individual companies – suggesting its application and findings are a nice start point for actively impacting culture. 

“Frameworks and models are great for working with ambiguity. Here’s one for analysing the culture of nations that’s also useful when considering the culture of organisations – especially if you’re trying to influence the culture as part of a “transformation” programme, perhaps.” 

The six dimensions of national culture are based on extensive research done by Professor Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov and their research teams. Using these dimensions, it’s possible to create a spider diagram illustrating what a company/national culture looks like, so you have a useful starting point to work with.

The six dimensions of ‘national culture’ – a quick overview…

Power Distance Index
The degree to which less powerful people accept that power is distributed unequally.

Individualism vs Collectivism
The degree to which people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we”.

Masculinity vs Femininity
The degree to which an organisation is “tough vs tender”. Some stereotyping at play here but the dimension measures competition vs consensus.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index
How uncomfortable are people with uncertainty and ambiguity. How rigid or relaxed are fundamental behaviours.

Long Term vs Short Term Orientation
One of the more obvious dimensions, this also looks at how far tradition is valued vs flexibility and experimentation.

Indulgence vs Restraint
The relationship between the gratification of personal needs and restriction in favour of strict organisational norms.

You could score these in whichever way suited you, anonymising answers or not depending on how your team feel about the exercise. Either way, you’re sure to get some interesting and valuable results which will help you gauge current sentiment and some cornerstones from which to begin building the culture you really want. 



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