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How Do You Measure Organizational Culture?

Dr. Frank Granito

Chief Knowledge Engineer and Institute Fellow, Institute for Digital Transformation

It was 2009. I was just beginning my journey in the Doctor of Management Program and I was searching for a specific area of research. In a conversation with one of my faculty advisors, we began to discuss the concept of organizational culture. I really found this fascinating and thought, “what if we could measure culture like we measure other maturity models such as CMM or ITIL?”

His response was, “You don’t measure culture; you just examine its characteristics and you react to it.” Well, the challenge was on. Why couldn’t I measure a culture? Isn’t that what doctoral research is? And so my dissertation was launched.

What is organizational culture?

Experts claim that organizational culture is just the sum of the beliefs and values of its people and that culture itself is an abstract concept. But I proposed that we should be able to measure an organization’s culture by identifying elements and their direct relationships to mature organizations.

A more “mature” organizational culture, in this context, is more innovative and thus would facilitate process maturity. This is what ITIL called a “service culture,” but ironically never defined what that was. My task was to develop a model with specific attributes and characteristics that could be measured. I was going to qualify this abstract concept called culture. Once you qualify it, you can measure it. Once you measure it, you can implement changes to successfully “mature” the organization. 

Elements of organizational culture

So, what does that measurement model look like?  After a good deal of research, I came up with key components of culture that can be measured:

  1. Organizational tension is the basic trust in a change or upheaval, and the amount of “mourning” that the organization requires for the old way. 
  2. Coordination and communication is the need for key departments and individuals to work together to improve the organization. 
  3. Commitment refers to convincing those in the organization to be committed to the new vision and their roles in achieving it. 
  4. Organizational competency is the analytical and interpersonal skills managers and employees will use in the change effort.
  5. Organizational leadership is the demonstration by top management of visible and consistent support for change.
  6. Management innovation is management support for the business application of creativity.
  7. Organizational innovation is a culture of continual service improvement.  

All these components have specific characteristics than can be assessed and measured using a survey or interview instrument. 

Mature companies

These concepts have been translated, evolved, and extended into the Institute’s Digital Enterprise Readiness analytical model. Analyzing companies that had successful transformed into digital enterprises, I created a model of a “mature” company. Those companies all possessed:

  • Sustainable operational performance: a stable base to operate from
  • Organizational agility: quickly react to market or competitor change
  • Strategic agility: anticipate market or competitor change
  • Disruptive culture: people are receptive to implementing change

Using the same methods as I used in my dissertation, I identified components, model traits, characteristics, and attributes that could be measured and thus created a model that would analytically measure a company’s ability to successfully endure the stress of transforming into a digital enterprise. From this model, the Digital Enterprise Readiness Framework was created and validated by assessment of multiple companies.

Digital transformation

Digital transformation is about having a service culture, or what might be called an innovative culture. These cultures are communicative, collaborative, adaptable, flexible, tolerant of failure, and not risk-averse. Now all these can be measured, blind spots revealed, improvement areas identified, and actions taken. Rather than guessing, we can now analytically assess digital readiness and the abstract of culture upon which it depends.

So yes, you can analytically measure abstract cultural characteristics. Now we have a roadmap that companies can follow on their ongoing transformation journey into becoming a digital enterprise.

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