How to Maximize Your Company Culture with the OCAI

company culture

The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) was created by business professors Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron from the University of Michigan. It details four types of organizational cultures that can exist within a company.

The OCAI is used by thousands of businesses around the world as a framework to create their most effective leadership strategies. Quinn and Cameron found that all the companies evaluated demonstrate at least two of the four elements.

Identifying leadership dynamics within a company, which the OCAI helps to achieve, can make a crucial difference to the effectiveness of a business. If the correct organizational culture is implemented, then it can form the foundation for efficiency and productivity. The incorrect ‘OC’ can have an adverse effect.

The OCAI Explained

The OCAI is displayed as a graphic, with four quadrants bound by two axes. It shows how the four different organizational cultures compete with each other based on dynamics. The y-axis has ‘Flexibility and Discretion’ at the top and ‘Stability and Control’ along the bottom. The x-axis has  ‘Internal Focus and Integrations’ on the left and ‘External Focus and Differentiation’ on the right.

The quadrants represent the four organizational cultures. Clan is located in the top left and encompasses ‘Flexibility and Discretion’ and ‘Internal Focus and Integration.’ Adhocracy is top right, with its defining characteristics being ‘Flexibility and Discretion’ and ‘External Focus and Differentiation.’ Market is bottom right and features the combination of ‘External Focus and Differentiation’ and ‘Stability and Control.’ Finally, Hierarchy is bottom left, consisting of the marriage between ‘Stability and Control’ and ‘Internal Focus and Integration.’

The OCAI framework highlights how different leadership styles can compete and contrast with each other. The key for business leaders is recognizing these different cultures within their companies and striving to ensure the right culture is deployed in the right areas of the organization.

The Four Cultures of OCAI According to Quinn and Cameron

The Clan Culture. Coworkers are extremely friendly with one another, and may consider their bonds to be almost familial. Leaders are often considered mentors or parental figures by employees at lower levels. There is a strong focus on dedication to the organization and tradition is often valued. Therefore, the Clan Culture is most effectively deployed for team building, open communication, and empowerment.

The Adhocracy Culture. This Culture values energy and creativity. Those in leadership are innovative and not afraid to take risks, and they encourage employees at lower levels to act similarly. In fact, experimentation and innovation are the means by which employees bond with one another. This makes the Adhocracy Culture most effective in departments where innovation is of primary importance.

The Market Culture. Departments or organizations that fall under this umbrella value obtaining results by whatever means necessary. Competition and focus are valued by employees and encouraged by leadership. Leaders and employees alike are single-minded in their focus on the end goal and consider achievements to be “winning.” The Market Culture is best utilized in customer- and sales-focused departments within a company.

The Hierarchy Culture. Hierarchical work environments are extremely formal and rely heavily on structure. Employees are expected to adhere to established protocols and procedures. There is a plan for every contingency. As a result, employees are often able to work efficiently with minimal supervision, which is a point of pride for all involved. The Hierarchy Culture is therefore most effective in departments where control and efficiency are necessary, such as compliance departments or HR.

How to Implement the Different Cultures

What Quinn and Cameron’s research with the OCAI reveals is that it’s extremely rare for a company to implement all four organizational cultures equally within a business structure. Instead, what they found was that the companies that most effectively deployed the four elements did so strategically within the department where it was most appropriate.

For instance, a product development department should be encouraged to use a mix of Clan and Adhocracy, while departments like accounting and tech support would be better served by Hierarchy. To ensure the ideal combination of cultures are deployed to their best effect, leaders must analyze the current dynamics and determine whether the existing organizational cultures are yielding the desired results.

The first step to take is to have employees take the OCAI survey. By assessing the resulting data, company leaders can identify a starting point from which they can begin to address any areas that need to be adjusted.

Of course, the survey cannot fully account for human complexities and attitudes, so any results should be used as a guideline. However, the survey can help shed light on blind spots the company may not even be aware of and highlight where, or if, there are any disparities between the current company culture and the desired company culture.

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