What are the different types of Organisational Culture?

Organisational Culture is an extremely interesting topic. Recognising and understanding the different types of Organisational Culture is essential for you to confidently take your next steps towards your strategic goals. In this article, we will introduce you to the different types of Organisational Culture. You will learn how we define them, why we think these definitions are necessary, and how they are all useful when discussing the topic from different perspectives.

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Optimal culture - The culture that best supports your strategy

We'll start with the reason why you're probably reading this article: the type of culture your organisation should strive for. Optimal culture is the organisational culture that best supports your organisation's strategy in order to be successful. It should take into account the rules, legislation and other restrictions that apply to your organisation and the strategy your organisation has. It is crucial to keep in mind that optimal culture should always be tailored for each organisation, or function of an organisation. Trying to apply the culture of another organisation as the optimal culture for yours is never a good idea.

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Especially larger organisations should usually divide their organisation based on the functions within the organisation. Different rules may dictate how different functions should operate and different departments usually have different goals as well. For this reason, the optimal culture cannot be the same for each function if it is meant to be the best culture supporting the goals and strategies of the functions.

Our Organisational Culture Scan allows you to divide your organisation into subcultures. A subculture covers a section within the organisation that should have their own specified culture. Subcultures can be based on a variety of factors such as function within the company, department or geographical location.


Actual culture - The culture you currently have

Actual culture should be the basis for all Organisational Culture change projects. It is the culture your organisation or department currently has. In order to guarantee accuracy and objectivity, actual culture should be measured using a valid and objective method.

As we mentioned earlier, when measuring actual culture in a larger organisation, you should also take into consideration the different functions of the organisation. For example, it is unlikely that the Organisational Culture for your Accounting department is exactly the same as for Research and Development. This should be taken into account when measuring Organisational Culture as actual culture is the starting point for the change strategy.

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Perceived culture - The culture you think you have

The Multi-Focus Model on Organisational Culture doesn't give you information about the perceived culture of your organisation. This is because you already have that information. Perceived culture is the culture people in the organisation think it has. Likewise, it is the culture you think your organisation has. You can get more insight on the perceived culture by asking others and this might change how you perceive your organisation's culture.

The problem with drawing conclusions from the perceived culture is that you will most likely not get the complete and correct picture about your organisation's culture. Even after surveys or interviews, the questions you asked might have been affected by your own perception of the culture, people working on the review might have their own interests in mind, people might have not dared to answer truthfully to an internally ran survey, or some relevant people might have decided not to answer at all. Implementing changes based on perceived culture, without measuring the actual culture, is one of the reasons why many Organisational Culture change projects fail.

Ideal work environment

When measuring an organisation's actual culture, it is often a good idea to also measure the ideal work environment. This is measured exactly the same way as actual culture, except that instead of asking questions about the current work environment, the respondents describe the Organisational Culture of their dreams. The work environment they would love to have.

Although measuring ideal work environment does not offer information about the current state of things nor should it usually be the goal your organisation should strive for either, it gives valuable information about the preferences of the people working in the organisation. This in turn can offer insights into how the targets for the optimal culture should be set and how difficult it will be to reach them.

Understanding the various types of Organisational Culture is key to fostering a cohesive and successful strategy. To learn more about how you can leverage these insights to enhance your organisation's effectiveness, contact us. Start shaping a culture that drives your business forward today!

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2019, and last updated in June 2024