What Business Owners Need to Know – Organizational Culture Matter

Organizational culture matter. Indeed, organizational cultures are central determinants of the character of organizations. After all, culture is the glue that holds together all of our values, our beliefs, our sense of self, and our confidence and trust in the people around; says Jerry Haney, author in Executive Life magazine.

So, what is the organizational culture of your business? I think that most business owners may battle to answer this question. Why? Because everyone takes the organization’s culture for granted. They live the culture every day, conform to its unwritten rules, and reject the outsiders and reward those who conform.

But, if your business strategy does not fit in with your business’s organizational culture, then you can expect conflict among members and subsequent negative business outcomes. At this point, there’re only two options to solve this mismatch – change your organizational culture, or change your strategy.

Luckily, you can determine the culture of your business. Harrison and Stokes (1992) introduced an instrument that is designed to help you and other members of your business to identify aspects of your organization’s culture.

Recognizing cultural issues

It’s important for business owners to recognize the cultural issues that underlie organizational conflict among managers and administrators. Usually you will only become aware of the issues when they are blatant and the lines of the struggle are drawn, as in employee – management relationships.

When this happens, the conflict may have developed so far that a constructive resolution is virtually impossible. However, with the help of Harrison’s instrument, you can measure your business’s organizational culture, before too much damage has been done.

Harrison has identified four distinct, competing organizational cultures and what they mean for your business. Let’s have a closer look at the four different organizational cultures.

The four organizational cultures

Here are the four organizational cultures that Harrison described. Do you recognize the dominant culture of your business among them?

The Power Orientation

An organization that is power-oriented attempts to dominate its environment and vanquish all opposition. Furthermore, is a business with a power orientation based on the inequality of access to resources 2. This render a great opportunity for those who are in power to manipulate the members of their organization.

As a result, the people in power use resources to satisfy or frustrate the needs of others. Therefore, leadership here is about the ability and willingness of individuals to administer rewards and punishments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Power Orientation 1

Unifies individual effort behind the vision of the leader.People give the boss's wishes the highest priority, even when it interferes with important work.
Can move quickly in the market and make rapid internal changes.People are afraid to give bad news to the boss.
Leverages the knowledge, wisdom and talent of the leader.People with power break rules with impunity and take special privileges
Can provide direction and certainty; reduce conflict and confusion in times of emergency.People do not question the leaders even when they are seen to be wrong.
Information is a source of personal power and is restricted to friends and allies.
People are promoted by being loyal to those in power even when they are not especially competent.

The Role Orientation

An organization that is role-oriented aspires to be as rational and orderly as possible. In fact, the role culture substitutes a system of structures and procedures for the naked power of the leaders. Here the structures and systems give protection to the workers and stability to the business. As a result, is the struggle of power moderated by the rule of law.

People perform specific functions in order to receive defined rewards. Adhering to their parts of the bargain is important for the individual as well as the business.

The values of role-oriented businesses are order, dependability, rationality, and consistency. Authority and responsibility are delegated downward. Additionally, each level in the organization has a defined area of authority, and work can continue to be done without direct supervision from the top.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Role Orientation 1

Well-designed structures and systems good for efficient operations and reduce the time for learning jobs.People follow the rules even when these rules get in the way of doing the work.
Clear lines of authority and responsibility reduce conflict, turf battles, confusion and indecision.It is considered a sin to exceed one's authority or deviate from accepted procedures.
Clear, fair rules and guidelines protect individuals from exploitation and abusive use of powerIt is more important to avoid deviating from the norm that it is to do the right thing.
Having good systems, procedures and organisational memory prevents having to "reinvent the wheel".Jobs are so tightly defined that there is little room to contribute one's unique talents and abilities.
Structure, routine and predictability provide security and reduce stress.People are treated as interchangeable parts of a machine rather than as individual human beings
It is difficult to get approval for changes that people give up on making needed improvements.

The Task (Achievement) Orientation

In the organization that is task-oriented, achievement of a higher order goal is the highest value. It is different from the power- and role orientation in that the achievement orientation does do depend on the use of external rewards or punishments. Indeed, they are expected to contribute their personal energy in return for rewards.

The achievement-orientated uses the its mission to attract and then release the personal energy of their workers in the pursuit of common goals.

Because the workers make their contributions freely in response to their commitment to a shared purpose, they willingly give more to the business. Therefore, the whole prospers accordingly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Achievement Orientation 1

Rapid adaptation to change.People believe so much in what they are doing that the end comes to justify the means.
Rapid learning and problem solving.People become intolerant of personal needs, and they sacrifice family, social life and health for work.
Unity of effort toward mutually valued goals.The group members talk only to themselves and become isolated from others and from reality.
Reduced need for controls on individuals.The group only cooperates internally, which others see as arrogant and competitive.
High internal motivation.Because dissent and criticism are stifled, the group has difficulty correcting its own errors.
Maximum utilization of members' talents.The commitment to excellence at any cost leads to waste and inefficiency.
High self-esteem for organisational members.

The Person (Support) Orientation

Unlike the other three types, the person-oriented organization exists primarily to serve the needs of its members. In fact, the support culture nay be defined as an organizational climate that is based on mutual trust between the individual and the business.

Here people like to come to work. Indeed, they come to work because they care for the people whom they work with. Because they feel cared for, they are more human in their interactions with other stakeholder such as customers, suppliers, the public and fellow workers.

Like achievement organizations, support-oriented organizations assume that people want to contribute. The assumption is that people will contribute out of a sense of commitment to a group or a business for which they feel a real sense of belonging and in which they believe they have a personal stake.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Person Orientation 1

Good internal communication and integration.People may focus on relationships and neglect the work.
High levels of commitment to decision.Out of kindness difficult personnel decisions may be avoided.
Sophisticated process skills manage people issues well.When consensus cannot be reached the group may become indecisive and lose direction.
High levels of cooperative, effective group work.Disagreement may be avoided, there is surface harmony and covert conflict
Good at sensing environment.Changes may take a long time because of the need to get everyone on board
Providing caring, responsive service.People are rewarded in the same way although they might not have contributed in the same way.
High trust between individuals and the organisation.
Nurturing members for good health.
Good balance for achievement culture


By knowing the dominant culture-orientation of your business, you can use that knowledge to draft a strategy that will suit most of the people in your business.

However, to change the culture of your business to suit the strategy is not an impossible task. But it is extremely difficult and calls for the intervention of OD (Organizational Development) practitioners.

I wonder how ‘working from home’ will affect organizational cultures with the new normal during the Covid-19 era?

Read also: How your Leadership Style Impacts the Success of your Business


1 Manetje, O.M., 2005. The impact of organisational culture on organisational commitment, Doctoral dissertation, University of South Africa.

2 Harrison, Roger and Stokes, Herb, 1992. Diagnosing Organizational Culture, San Francisco: Pfeiffer.



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