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An important part of an organisation's cultural focus is whether it is inwardly or outwardly orientated.
Inwardly orientated cultures tend to be preoccupied by personal issues and needs and internal power and relationship dynamics. Who has the power within the organisation? Which people and groupings are influential within the organisation? How can one fulfil his/her personal needs within the organisation? Who does one have to cultivate and align one’s self with in order to become powerful and influential within the organisation? They also tend to look for external allies that they can pull in to support their position and increase their power and influence.
Outwardly orientated cultures tend to be preoccupied with the external environment. How are they affecting the environment within which they exist? Are they having a positive or negative effect on their environment and the people upon which their activities are targeted? Are they making a meaningful contribution? Are they successfully interacting with their environment? Do they have a good and productive/profitable relationship with their environment and external people and customers? They also tend to look for external contacts that can be used as conduits through which they can push their information and services, so increasing the scope and depth of their activities.
Political cultures value power and influence. They tend to be entrepreneurial type businesses with one or two key power brokers that groups tend to form around and with which individuals seek to align themselves. The way to meet personal goals within these organisations is to be a political player. For this reason political cultures tend to be inwardly orientated.
Artistic cultures value self development, fulfilment and contribution. They tend to be artistic and creative businesses consisting of people that value their personal development, the fulfilment of their potential and the contributions they can make. As people tend to value their personal development and are keen to make a difference and contribution, the focus of artistic cultures can sometimes be inward looking towards influencing the organisation to support personal development and sometimes outward looking towards maximising individual contributions to the external environment and society.
Functional cultures value hierarchy and role. They tend to be public service type organisations such as the military, civil service and local authorities. People within these organisations are keenly aware of their place within the internal hierarchy and also the role they are required to carry out in providing services. For this reason the focus of functional cultures can sometimes be inward looking and sometimes outward.
Passionate cultures value commitment and belief. They tend to be voluntary and community type organisations. Their people have a strong commitment to making a difference within their area of activity and also a strong belief that they are doing ‘the right thing’. For this reason the focus of passionate cultures tends to be predominately outward towards making a positive difference in the environment and society.
Pragmatic cultures value context and results. They tend to be financial and service organisations. Their people are keenly aware of the environment and context within which they are operating and seek to identify and adopt approaches that will achieve the best results for their organisations within these. For this reason the focus of pragmatic cultures tends to be predominately outward towards the environmental situation. They will analyse the environment within which they are active and find ways to survive and thrive within it.
Expert cultures value the acquisition and application of knowledge and experience. They tend to be consultancy and other specialist type organisations. Their people value not only adding to their knowledge, but also their ability to use their knowledge to solve problems and address complex situations within environments relevant to their expertise. As their focus is on the acquisition of knowledge and its application to their environment, the focus of expert cultures tends to be outward.
Look out for future posts that will explore how each of the above cultures tend to perceive each other and how relationships between them can be effectively managed.
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(Acknowledgement is given to Charles Handy and the four organisational cultures he describes in his book 'Gods of Management'.)