There is a broad debate both in the professional and academic world about Culture in organizations. It is well recognized that Organizational culture is critical for several aspects:
· Employee engagement and retention;
· Executives and managers decision-making;
· The starting point for any change or transformational activity;
· The starting point for any organizational integration between Parent company and subsidiaries.
For change and transformation, in particular, the cultural element is considered as a must-have requirement: “Digital Transformation is more likely to succeed if org culture, individual values and beliefs are aligned with the goals of the transformation effort” (Llewellyn Robert- CXO Transform.).
PROSCI highlights the culture element as defining the culture and a way to understanding it to improve the OCM practices and proposes a tool to apprehend different cultural dimensions (Assertiveness, Individualism vs Collectivism, Emotional expressiveness, Power distance, Performance orientation, Uncertainty avoidance).
It must be noted that the barriers to Culture changes could be based on three different points:
1. Low awareness of the cultural impact on the aspects described above;
2. Difficulty in accepting that there are gaps between what is the real status and what could be the best cultural approach to pursue strategic activities;
3. Changing or adapting culture to future strategies is an activity that can concern executives for the effort required.
What is OCAI?
OCAI (Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument) is a tool created by Cameron & Quinn (2011) and is based on the Competing Values Framework.
The instrument highlights the different statuses a company may have internally and, with a gap analysis between as-is and to-be (desired) situation, provides a framework for the internal environmental analysis. The tool is in the form of a questionnaire and requires responses for six themes as in Figure 1.
Figure 1- OCAI's Six themes
OCAI measures an organisation# culture along the two dimensions:
· internal vs external focus
· control and procedures vs flexibility focus
Figure 2- OCAI Competing Value Framework
What are the possible results?
We can expect that one dominant culture will emerge, but it may also happen that a mix of cultures will emerge. According to each environmental situation, there can be expected either congruence or incongruence among the six elements. Congruence may happen when the elements fall in one of the culture quadrants. It should be noted that the more is the congruence, the more difficult is the effort to activate a change, if it is required. On the contrary, cultural incongruence can create awareness of a future change. The cultural incongruence can be expected in different companies of a group, a Parent company and subsidiaries, especially at an international level, departments and teams.
Potential pitfalls when using OCAI
Schein (2017) highlights some possible risks in using this tool:
· It can be perceived as abstract, even though you focus on specific different organizational dimensions.
· It could touch “nerves” in the organization: there could be the risk that this analysis can trigger unknown consequences related to politics, career expectations, previous diverging views about past strategies, and so on.
· Potential lack of honesty in the answers from the personnel.
· It doesn’t highlight the interactions among the organizational dimensions.
Practical application of OCAI
However, these potential risks do not undermine the powerful practical applications of OCAI.
Overall, it can be said that this is an excellent tool for building awareness around the culture matter and it can reveal any possible root cause of divergences when there are disagreements (i.e. about the future way of reaching company’s goals - Mission) and reduce the biased view of the organization among different stakeholders. The higher is the stakeholders level in the organization, the higher is the relevance of the results to reduce contrasts and biased views.
It can be applied to:
· Facilitate the engagement with the Board (or client, if you are an external consultant);
· In Merge and Acquisitions, using it before and after the M&A;
· Analyze the culture status before starting transformational changes (recommended for international groups and Parent company and subsidiaries transformations);
· Highlight the cultural differences between departments in an internal organization process;
· Suggest actions required to align different teams and cross-functional teams;
· Unpack workplace rituals as mechanisms for understanding strong organizational cultures.
It is worth briefly citing the experience of Erhardt, Martin-Rios and Heckscher, described in the International Journal of Hospitality Management. The OCAI model has been considered for understanding the ‘how things are done around here’, ‘what we do when nobody is looking” thus rituals. They unpacked the rituals for each organizational culture element as for figure 3 below.
Figure 3- OCAI and rituals
Are you ready to use OCAI?
It is important highlighting the culture component before starting any Integration, Change and Transformational activity. OCAI is a great starting point to become and make other stakeholders aware of all the divergences between current and preferred culture and can drive the company towards creating a culture that is aligned with its strategic goals.