An organization’s culture is a system of shared meaning. When you understand your organization’s culture, you know whether it encourages teamwork, rewards innovation, or stifles initiative. When interviewing for a job, the more accurate a manager is at assessing the culture, the more likely he or she is to find a good person-organization fit. And once inside an organization, understanding the culture allows managers to know what behaviors are likely to be rewarded and which are likely to be punished.

Analysis and Interpretation
This instrument taps the seven primary dimensions of an organization’s culture: innovation and risk taking, attention to detail, outcome orientation, people orientation, team orientation, aggressiveness and stability.

To calculate your score, add up your responses but reverse your scores for items 2 and 7. Your total score will range between 7 and 35. Scores of 21 or lower indicate that you’re more comfortable in a formal, mechanistic, rule oriented, and structured culture. This is often associated with large corporations and government agencies. The lower your number, the stronger your preference for this type of culture. Scores above 22 indicate a preference for informal, humanistic, flexible, and innovative cultures, which are more likely to be found in high-tech companies, small businesses, research units, or advertising agencies. The higher your score above 22, the stronger your preference for these humanistic cultures.

Organizational cultures differ. So do individuals. The better you’re able to match your personal preferences to an organization’s culture, the more likely you are to find satisfaction in your work, the less likely you are to leave and the greater the probability that you’ll receive positive performance evaluations.

Skill Basics
The ability to read an organization’s culture can be a valuable skill. For instance, if you’re looking for a job, you’ll want to choose an employer whose culture is compatible with your values and in which you’ll feel comfortable. If you can accurately assess a potential employer’s culture before you make your job decision, you may be able to save yourself a lot of grief and reduce the likelihood of making a poor choice. Similarly, you’ll undoubtedly have business transactions with numerous organizations during your professional career, such as selling a product or service, negotiating a contract, arranging a joint work project, or merely seeking out who controls certain decisions in an organization. The ability to assess another organization’s culture can be a definite plus in successfully performing those pursuits.

You can be more effective at reading an organization’s culture if you use the following behaviors. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to look at this skill from the perspective of a job applicant. We’ll assume that you’re interviewing for a job, although these skills are generalizable to many situations. Here’s a list of things you can do to help learn about an organization’s culture.

  1. Do background work: Get the names of former employees from friends or acquaintances, and talk with them. Also talk with members of professional trade associations to which the organization’s employees belong and executive recruiters who deal with the organization. Look for clues in stories told in annual reports and other organizational literature, and check out the organization’s Web sites for evidence of high turnover or recent management shake-ups.
  2. Observe the physical surroundings: Pay attention to signs, posters, pictures, photos, style of dress, length of hair, degree of openness between offices, and office furnishings and arrangements.
  3. Make note about those with whom you met: Whom did you meet? How did they expect to be addressed?
  4. How would you characterize the style of the people you met? Are they formal? Casual? Serious? Jovial? Open? Reticent about providing information?
  5. Look at the organization’s human resources manual: Are there formal rules and regulations printed there? If so, how detailed are they? What do they cover?
  6. Ask questions of the people with whom you meet: The most valid and reliable information tends to come from asking the same questions of many people (to see how closely their responses align). Questions that will give you insights into organizational processes and practices might include: What’s the background of the founders? What’s the background of current senior managers? What are these managers’ functional specialties, and were they promoted from within or hired from outside?

How does the organization integrate new employees? Is there a formal orientation program? Are there formal employee training programs and, if so, how are they structured? How does your boss define his or her job success? How would you define fairness in terms of reward allocations? Can you identify some people here who are on the “fast track”? What do you think has put them on the fast track? Can you identify someone in the organization who seems to be considered a deviant and how has the organization responded to this person? Can you describe a decision that someone made that was well received?

Can you describe a decision that didn’t work out well, and what were the consequences for that decision maker? Could you describe a crisis or critical event that has occurred recently in the organization and how did top management respond? Visit LSBF, one of the best online learning platforms, to learn more about different types of organizational cultures.