By: Dr. Robert Quinn Michigan Business School December 5, 2003

Action Planning Guide Organization Strengths and Culture Survey Results


The Organizational Strength Survey measures four different aspects of organizational culture.Each of these four is important to effective performance. This guide will allow you to determine how your organization is doing in each of the four, as well helping you to determine where and how to intervene in your organizational culture and practices.


This guide involves a three-step process of diagnosing your current situation, setting priorities, and choosing actions. To complete the three stages you will need your own scores on each scale, as well as the scores of an appropriate reference group. Which scores are right for reference depends upon your goals. You may want to assess your individual scores against those of your organization (if more than one person completed the survey). Or you may choose to compare your organization’s scores against others in your industry (or even some other industry you are targeting for expansion).

Another option is to develop a set of scores that you determine are your “desired state,” and then compare your results with those. For example, your organization may have a mission statement or core values that espouse creativity. If the results of the organization strengths survey suggest that your firm is actually not high in adhocracy culture, then this may be something you wish to correct.

As you can see, a number of comparisons are appropriate. Once you have decided what the right reference group is, you will be ready to conduct the diagnosis.


You have scores (your own and those of your comparison group) for each of 16 organizational capabilities. These capabilities are grouped together in sets of four, with each set measuring your strengths in a different aspect organizational culture (see Figure 2 on page 3 for the model). These aspects are market, clan, adhocracy, and hierarchy. Each of the cultural aspect is summarized below in Figure 1 (for a more complete discussion see Cameron and Quinn, Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, 1999, Addison-Wesley). 





Core Values & Strategy

Productivity Competitiveness Customer focus

Empowerment Team building HR development

Creative solutions
Anticipating needs
Setting new standards

Process Control
Quality measurement
Error detection

Leadership style

Hard driving competitor

Facilitator mentor

Visionary innovator

Organizer monitor

Criteria of effectiveness



Creative growth

Efficiency timeliness

Management theory

Competition fosters productivity

Participation fosters commitment

Innovativeness fosters new resources

Control fosters efficiency

While different strategies and industries are clearly better served by one or another of these cultures, in the long run it may be important to have all of the organizational strengths available. Any one of the four, if taken too far, can change from a strength to a liability. For example, it is obviously important to train and develop employees; this is a clan culture strength. But if this is taken too far, if concern for comfort overrides getting the job done, it can hurt performance. Therefore, it is important to have the right balance among the cultural strengths. Each one has important strengths, but each also has significant weaknesses, which are offset by the opposite culture (e.g., a hierarchy’s lack of innovation is corrected by adhocracy, and adhocracy’s potential to wander off target can be fixed by hierarchy). Optimal organizational performance depends on getting the right balance of strengths.

Completing the table below will help you to determine which of your cultural strengths are best and worst compared to your chosen reference group. 

Executive action planning

Setting priorities

By looking at the four sums you have calculated, you can get an idea of how your strengths compare with those of your reference group. Positive values indicate that you are doing better in terms of those cultural strengths. Negative values mean you are not doing as well. This comparison with your reference group will tell you where you need to focus your change efforts.

For example, suppose that you have selected the profile of firms in a market segment that you want to target as your reference group. If your lowest sum, relative to the target segment, was in the adhocracy culture, your organization may be best served by developing adhocratic strengths. This result would mean that firms in that segment tend to be more flexible and innovative than your firm, which may indicate that this is an important requirement for competing in that market.
Whatever your comparison suggests, it is probably best to focus on developing only one kind of cultural strength at a time.

For example, if your assessment suggests that you need to develop both adhocracy and hierarchy, it may be best to address only one at a time. As you will have realized from the descriptions, each of the cultural types is different, and sometimes even contrary to the others. It will be challenging enough to maintain the strengths you have in the other three areas while developing the fourth. Trying to develop strengths in two areas simultaneously may undermine your efforts.
Choosing actions

Figure 3 below is a guide for creating and action plan specific to your needs. Fill in the
difference scores from Figure 2, and set targets for each organizational strength. Using the action items included as examples, think about what you can do to increase your strengths in the desired areas. We encourage you to think about the strengths you want to build, the nature of the culture that will provide those strengths, and what is best for your organization in the long-term.

When designing any action plan, keep three important principles in mind.

(1) Focus on small wins. No matter how fundamental a change you intend to eventually
make, it will have a much greater chance of success if you decompose it into a series of small steps. When each step is accomplished, it provides momentum and a tangible
record of success. This is important to your long-term results. Change is hard, and you
should have all the reinforcement you can.

(2) Get support. Because change is so difficult, another support you should seek is social support; get people on board. Remember that you are in an organization. What other people do will influence the results of your change efforts. Explain your reasons and goals; get others to support the change effort.

(3) Build in accountability. Make sure that your small wins are measurable and that there is some process for assessing their achievement. Following up will provide the positive feedback of success, and it will place some productive pressure on you. Knowing that a task must be done by next week is very different from knowing that it must be done sooner or later.’ Be accountable.

Figure 3: Action Planning Suggestion Guide
Figure 2
Action Item

Author: Kelly Welbourne

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