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CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

MEASURING CULTURE

Where to from here?

How do we measure culture and evaluate change?

Rather than using a management consulting approach to organisational culture (change management, culture diagnostics…Kotters 8 steps anyone?) we use a framework of cultural anthropology.

Our approach to organisational and institutional cultures goes beyond surface level analysis (the “climate”) to examine social, historical and political contexts.

Complex organisations rarely get adequate insight from mile wide, inch deep ‘diagnostics’, rather they are highly dependent on asking the right questions {Organisational Archaeology} We use organisational ethnography to better understand barriers and enablers to change. 

 

There has been an increased focus in organisations on collecting data that provides insight into the current state of culture. This is typically done in three ways, firstly attempting to use existing demographic data to draw a picture of what the organisation looks like in relation to diversity (namely numbers of women and background of origin); Secondly, using existing, or amending existing, self report tools to gather attitudes and behaviours in order to gain an understanding of current state; and, thirdly, through new self report surveys designed specifically to assess effectiveness of specific ‘culture’ initiatives developed post reviews or reforms.

Self report tools have been found in peer reviewed international research to be a less than optimal method of capturing organisational culture, let alone change in organisational culture. Similarly, the over reliance on attitude based data is repeatedly highlighted as limited in literature on measuring organisational culture.

Understanding culture change, its drivers and effects, is important for knowing which initiatives have been effective and where resources should be targeted in the future.

Our research in particular organisations to date has shown that a broader examination of all data collection points reveals that there are other data sets (that are not commonly thought of as useful for ‘culture’ assessment) to be leveraged and used in concert to give a more holistic picture of what is happening and where change may or may not be occurring.

Evaluating organisational culture at three levels (micro, meso, macro) enables visibility of change that may be occurring in different areas of the organisation in policies, targeted initiatives, and ways of reporting, that may not necessarily be reflected in self reported attitudes of members or employees.

EVALUATING CHANGE

A culture evaluation framework needs to be both strategic and practical.  

We rely on Organisational archaeology and Design sociology to develop your evaluation framework.. 

Development of an evaluation framework requires leveraging the above mixed method approach and, in addition to demographic factors, captures:

  • Motivation to change (not just goals and conscious decision making; needs)

  • Capability for change (individuals psychological and physical capability to engage in the activity concerned)

  • Opportunity for change (factors that lie outside the individual that makes behaviour possible or prompt it/structural features, environmental landscapes)

 

The framework emphasises the need to

 

  • Baseline factors to be measured

  • Collect organisation specific data routinely/longitudinally that is both pushed out and pulled up when needed

  • Identify risk profiles of populations

  • Take into account lead-lag time when evaluating culture change 

 

An Organisational Ethnography approach identifies and examines linkages, dependencies, situational/contextual limitations (i.e. structures, policies), attitudinal limitations (from individuals/leaders), and exposes the hidden dimensions of organisational life i.e. emotional/ political/power issues

What makes something ethnographic, and not just a qualitative or naturalistic inquiry, is that it:

  • Uses multiple methods and the construction of different forms of data

  • Aims to create a holistic description of the ‘many links between many things’