Agile Hierarchies

I had the chance to speak with Dr. José Roldán last week, at the Universidad de Sevilla. We discussed a paper he co-authored last year studying the impact of Cultural Values on Organizational Agility.

The paper considered four cultures and their agility:

  • Clan – Strong sense of community and collaboration (example: Tom’s of Maine)
  • Adhocracy – Innovative, creative and flexible (example: Facebook)
  • Market – Values productivity and results (example: Oracle)
  • Hierarchy – Command-and-control (example: military)

Looking at these, the first three would seem to be conducive to agility. The Clan culture has a focus on sharing knowledge across the organization would be an advantage in responding to change. Adhocracy’s leveraging innovation makes change critical to their success. A Market culture has an external focus that allows it to recognize change in its earliest stages.

The highly formalized and regulated structure within a Hierarchy culture should make the organization the least adaptable to changes.

Surprisingly, the research found that the Hierarchy culture actually had a positive effect on the organization’s agility. It may be that the stability offered by the culture is beneficial during times of crisis. The top-down approach allows the organization to respond faster than “management by committee”.

These reminds me of something I read about how special ops teams plan and execute. During the planning stage, the group is flat – each expert brings their talent to the forefront. Once the team begins to execute, the group has a single leader to avoid conflicting instructions at critical times.

Impact of Organizational Culture Values on Organizational Agility

Felipe, Carmen M., José L. Roldán, and Antonio L. Leal-Rodríguez. “Impact of Organizational Culture Values on Organizational Agility.” Sustainability 9.12 (2017): 2354.

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