Modelling culture

Perry Timms uncovers the Schneider Culture Model

Time to reboot this column: from smartphone apps, to organizational ‘apps’ – the big ideas that help make sense of how we interoperate with each other and with systems of work. My first pick flows, inevitably, from thinking about the pandemic’s impact on those systems. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as management guru Peter Drucker put it; so what has 2020’s revolution in how we work meant for culture?

William Schneider’s Culture Model is a great tool for analysing culture. A classic 2×2 quadrant, it creates opposing axes: between reality- and possibility-oriented mindsets, and between people- and business-oriented decision-making. The grid presents four cultures: Collaboration, Control, Competence and Cultivation. Put an X in a box for your culture, or draw an ellipsis to map the relative importance of two, three or all four cultures.

Wherever your organization began 2020, the initial pandemic response probably meant a shift to Control. If you were Collaborative or Cultivation-oriented, that would have needed careful handling – as will the loosening of control as the crisis eases. Those in a Competence-led culture meanwhile may have been frustrated by the sudden inefficiencies of new ways of working.

The model comes to life when you consider one crucial lesson from Covid-19: that all perspectives need to be heard. Our views on remote working may be wildly different from those of our colleagues. We believe we can work well at home, and so should others; others believe they need proximity to their teams to craft new ideas, make good decisions and understand tempo. We have a study and a garden; they are working from a corner of a bedroom in a shared apartment, struggling to focus.

The Schneider Culture Model helps us understand the prevailing cultural dynamics. Coupled with understanding of others’ perspectives, it helps us make decisions, communicate and be clear on how people are feeling, doing and more importantly, being.

––– Perry Timms is the founder and chief energy officer of PTHR, a consultancy aiming to create better business for a better world. He is a TEDx speaker, top-selling author, and three-time member of HR Magazine’s Most Influential Thinkers list