What is it?
The Cultural Web Model is a concept developed by Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes in the field of organizational culture and management. It is used to analyze and understand the culture of an organization by examining six interconnected elements. These elements are:
- Stories: These are the narratives and anecdotes that circulate within the organization. They often reflect the organization’s history, values, and heroes.
- Rituals and Routines: This element refers to the regular and repeated actions and behaviors within the organization. It includes things like daily routines, meetings, and ceremonies.
- Symbols: Symbols can be visual representations or objects that carry meaning within the organization. They might include logos, dress code, or even the layout of the physical workspace.
- Organizational Structure: The formal structure of the organization, including its hierarchy, reporting lines, and division of labor, plays a significant role in shaping culture.
- Control Systems: This element encompasses the processes and mechanisms used to monitor and manage the organization. It includes things like performance management systems and policies.
- Power Structures: Power within the organization, including who holds it and how it is exercised, is a crucial aspect of culture. This can involve formal power structures and informal influence.
By analyzing these elements, the Cultural Web Model helps organizations and managers understand their current culture and identify areas where changes may be needed to align the culture with strategic goals. It’s a valuable tool for both diagnosing and influencing organizational culture.
How does it work?
Using the Cultural Web Model to analyze and understand an organization’s culture involves several steps. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Identify the Purpose: Clearly define the purpose of analyzing the organization’s culture. Are you doing it to assess alignment with strategic goals, diagnose cultural issues, or plan for culture change?
- Gather Information: Collect relevant data and information about the organization’s culture. This can include interviews, surveys, observations, and document reviews. You’ll want to involve a diverse range of employees to get a comprehensive view.
- Identify the Six Elements: Use the Cultural Web Model as a framework to identify and understand each of the six elements: Stories, Rituals and Routines, Symbols, Organizational Structure, Control Systems, and Power Structures.
- Stories: Collect and analyze stories within the organization. Pay attention to the narratives that are frequently shared and how they reflect the organization’s values, history, and heroes.
- Rituals and Routines: Observe and document the daily and recurring practices within the organization. This may involve attending meetings, witnessing how decisions are made, and understanding common behaviors.
- Symbols: Identify the symbols that are present in the organization, such as logos, mission statements, office layout, and dress code. Consider what these symbols communicate about the culture.
- Organizational Structure: Analyze the formal structure of the organization, including its hierarchy, reporting lines, and division of labor. Consider how this structure impacts decision-making and communication.
- Control Systems: Examine the processes and mechanisms in place to manage and control the organization. This can include performance management systems, policies, and procedures.
- Power Structures: Investigate the sources of power and influence within the organization. Identify who holds power, how it is exercised, and how decisions are made.
- Interconnections: Recognize that these elements are interconnected. Changes in one element can impact others. For example, a change in the organizational structure may affect power dynamics.
- Compare with Desired Culture: Compare the current culture, as revealed by your analysis, with the desired culture or the culture needed to achieve strategic goals. Identify gaps and areas for improvement.
- Plan for Change: If culture change is necessary, develop a plan that outlines the specific steps and initiatives required to align the culture with the organization’s goals. Consider how changes in one element may cascade through others.
- Implement and Monitor: Execute the culture change plan, and continuously monitor progress. Be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
- Evaluate: After some time has passed, assess the impact of the culture change efforts. Have the desired changes been achieved? Are there new cultural challenges to address?
- Iterate: Culture is not static, and it may require ongoing attention. Continue to use the Cultural Web Model for periodic assessments and adjustments as the organization evolves.
Remember that analyzing and changing organizational culture can be a complex and long-term process. It requires commitment from leadership and the involvement of employees at all levels of the organization.
Let’s explore each element of the Cultural Web Model using the example of a chocolate shop called “Choc-Box.”
- Stories: Stories at Choc-Box could include the narrative of how the shop was founded, any memorable customer experiences, or even anecdotes about famous visitors. Sharing stories about the original Italian recipes passed down through generations or the journey of the head chef learning from a renowned chocolateiolo in Naples would contribute to the shop’s cultural identity.
- Rituals and Routines: These are the regular activities and behaviors that occur within Choc-Box. For example, the routine of preparing fresh dough every morning, the ritual of the chef tossing chocolate dough in the open kitchen, and the tradition of having a “Chocolate of the Month” could be important rituals and routines that shape the shop’s culture.
- Symbols: Symbols in the context of Choc-Box might include the shop’s logo, its name, the interior decor, and even the dress code for employees. For instance, if Choc-Box has a rustic Italian-themed decor with red-checkered tablecloths and staff wearing traditional Italian uniforms, these symbols convey a strong association with Italian culture, which may be a part of the shop’s identity.
- Organizational Structure: The way Choc-Box is organized also plays a role in its culture. Is it a family-owned business with a flat hierarchy where everyone has a say in decision-making, or does it have a more traditional organizational structure with clear divisions of labor and authority? The structure can impact the level of formality, communication, and autonomy within the organization.
- Control Systems: Control systems refer to the mechanisms that Choc-Box uses to manage its operations. This could include how they monitor and evaluate employee performance, handle customer complaints, or maintain quality standards. For instance, if Choc-Box has a strict quality control system to ensure consistent chocolate quality, it would reflect a culture of excellence and attention to detail.
- Power Structures: Power structures define how authority and influence are distributed within Choc-Box. It might involve who makes important decisions and how power is exercised. In a family-owned and operated chocolate shop like Choc-Box, power structures may revolve around the family members, with the founder or head chef holding significant influence.
Understanding these elements in the context of Choc-Box’s cultural web helps identify the key aspects that define the shop’s culture. By analyzing these components, Choc-Box can intentionally shape its culture to align with its values and business objectives. For example, if Choc-Box wishes to emphasize authenticity, they may focus on strengthening symbols and stories related to their Italian heritage while maintaining rituals like hand-tossing dough to create a unique dining experience.