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The most significant, single challenge facing any consultant is to gain a sound understanding
of the client’s culture. Without this it is extremely difficult to understand the real causes of
the issues you have been brought in to address, and even more difficult to provide proposals
that have any chance of being implemented.

Culture is the combined outcome of a number of factors, blended together, often over a
period of many years. It is often boiled down to “the way we do things here.” However, it
often becomes apparent that “the way we say we do things here” and “the way we actually do
things” can be materially different.

There are many models around for describing organisational culture, one of the best and
easiest to understand is the Cultural Intelligence Model devised by Rob Coffee and Gareth

The model is based upon two underlying dimensions, sociability and solidarity. Sociability is
a measure of friendliness amongst members of a community, be it inside or outside of work.
Solidarity is based upon the achievement of tasks which involve people who share common

The culture of the organisation is thus defined by the combination of these two dimensions
and leads to the four generic cultures described below and show in the illustration.

The networked culture

The networked culture is one that exudes friendship

and kindness. People genuinely like each other, and
display high levels of empathy. There also tends to be
a high degree of trust between them.
The networked organisation is typically conversational,
with people entering into discussions that cover all
topics from work, to what they did over the weekend.
This emphasis on friendship displays itself in the value
placed on patience and tolerance, as people are able to
have their say without getting talked down. The office
space tends to be personalised and an open door
policy predominates. Time is taken to socialise both
within work, and outside of it. The communication
process tends to be both formalised, through face-to-
face discussions and in meetings, and informal as part
of the general socialising outside of the workplace.
The mercenary culture
The mercenary culture is restless and
ruthless with a powerful drive to get things
done. Goals tend to be at the forefront in
people’s minds as they strive to make
things happen. Time between coming up
with an idea and executing it is short; time
is everything, as is action.

Winning is very important to the mercenary

organisation, and those within it. Mercenary
organisations achieve their external goals
by setting very high internal ones using
goals, targets and objectives to get there.
Communication is swift and to the point.
Getting the job done may entail long hours,
as leaving before the job is finished is
usually frowned upon. Value is placed on
reacting quickly and not overdoing the
thinking time.
The Organisational culture model



Low High

The communal culture

The communal culture is one that combines
the friendship associated with the
networked culture and the drive and
ambition of the mercenary culture. Passion
for the company and its products go hand in
hand with a strong sense of community and
shared responsibility.
Organisations that fall into the communal culture tend to have a work hard, play hard ethos
about them that is highly infectious. Office space tends to be shared, and there are few
barriers between functions. Communication is everywhere, with every channel being used
(meetings, face-to-face, corridors and so on). Work and non-work life meld into one. More
importantly, people live and breathe the organisation and its mission, they are almost
evangelical about it.

The fragmented culture

Within the fragmented culture people are not particularly friendly towards each other, and
they do not support the organisation or its goals. They work at an organisation, but primarily
for themselves. People tend to favour working in isolation and uninterrupted. As a result,
doors tend to be closed, and offices well equipped for self-contained work. Work is often
conducted at home or on the road, and not always in the office. Being away from the office is
usually a sign that they are busy, such as with clients. People tend to associate more with
their profession than the organisation. Communication is usually work-related and brief, and
because people are often absent, few meetings take place.

Organisational culture model

The real power of the model lies in its ability to describe four basic organisational cultures
without needing to go into esoteric descriptions. Moreover, because it describes the cultures
so well, it is easy to pin individual observations against it. Thus having a framework that
allows the consultant to understand the basic client culture ensures they hit the ground
running irrespective of the nature of the assignment.