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What Is The Cultural Web Model & How Can You Use It For Corporate Culture Strategies?

The cultural web model is a powerful management and organisational tool for analysing the strategic direction of your corporate culture. It can help you understand the attitudes and routines of your employees, and how each element of your culture has a direct impact on the performance and overall success of your organisation.

The cultural web approach is much more than a simple exercise in analysis. It involves breaking down your corporate culture so that you can fully-understand the unique quirks and ins-and-outs of your organisation. The information you gather can then help you rebuild an environment that helps your employees perform to the best of their ability. And because your employees are your most important asset, any improvement in performance will increase your chances of succeeding as a business.

As an employer, it is important to understand what this tool is and how it can help your company succeed. In this post we will break down everything you need to know. We will look at what the approach is, how it works, and the benefits and disadvantages of implementing it in your company. We will also discuss how the cultural web model can help you build an effective corporate strategy that boosts productivity and performance at every level of your organisation.

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What Is The Cultural Web Model

Corporate culture is based on the purpose, beliefs, habits and behaviours of a company’s employees. It develops organically over time, and it is reflected in a company’s dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, and hiring decisions. It also has an impact on how your employees interact with each other and with the outside world, and how your processes and operations are managed.

The cultural web approach was developed in 1992 by Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes. The theory involves analysing the established assumptions and practices in your organisation, so that you can build an effective strategy that aligns with each element of the model. This includes the stories, routines, symbols, structures and processes that guide your organisation. In other words, it’s about questioning the way you do things, breaking bad habits, and redesigning a corporate culture that boosts productivity. What works? What doesn’t? How can we improve?

The cultural web Johnson and Scholes can help you explore:

  • The lived reality of working at your organisation
  • The power structures that exist within your company
  • How behaviors and routines are formed
  • How the various elements of your company shape the employee and client experience
  • The assumptions that your corporate culture is based on
  • Who you are as a company, who you want to be, and how you can get there
  • How you can align your organisational elements with one another, and with your overall business strategy.

cultural web model

An Example of Cultural Web

So, we’ve talked about the theory behind the approach, but how does it work in practice? How do you analyse the reality of your company? Where do you start?

The key is breaking down your analysis into six key elements. These elements will help you gain an understanding of the current reality that guides the actions and behaviours in your company.

Stories

The stories, myths and narratives that make up your organisation are a key element of your corporate culture. They form a part of your collective memory and they have an influence on the direction of your business. This might include the story about how your company was founded, how it got to where it is now, and how it has been influenced by key players over the years.

What do your stories say about your corporate values and beliefs? How do they influence the attitudes and behaviours of your employees? What stories do you tell your customers? What about new recruits? Is everyone on the same page?

Ritual and Routines

Another key element of your corporate culture is the rituals and routines that your employees follow. This includes the behaviours and attitudes that are accepted and expected, and those that are not tolerated.

What do employees expect when they come into work? What are their daily routines like? Are there any examples of negative behaviours that have become “normalised” and accepted over time?

Symbols

When we talk about symbols here, we are referring to any visual images that are associated with your company. This includes obvious examples such as your logo and branding, but it also includes other more subtle elements such as your dress code, the design of your office and how you advertise your products or services. Basically, everything you can see, hear or touch in the context of your organisation.

How does your company come across at a visual level? Is the visual image positive? What language and terminology do your employees use with each other and the outside world? What about your website, what image of your business does it portray? Is it authentic?

Organisation Structure

Organisational structure refers to the roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships in your organisation. According to Johnson and Scholes, when you analyse this element of your company, you need to consider both “written” and “unwritten” influences.

Written influences: your organisational chart (flat or hierarchical). Who works where, who reports to who, and who has final decision-making power.

Unwritten influences: do any roles in your company have more influence than reflected in your organisational chart? Are there any political elements at play? Whose contributions carry the most value?

Control Systems

The next thing to look at is the control systems in your organisation. What processes do you use to manage your financial, quality control and reward systems? How is good performance managed? How are under-performers motivated? Which formal and informal systems do you use to monitor and support the people in your organisation?

Power Structures

The final element that you need to look at is how power is distributed in your organisation. Which power structures have you implemented in your organisational chart? How do they influence the core assumptions in your corporate culture? What core beliefs do your managers hold? What about your employees? Is employee empowerment valued and promoted in your company? Do you trust your employees to carry out their duties to the best of their ability? If not, why not?

how to use cultural web

How To Use The Cultural Web Model

The cultural web model can help you analyse where you are as a company now, and where you would like your corporate culture to be. It can also help you identify what you need to do to achieve the high-performing culture that every company strives for.

The key to getting the most from this tool is taking the time to plan and analyse each element of the model. Be honest with your answers and don’t shy away from negative feedback: every identified weakness is an opportunity to improve. You want to obtain an authentic evaluation of your organisational culture so that you know what areas you need to focus on. Take time to think about who you are and where you want to be. Then work out a way to align your goals with your business strategy.

Consider the following questions during your cultural web analysis:

  • What stories do people currently tell about your organisation?
  • Do clients expect any rituals and routines from you?
  • Which symbols do people associate with your organisation
  • Is your organisational structure formal or informal? Flat or hierarchical?
  • Do employees get rewarded for good work or penalised for poor performance?
  • Who makes or influences decisions? How is this power used or abused?

Creating Strategy from The Cultural Web

Once you’ve performed a full analysis of your corporate culture, you will be ready to create a strategy to get you where you want to be. The deeper your analysis, the better equipped you will be to generate real, positive change in your organisation. Your ultimate goal is to figure out a roadmap to move your company forward and encourage the attitudes and behaviours you want to see.

During this stage of implementing the cultural web model, it is important to involve all areas of your organisation. Make sure all your employees understand what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Communicate your goals and values and create measurable targets. Make sure everyone is clear on the benefits of working on your corporate culture, and hold regular feedback sessions so that employees feel involved in the process. Promote a culture of accountability, reward good work, and support under-performers.

Finally, create a clear timeline for implementing changes, and be realistic with your deadlines. Evaluating and improving your corporate culture takes time, and this should be reflected in your strategy. This process is about re-shaping values, beliefs and behaviours, and this requires a lot of patience. Support and guide your employees to help them get to where you want them to be.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Cultural Web

Although the cultural web model is a great tool for tapping into the pulse of your organisation, it’s by no means perfect. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this organisational management approach:

Advantages:

  • The cultural web approach gives you a comprehensive assessment of your corporate culture
  • It can help you identify what your strengths and weaknesses are as a company, so that you know what areas you need to work on
  • The model can help you understand which direction your company needs to take to get you where you want to be
  • It can help you develop a plan for positive change
  • It can enable you to define a clear strategy for moving forward

Disadvantages:

  • The process can be time-consuming and requires organisation and dedication
  • It can be difficult to perform objective assessments
  • Although analysing the 6 key elements will help you understand where you are now as a company, it is up to you and your managers to interpret the data you gather and find solutions for moving forward. To get the most from the process, it should be managed by an individual or team with experience in corporate culture and implementing change.

Best Practices

Implementing cultural change is not easy, especially when routines, attitudes, and behaviours have become ingrained over time. To get where you want to be, you will need to re-shape the values and beliefs of your employees. You will need to nurture your organisational culture, and reinforce positive change. And you need to make sure every member of your company understands what you are doing and why. All this takes a lot of time, energy and patience, especially if you have staff members that have been with you for a long time and have become stuck in their ways.

When implemented correctly, the cultural web model can help you understand what makes your corporate culture unique, and what you can do to boost your company’s performance and success.

The key to success is designing a clear framework for analysis and change. Train and encourage your employees and support them throughout the process. Encourage them to give feedback and offer to address any concerns. Make sure that they understand that what you are doing is not just about improving the bottom line of the company; it’s about creating a culture where they can be happy and comfortable and perform their duties to the best of their abilities – a better place to work.

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