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Hofstede Culture Model part 1

Hofstede Culture Model part 1

  • 01 June 2017
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Culture Models: Geert Hofstede did extensive research on national cultures. I admire his work as it helps you gain understanding in differences between cultures and people. I recommend Hofstede’s book “Cultures and Organizations - software of the mind - Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival”. 

Hofstede’s research revealed six dimensions that determine both national and organizational cultures: Power Distance, Individuality (versus Collectivism), Masculinity (versus Femininity) Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientation (versus Short-Term) and Indulgence (versus Restraint).

Hofstede found that nationality defines organizations - and he distinguished organizations as Markets, Families, Pyramids and Machines in different countries and industry groups.

Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance

There is inequality in every society because people differ in physical and intellectual abilities, in power, wealth, and status. Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance affect our thinking about organizations. Organizing always requires answering: Who has the power to decide what, and What rules or procedures will be followed to achieve desired results? When both a high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance are present - the answers will be: The leaders have the power and There will be a lot of rules and procedures to avoid uncertainty as much as possible.

Compared with the Competing Values Framework

Uncertainty avoidance can be seen in the CVF as the stability preference and corresponds with the Control and Compete Culture types.Power distance is not explicit in the CVF but is in my experience less likely in the upper, flexibility quadrants of Collaborate and Create Cultures. As Hofstede shows, low power distance means that you place more trust in employees which aligns with these flexibility quadrants. Higher power distance enhances “organizational politics” and employees who are afraid to disagree with the boss - this can be an ineffective “shadow side” expression of Control and Compete Cultures.

Pyramid Culture

The result is a Pyramid Culture. This is often seen in France. The high power distance and the need to steer clear of uncertainty leads to concentrating power and strictly structuring the activities of people. In the CVF, this could be either Control or Compete Culture. The averaged culture profile for countries with a high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance should confirm this.

Machine Culture

If you don’t like uncertainty either, but your power distance is low - you might create a Machine Culture. This is the case in Germany - they have a well-oiled machine ideal of organizations. They tend to structure activities without concentrating authority so much. In the CVF, this could be either Control or Compute Culture.

Market Culture

If you feel that you can handle uncertainty - and you have a low power distance you might end up working in a Market Culture. The British prefer a village market model and they advocate neither structuring or concentrating of decision making power - but improvising and negotiating to make things work. In the CVF this could be an expression of both Collaborate and Create Culture.

Family Culture

If you are okay with uncertainty but you’re used to a high power distance - you might prefer Family Culture. This is what Hofstede sees in Indian and Indonesian organizations: they form an extended family in which the owner/manager is the almighty grandfather. Everyone keeps referring to the boss: there’s a concentration of authority but not so much structuring of activities. It would be tempting to equal this to Collaborate Culture in the CVF (also labeled Clan Culture) and some organizations might combine the friendly, family-like, people-oriented culture with a higher power distance and “strict” father. In my experience, however, there are also Collaborate Cultures with a low power distance where the people-orientation means equality foremost.

By the way, Hofstede does not claim that Pyramid Cultures are only seen in France. There are different organizations within one national culture, depending on their industry group, market, and staff. His research shows that the unconscious assumptions of what the prototype of an organization should be, are influenced by their national culture dimensions. Which suggests that French people expect a Pyramid Culture when they enter an organization.

* Can you categorize your group or organization in the Hofstede’s culture types? Does your organization have a low or high power distance? Is your collective uncertainty avoidance low or high?

In this blog series, I compare other culture models with the Competing Values Framework. Feel free to let me know what you think!

Do you want to know how your organization scores on the Competing Values Framework? Do the free individual OCAI trial here. Or check out the paid Pro and Enterprise assessments for teams and organizations.

© Marcella Bremer 2017. All rights reserved.