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Trompenaars Culture Model

  • 04 May 2017
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Let's continue this Culture Model series: Fons Trompenaars is known for his model of national culture differences with seven dimensions, that he developed with Charles Hampden-Turner. This model can assist in cross-cultural communication and it is interesting if you want to check out national culture differences.

But Trompenaars also created a simpler model based on his international culture dimensions with four culture types in organizations.

The first dimension is egalitarian versus hierarchical - the degree of power distance between organization members that is presumed to affect the degree of (de)centralization in an organization. Hence, we have egalitarian/decentralized: people are basically equal and decision making power is decentralized. And hierarchical/centralized: people differ in position power and decision-making power is centralized so the leaders decide and tell the employees what to do.

The second polarity of this culture model is the well-known people versus task orientation, combined with an (in)formal style - presuming that a task orientation aligns with a more formal communication style.

When you combine these polarities another 2x2 matrix appears with four culture types. Some organizational culture types will be more frequent in some nations than in others, based on their national culture. 

Incubator Culture

  • (egalitarian and person-oriented)
  • Fulfillment-oriented
  • Breeds creativity
  • Spontaneous relationships emerging from creative processes
  • People are co-creators
  • Status for those who exemplify growth, learning
  • Process-oriented, creative, ad-hoc, inspirational thinking
  • Change: improvise and attune
  • (Aligns with Create Culture)

Family Culture

  • (hierarchical and person-oriented)
  • Power-oriented
  • Parent-child relations with loyalty and trust
  • Diffuse relationships and bonding
  • People are family members
  • Status for parent-figures that are close and powerful
  • Intuitive, lateral, holistic thinking and error correcting
  • Change: father leads
  • (Aligns with Collaborate Culture)

Eiffel Tower

  • (hierarchical and task-oriented)
  • Role-oriented
  • Structured rules and procedures
  • Specific role in system of required interactions
  • People are human resources
  • Status for superior roles that are distant and powerful
  • Logical, analytical, vertical thinking
  • Change the rules and procedures
  • (Aligns with Control Culture)

Guided Missile Culture 

  • (egalitarian and task-oriented)
  • Project-oriented
  • Get the job done
  • Specific tasks targeted to shared goals
  • People are specialists and experts
  • Status for those who contribute to the shared goal
  • Problem-centered, professional, practical, multi-disciplinary thinking
  • Change; shift aim as target moves
  • (Aligns with Compete Culture)

Reading these characteristics, you’ll notice similarities with the four culture types of the Competing Values Framework - though they are not completely the same. A Compete Culture could be hierarchical and centralized in the CVF (instead of egalitarian per se). A Collaborate Culture could be egalitarian instead of as hierarchical as Trompenaars describes. But you get the idea -Trompenaars also aligns with the CVF.

* Can you categorize your group or organization in the Trompenaars culture types? Is your organization egalitarian/decentralized or hierarchical/centralized? Do the people- or the task-orientations prevail?

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.

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