The “Red Pill” of Cultural Change: Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)

Guest Author Joyce Prosser, Alumni, MAOD

Are you seeking to understand why workers and management are not on the same page? Does your manager demand that you produce more work than you can reasonably complete? Do you work for a micromanager who is quick to point out your errors and/or lack of efficiency? Are you the quiet member of a rowdy, boisterous team? Are your unique ideas unappreciated or underutilized?

If you answered yes to any of the questions, you are in no way alone.  For years, many have battled to understand why management “just did not get it.” No doubt, some managers have the same sentiment as their employees.

red-pillIf you would like to learn more about your culture and may be ready to consider change, I recommend the “Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument” (OCAI). Like the “red pill” in the 1999 movie, The Matrix, the OCAI can help you find the “truth of reality” in your organization. Knowledge is the first step toward enacting change.

According to authors, Cameron and Quinn (2011) people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, or they experienced a new culture, or their culture is made overt and explicit. Their research has also found that organizational culture can impact individuals in many ways including morale, commitment, productivity, physical health, and emotional well-being. The OCAI can help you determine your organization’s culture and begin the process of addressing cultural change.

Is your organization a “Clan, Hierarchy, Adhocracy, or Marketing” culture?

Most organizations have developed a dominant cultural style. An organization rarely has only one type of culture. Often, there is a mix of the four organizational cultures that are described in the Figure below: Clan, Advocacy, Hierarchy, or Marketing (OCAI online, 2017).

competingvaluesframeworkClan (Collaborative) Clan cultures are collaborative, family oriented environments that have a significant amount of interaction between the employees and management. Management is a part of the mentoring process for the team. Loyalty, tradition, and commitment are highly regarded, leaders assume parental roles, and this warmth trickles down to its internal/external customers (Cameron and Quinn, 2011).

Hierarchy (Control) In a Hierarchy culture, you have a controlled, formalized, structured environment where policies and procedures are established, and protocol and boundaries are set. Implemented for uniformity and control, those who run such organizational cultures are more concerned with pushing out consistent, efficient productivity to remain a step ahead of its competitors (Cameron and Quinn, 2011).image2prosser

Adhocracy (Create) The Adhocracy culture values the creativity that employees produce and foster in the workplace. Innovation and commitment are regarded over loyalty, tradition, and family. Success is governed by new opportunities that creativity can render, for example, new innovative products such as the iPad. Without restrictions, employees are given the freedom to create.

Market (Compete) The Market culture is an aggressive, competing, results-driven culture.  Leaders drive employees to increase profitability and meet company objectives (Cameron and Quinn, 2011). This organizational culture is very intense. The bottom line is to compete for results that establish and maintain a brand among its competitors while also increasing the organization’s market share.

Knowing your organization’s current dominant culture, as well as what is preferred by you and your fellow employees, creates an opportunity for the organization to retain quality people, increase profitability, generate innovative products while unifying and presenting consistent and quality branding. The OCAI assessment is a useful tool that can identify you and your organization’s expectations and further the discussion of how to bridge the gap between the two.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would you characterize the culture of your organization? Is it a Clan, Advocacy, Hierarchy, or Marketing culture?
  2. How effective is your organization’s culture? How might a different culture be more effective?


Cameron, K.S., & Quinn, R.E. (2011). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

OCAI – Online. (2017, January 22).  OCAI Assessment. Retrieved from

OCAI – Online. (2017, January 22).  Organizational Culture Types. Retrieved from


  • amandavaughan11

    Great reading about OCAI. I know that someone else posed the same question: Is it possible for a company to have a cross-section or hybrid of cultures? My former manager was definitely of the clan mentality, but the rest of the organization above her leaned more toward a market culture. It certainly created conflict from time to time. I believe the company as a whole would benefit from an OCAI and use that as a tool to really integrate the company as a whole.

  • Is it possible to have a cross between two cultures? I am relieved to see that any company may employ a number of these cultures. My company is a cross between Market & Hierarchy. I wonder does the company culture depend to any extent on the place where the company was founded, e.g. U.S.A. / Europe / Asia?
    There is a lot of control within my organization, I believe a lot of that comes from cultural differences. Unfortunately, I see little of the Clan and Adhocracy cultures which I believe might give more beneficial and motivating for company employees.

  • My organization runs on a heavy collaborate and create focus. We do have a complete gene in our DNA but we compete by collaborating and creating. This culture is module if you ask me. You can focus on any one of these areas and if that style works for you and you are hitting your numbers and beyond, you have nothing to worry about. It’s great to see an organization that is so flexible with the culture. We have an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds and that build this modular culture. We have YOY growth and which is part of carefully maintaining our diverse team culture. I can’t imagine a more effective culture!

  • Last week I was introduced to the OCAI assessment and I must say it will be useful for me in the future and I believe it is quite accurate. My last employer was a mixture of hierarchy and market, with hierarchy being the dominant culture and it was my first introduction to corporate America. I stayed with this company for 19 years and I am not sure if I just got used to the culture, but it worked for me. Even though the company experienced four mergers while I was there, the culture remained steady. I witnessed employees being rewarded for their hard work, including myself as I reached Vice-President status. This culture continues to work for my former employer as they remain competitive today.

    Now, my current employer’s culture, I would describe as a mixture of adhocracy and market. However, most of the managers push for the employers to be collaborative with each other. However, I really don’t see much accountability when it comes to work tasks. No one wants to blame anyone or have those harsh discussions. They rather manage them out of the department, then trying to correct the behavior or improve the skillset. In my opinion the culture is very loose and more control is needed around policies. They may say one thing and but it in writing, but they don’t enforce it. I do see a disconnect between managers and leaders as well as many employees finding other opportunities outside of the company. In addition, I don’t think it is effective and many employees are simply burned out.

  • My former employer had a hierarchy culture and it was a disaster for them, especially considering they were a community center it seemed to run counter to their mission. They enforced this archaic top down model of reporting despite being a company of about 50 employees. The CEO was very distrusting and controlling. He didn’t empower anyone and wanted every decision run through him. Consequently, turnover there was about a year. And during my tenure there an article was published in the newspaper signed by over 50 previous employees condemning the organization’s culture and leadership. I left shortly after that but before my departure they did bring in a consulting firm to try and address these issues. Several years later I have heard they made little progress.

  • I found this article to be quite thought provoking. The current culture of my agency is one of hierarchy. This provides those at the top with maximum control and others with limited flexibility. However, I am encouraged by learning strategies which provide the opportunity to make the paradigm shift to creating a more collaborative adhocracy culture.

  • This was a wonderful read, and I found the OCAI quite interesting to review. For me, it prompted many questions about the culture of my organization. My company is Global and matrixed, which creates inherent tensions. Global versus regional, Line of Business versus Function. When seeking to use OCAI, where an how should one use the tool? Is it possible to assess the US culture, and make progress on changing the culture, when a Global Line of Business is trying to advance their culture at the same time. While reading through the 4 types of cultures, I could see each of our four lines of businesses described, each one a bit unique from the other. For me, it becomes important to identify US specific items that would cut across each Line of Business that advances the US Culture.

  • The culture of an organization can be a very sensitive topic to some, especially to those who took part in founding the organization. Having the tools to be able to adapt to changes in the organization and allow proper assessments of these changes and the effects they may have on the culture is extremely beneficial. I enjoyed this post as I am wrapping up my final module in my Organizational Development course, learning about the culture of an organization was the most intriguing process to me by far. I think this tool can be useful for companies that are experiencing changes in certain areas, but the corporate levels, for example, are unaware of the effects that the changes are having on the people. Understanding your organization is the key to success and this tool would enable individuals to do just that.

  • I enjoyed reading this post and it was interesting to learn about the four types of cultures that exist within an organization, I believe my current organization is a combination of Hierarchy and Market cultures as the focus is sales driven.

  • Pingback: ‘Unfreeze, Move, Freeze ‘ – Using Kurt Lewin’s model to identify the need for change in your organization – The Imperfect Org

  • I find the OCAI to be very valuable in assessing culture. I was first introduced to it last semester and have used in projects this semester. I currently work in a Clan culture. After doing the OCAI on my own employer, I have learned that Clan is my preferred.

  • This is a great topic! Timely too as my organization has been going through a great deal of change over the past 18 months or so, and because of that I can see the culture changing. I would say that we are primarily a hierarchical culture. We have to be due to the nature of the organization; we are a hospital. So we need stability and control, established policies and procedures, and accountability because people’s lives are at stake.

    However, we also had a strong measure of the Clan culture. Concern for people, sensitivity for our customers (our patients) and a supportive work environment. There was definitely a sense of tradition. People were loyal and committed to the unique culture we have here. Unfortunately, changes had to be made in response to the changing healthcare environment. Our leadership is implementing various changes to help the organization be more efficient and sustainable while positioning us for future growth.

    I get that, I really do. In today’s rapidly changing and often uncertain healthcare environment we would not be able to keep our doors open if we continued on the path we were on for much longer. But at the same time, it saddens me to see what is happening to culture. I think leadership chooses to not see it or not acknowledge it but we are losing our clan culture. We are losing what has set us apart from every other hospital out there. Our employees sense it and it is reflected in their words and actions. Patients have noticed it too. Morale is very poor because of so many layoffs across the organization. Resources are not as plentiful or as easily accessible as they once were and people are unhappy. They are no longer committed. They see their friends and co-workers out of work and wonder who is next. They feel the burden of the additional workload with less staff around and they suffer because they feel they can no longer give patients the kind of care they deserve. They are leaving on their own before the axe falls on them with the next wave of layoffs.

    So no, during this transitional time, our culture is not effective. I am sure we will weather this storm, but frankly, I think the clan culture won’t fully recover. I think it’s going to take an influx of new employees who did not know the old culture to develop a new one. One that will not sit well with employees who remember how it used to be.

  • Great Post! I found the OCAI assessment to be very useful. I completed the assessment for class, but ended up getting much better insight on how I felt about my organization’s current culture, and what i preferred it to be. I already had a basic understanding of what I wanted or what I felt was missing, but this assessment really drove it home for me!

  • I find the OCAI to be incredibly useful. My current organization is going through a change and the OCAI has helped direct which way the culture should go. Luckily, we are not that far off from ideal and current. The OCAI is great for clarity on culture.

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