Understanding Organizational Culture and Life Cycle

The Competing Values Framework (CVF) has assisted hundreds of organizations worldwide in understanding their existing organizational cultures. (Cameron, 2011) Through the use of the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) organizations have been able to navigate internal culture change.

Another benefit of the OCAI and CVF that can add value to organizations is the clarity they can provide to where in the organizational life cycle an organization may fall. By being clear on what stage of the life cycle an organization is in, leadership can have a clear vision of what is on the horizon, what changes may need to be made, and what obstacles need to be avoided.

In the early stages of an organization, primarily during birth and infancy (Finzel, p. 67) the adhocracy quadrant tends to dominate, with the manifestation of informal structure and a strong entrepreneurial mindset. (Cameron, 2011, Kindle 1092) As the organization moves into the childhood and adolescence stage (Finzel, p.68), the clan quadrant becomes the primary drive where the sense of belonging draws individuals together into a family atmosphere. (Cameron, 2011, Kindle 1094-1095) Once the organization matures into the adulthood stage, it discovers the need for structure and the standardization of procedures which causes order and predictability to be necessary, characteristics of the hierarchy quadrant. (Cameron, 2011, Kindle 1097-1099) Finally, as the organization matures and grows the need to focus externally on customers and market advantages dominates, and the organization ventures into the market culture. (Cameron, 2011, Kindle 1100-1102) The danger is in the inability of leadership to maintain a degree of focus on the internal health of the culture as an external focus become primary.

This use of the OCAI and CVF can help organizations indicate where they are in the life cycle and successfully navigate the growth and future development of the organization.


Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework (3 edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Finzel, H. (2013). The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make (New edition). David C. Cook.

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