Trompenaars’ model of corporate culture

Trompenaars model of culture is based on two axes: on the horizontal axis, is an assessment of whether a culture is person oriented, or task oriented; on the vertical axis, is assessment of whether a culture is hierarchical, or egalitarian (equal; equal rights or opportunities).

Combined, this model divides into four quadrants or typologies of organisational culture:

  • The combination of a task oriented and egalitarian culture is known as the ‘guided missile’, and is characterised by strategy, management by objectives, and performance-related rewards. Very popular in the Anglo-Saxon culture. The vision, values, and mission combine and shape the guided missile, an organisation typically loaded with MBAs. Criticisms are the fact that the guided missile does not focus on the person, or have much respect for authority.
  • The combination of task oriented and hierarchical culture is known as the ‘Eiffel tower’, and is characterised by structure, management by job description, and expertise. Very popular in the Germanic culture, and one of the reasons why Germans have so many titles – they show the expertise that is important for a leader in an Eiffel tower culture.
  • The combination of hierarchy and person orientation is known as the ‘Family’, and is characterised by the network, who do you know, management by subjectives, and respect for authority. This is a power-oriented culture. Very popular in Latin, Asian, African cultures.
  • The combination of person and egalitarian orientation is known as the ‘Incubator’, characterised by organised chaos, management by passion, and learning. Silicon Valley, and small consulting firms are typical of the organisations that adopt the incubator culture.

The model is useful for identifying tensions between organisations which may have different dominant cultures. Sometimes corporate culture overrides national culture; sometimes it’s supporting.

(Source: The Open University, 2012).

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