The Cultural Web Model Explained
Written by: Rinaily Bonifacio
Last updated: 14 November 2023
Table of contents
What is the cultural web model?
Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes developed the cultural web model in 1992 to help organisations define the cultural paradigm, or lived reality, of working within their culture. This model recognises that an organisation's culture is complex and consists of several interrelated elements, including stories, symbols, rituals and routines, company structure, control systems, and power structures.
By examining these elements, organisations can comprehensively understand their current culture and identify areas for improvement. The cultural web model provides a framework for developing a holistic vision for the desired culture and creating a strategy to achieve that vision.
Importance of creating a corporate culture strategy.
Creating a corporate culture strategy is essential for any organisation as it shapes how employees interact and work together. A positive company culture can improve employee satisfaction and productivity, while a negative culture can lead to poor performance and high turnover rates.
When their cultural environment uses the cultural web model, organisations can identify the key elements contributing to their current culture and develop a plan to create a more positive culture
The six key elements of the cultural web model
The six critical elements of the cultural web model are;
Stories are one of the six critical elements of the cultural web model, which plays a crucial role in shaping an organisation's culture. Stories reflect an organisation's shared experiences, values, and beliefs.
They are often used to communicate the organisation's history, successes, and failures and help to create a sense of identity and purpose for employees. Stories can reinforce the organisation's values and beliefs and inspire employees to work towards shared goals.
A critical aspect of stories is that they are often passed down through the organisation through word of mouth. This means they may become distorted over time, and the original meaning may be lost.
Therefore, organisations must ensure their stories accurately reflect the desired culture and outside world.
The second key element of the cultural web model is symbols. Symbols are visual representations of an organisation's corporate culture unique itself, which can include;
- Mission statements
- And other forms of visual communication.
Symbols help create employees' sense of identity and purpose and reinforce the organisation's term corporate culture's values and beliefs.
A critical aspect of symbols is that they are often open to interpretation. Employees may interpret the same character differently, depending on their experiences and perspectives. Therefore, organisations must ensure their symbols are consistent with the desired culture and communicate a clear message to all employees.
Symbols can also have a significant impact on employee behaviour. Employees are often influenced by the characters they see and may change their behaviour to align with the values and beliefs of the organisation. Therefore, organisations must carefully select and communicate symbols supporting the desired culture.
To effectively use symbols to shape an organisation's culture, it is essential to identify the key signs reflecting its values and beliefs.
These symbols can be communicated through various channels, such as branding materials, company websites, or social media platforms. It is also essential to ensure that the characters are consistently used throughout the organisation and are reinforced through other elements of thecultural web model.
Rituals and routines
The third key element of the cultural web model is rituals and routines. Rituals and routines are the repetitive actions and behaviours that define an organisation's culture.
They can include daily routines, social events, celebrations, and other repeated traditions. These rituals and practices help create a sense of community and belonging among employees and reinforce the organisation's values and beliefs.
One important aspect of rituals and routines is that they often occur unconsciously. Employees may not be aware of the impact of these rituals and practices on their behaviour and attitudes. Therefore, it is essential for organisations to carefully examine their habits and routines to ensure that they align with the desired culture and values.
Rituals and routines can also have a significant impact on employee behaviour. Employees are often influenced by the habits and routines they observe and may change their behaviour to align with the values and beliefs of the organisation.
Again, it is essential for organisations to carefully select and communicate rituals and routines that support the desired culture.
Identifying the essential rituals and practices that reflect the organisation's values and beliefs effectively uses rituals and practices to shape an organisation's culture. These rituals and practices can be communicated through various channels, such as:
It is also essential to ensure that these rituals and routines are consistently practised throughout the organisation and are reinforced through other elements of the cultural web model.
The organisational structure is a fundamental element of the cultural web model. It refers to the formal framework that outlines how work is organised.
- Roles and responsibilities
- Reporting lines
- And the hierarchy of authority.
The company's structure can be crucial in shaping its culture as it defines how employees interact with each other and the organisation's systems and processes.
The design of the structure can either be hierarchical or flat. Hierarchical structures have well-defined lines of authority and a centralised decision-making process, while flat systems have a decentralised decision-making process and less formal lines of authority. The structure choice depends on the organisation's goals, objectives, and desired culture.
Company structure can significantly impact employee behaviour, as the structure of the organisation often influences employees and may change their behaviour to align with the values and beliefs of the organisation. Organisations need to design their structure to support the desired culture carefully.
To effectively use the structure as a tool for shaping organisational culture, it is vital to identify the critical elements of culture that exist in the structure that reflect the organisation's values and beliefs.
Control systems represent a vital element of the cultural web model. Organisations use processes and procedures to monitor and manage employee performance. Control systems can include quality control measures, performance evaluations, and reward systems.
Control systems significantly impact employee behaviour, influencing how employees are evaluated and rewarded. Therefore, systems must be carefully designed to align with the desired culture and encourage behaviours that support the organisation's goals and objectives.
To effectively use systems to shape a company's culture, it is essential to identify the critical systems that reflect its values and beliefs. These systems can be communicated through various channels, such as:
- Employee handbooks
- Training programs
- Other forms of communication.
Ensuring that the systems are consistently applied throughout the organisation and supporting the desired culture is also essential.
Power structures are the final key element of the model. Power structures refer to the formal and informal systems of power and influence within an organisation.
Formal structures include the hierarchy of authority and decision-making processes, while informal structures may include social networks, alliances, and personal relationships.
Power structures significantly impact employee behaviour as they influence who makes decisions and who has the most significant influence within the organisation.
Organisations must ensure that power structures align with the desired culture and encourage behaviours that support the organisation's goals and objectives.
To effectively use structures to shape a company's culture, it is essential to identify the critical and natural structures that reflect its values and beliefs. These structures can be communicated through various channels, such as
- Employee training programs
- Team-building exercises
- Other forms of communication.
It is also essential to consistently apply power structures throughout cultural aspects of the organisation and support the desired culture.
How do you use the cultural web model?
The model can develop a company's culture in various ways. Here are some of the critical elements existing culture has:
- Identify and communicate a clear vision for the organisation that reflects its values, beliefs, and objectives.
- Design the company structure to support the desired culture.
- Create control systems that reflect the organisation's values and beliefs and encourage desired behaviours.
- Establish power structures that align with the desired culture and support the organisation's objectives.
- Monitor employee performance to ensure the organisational culture is consistently followed.
- Develop training programs and other forms of communication that help reinforce the desired culture.
- Provide ongoing employee feedback about their performance and progress in the desired culture.
- Celebrate successes and recognise employees' contributions to achieving the organisation's objectives.
By taking these steps, organisations can use the cultural web model to create a culture that reflects their values and beliefs, supports their objectives, and encourages employee engagement and productivity.
Advantages and disadvantages of the model
The model offers several advantages for organisations creating a positive corporate culture. Some of the benefits of the cultural web approach include the following:
The model takes a holistic approach to analysing a company's culture, considering six interrelated cultural elements. This comprehensive assessment helps organisations identify the root causes of cultural issues and create a more effective strategy for addressing them.
The model provides a clear framework for communicating the desired and effective corporate culture to employees. By identifying the critical elements of the culture and how they contribute to the organisation's goals and objectives, employees can better understand how their contributions carry the organisation forward.
The model encourages organisations to perform objective assessments of their culture. This approach helps avoid subjective opinions that may dictate the company's present culture and strategic direction, allowing the organisation to focus on what works well and needs improvement.
Despite its benefits, the model also has potential drawbacks that organisations should consider. Some of these include:
The model considers six cultural influences that interact with one another. This complexity can make it challenging for organisations to analyse and understand their culture thoroughly.
Analysing a company's culture using the model can be time-consuming. Organisations may need significant resources to gather data, conduct interviews, and explore the findings of cultural web analysis.
While the model can help organisations identify areas for improvement, implementing cultural change can be challenging. Organisations must be prepared to invest time and resources in making the necessary changes and may face resistance from employees who resist change.
Tips on how to create a positive organisational culture
The following tips can help organisations create a positive organisational culture that reflects their desired corporate values and beliefs:
Create clear goals
Set specific, measurable goals for the organisation and communicate them to employees. This will help focus efforts, recognise successes, and motivate employees toward achieving the desired objectives.
Encourage open communication between management and employees by creating channels for employees to express their ideas and feedback. This will foster a culture of inclusion and provide opportunities for employees to share their perspectives.
Provide employees with the resources, training, and support they need to succeed in their roles. This will help ensure everyone is working towards the same goals and build trust amongst team members.
Provide meaningful rewards and recognition for employees who exceed their job requirements. This will create a culture of excellence where employees feel valued for their contributions.
Foster collaboration by encouraging team members to work together on projects and initiatives. This will help create a sense of unity amongst employees and facilitate creative problem-solving.
Lead by example
Set the tone for a positive organisational culture by modelling desired behaviours and attitudes. Show appreciation for employees' efforts, provide constructive feedback, and strive to create an environment of trust and respect.
The cultural web model has several advantages that can help organisations better understand their culture and identify areas for improvement. However, it is also essential to keep in mind the potential drawbacks.
To create a positive organisational culture, organisations should set clear goals, communicate openly with employees, provide support and resources, reward excellence and collaboration amongst team members, and lead by example. With these tips in mind, any organisation can foster an environment where everyone feels valued and respected while working together towards common goals.
Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.
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