Experts have identified different types of corporate culture and established criteria for classifying them.
The authors of a 2018 Harvard Business Review article, “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture,” built a framework based on a horizontal axis (for how people interact) that runs from independence to interdependence and a vertical axis (for how people respond to change) going from flexibility at the top to
It listed two types of cultures in each of the quadrants. Starting in the upper right quadrant and moving clockwise, they are:
purpose and caring in the quadrant for flexibility and interdependence;
order and safety in the quadrant for interdependence and stability;
authority and results in the quadrant for stability and independence; and
enjoyment and learning in the quadrant for independence and flexibility.
The authors described each of the eight classifications in depth, stating, for example, that a caring culture focuses on relationships and mutual trust while a culture of authority is defined by strength, decisiveness and boldness.
The authors cited online retailer Zappos as exemplifying a culture of enjoyment, the grocery chain Whole Foods as a culture of purpose and Disney as one of caring. Meanwhile, financial firm Lloyd’s of London is a culture of safety and pharmaceutical company GSK is one of results.
In contrast, Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor identified four types of corporate culture:
clan, which exhibits a family-like atmosphere with a focus on mentoring, nurturing and togetherness;
adhocracy, with a dynamic and entrepreneurial approach that values risk-taking and innovation;
market, with a results-oriented bent that values competition and achievement; and
hierarchy, with its structures and controls to ensure efficiency and stability.
Still others have assigned other classifications, including one described as elite for its focus on high-achieving talent and trailblazing achievements; horizontal, with its collaborative, non-hierarchical structure; and conventional, with traditional hierarchies and dress codes that reinforce a risk-adverse approach.