Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

A quick test of organisational culture

with 3 comments

Organisational culture is defined by the values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organisation. These values and norms, in turn, influence how  people interact with each other and with outsiders. That’s well and good, but how does one determine an an organisation’s culture?  In my opinion, this is best evaluated by looking at how people react in typical work situations.  What follows is a quick quiz to test an organisation’s culture based on this principle.

Note that the test can also be applied to projects – as projects are temporary organisations. Typically project and team cultures simply reflect those of the organisations in which they exist. However, there can be differences: a good project or team leader can (to an extent) shield his or her team from the effects of a toxic organisational culture. But that’s fodder for another post.  For now, let’s get on with the quiz.

A tip before starting: don’t over-think your answers; your initial response is probably the most accurate one.

Ready? Right, here we go…the sixty-second quiz on your workplace culture:

a)  You make a mistake that no one notices. What do you do:

  1. Keep quiet about it and hopes it remains unnoticed.
  2. Own up because it is OK to make mistakes around here.
  3. Dream up a scheme to pin it someone else, preferably a rival for a promotion.

b)  You have an idea that might lead to a new product. You

  1. Use workmates and manager as a sounding board for whether it is any good.
  2. Start to work it through yourself to see if it is any good.
  3. Forget about it

c) You have an idea which involves collaborating with someone from another department. You

  1. Approach the person directly.
  2. Go through the proper channels – approach your manager who approaches their manager and so on.
  3. Forget about it: inter-departmental politics would get in the way.

d) People at an organisation-wide event (company day or a project team day out, for example):

  1. Stick with folks from their departments.
  2. Mingle, and look like they’re enjoying it.
  3. Look like they want to be elsewhere. In fact many of them are – they’ve called in sick.

e) A project has gone horribly wrong. Do people

  1. Look for a scapegoat.
  2.  Say, “I had nothing to do with it.”
  3. Work together to fix it.

f)  Someone from another department approaches you for assistance relating to your area of expertise. Do you

  1. Help them right away, or as soon as you can.
  2. Ask them to speak to your manager first.
  3. Fob them off – you’re way too overworked and don’t really feel like doing a whit of work more than you absolutely have to.

g)  What do people in your organisation do when they are annoyed by some aspect of their job? (Note: see this post for more on this question)

  1. They complain about it.
  2. They ignore it.
  3. They fix it.

h) The atmosphere in cross-departmental meetings in your organisation is generally:

  1.  Cordial.
  2. Tense
  3. Neutral

i) An impossible deadline looms. In order to meet it you

  1. Work overtime because you have to.
  2. Work overtime because you want to.
  3. This question is inapplicable – you never have impossible deadlines.

j)  You’ve done something brilliant that saves the organisation a packet. Your manager:

  1. Acknowledges your efforts publicly.
  2. Acknowledges your efforts privately.
  3. Grabs the glory.

k) You’ve worked overtime on a project and its all come good. You get

  1. A pat on the back.
  2. A pat on the back and something tangible (a bonus, a meal or at least a movie voucher)
  3.  Nothing (We pay you a salary, don’t we?)

l)  You’re feeling under the weather, but are not really sick (Put it this way: no doctor would give you a certificate). However, you honestly don’t think you can make it through the work day.  What do you do?

  1. Thank God and take the day off.
  2. Go to work because you want to.
  3. Go to work because you have to.


The score for each response is the number  in brackets against the choice you made.

a. 1 (5)  2(10)  3(0)
b. 1(10) 2(5) 3(0)
c. 1(10) 2(5) 3(0)
d. 1(5) 2(10) 3(0)
e. 1(0) 2(5) 3(10)
f.  1(10) 2(5) 3(0)
g. 1(0) 2(5) 3(10)
h. 1(10) 2(0) 3(5)
i.  1(0) 2(5) 3(10)
j.  1(10) 2(5) 3(0)
k. 1(5) 2(10) 3(0)
l.  1(0) 2(10) 3(5)

What does your score mean?

> 100 :  Does your organisation have any vacancies for a PM/dev manager?

80-95 :  I bet you enjoy working here.

60-75: Still on the right side of the divide, but things do get unpleasant occasionally

40 -55: Things could be a lot worse – but, they could also be better.

20-35: Things are a lot worse

< 20: Workplace hell?

A good organisational culture is one which encourages and enables people to do the right thing  without coercion or fear of consequences.  What’s right?  Most people just know what is right and what’s not, without having to be told.   I can think of no better way to end this post than by quoting from the start of Robert Pirsig’s classic,  Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

And what is good, Phædrus,
And what is not good…
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things

Written by K

May 15, 2009 at 6:53 am

3 Responses

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  1. Mate – loved this. Can I use it for a presentation?

    Also have you seen the competing values framework?


    I know this article isn’t up to your standard in terms of being well researched and written, but I really identified with the CVF/OCAI stuff.


    Paul Culmsee

    May 17, 2009 at 1:04 am

  2. Paul,

    Thanks, glad you liked it. Feel free to use it for a presentation.

    You’re right: the test is loosely based on the Competing Values Framework (especially focusing on the control-flexibility dimension). Perhaps another test is in order for the external-internal dimension – or one that combines both? I’ve discussed the CVF in my previous posts on cognitive biases and project failure and knowledge transfer in projectised organisations.

    Thanks again for your feedback – much valued, as always!





    May 17, 2009 at 7:12 am

  3. […] (Quiz and the meaning of your score can be found at https://eight2late.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/a-quick-test-of-organisational-culture/) […]


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