The Tribal Culture: strengths and areas of attention

tribal culture

In part 1 of our blogs about Culture, we introduced the importance of the link between strategy and organisational culture. We also mentioned the tool we are using to measure culture. A tool that helps us define what would be needed in order to successfully implement strategy. Over the last months we have done some great projects on strategy/culture. Spending lots of time with our clients and having less time to write about the things we are working on. But during “komkommertijd”…… let’s go. Let’s share a bit about the things we are excited about.

We start with a “snowy picture” to cool down the summer vibes and reflect on the Tribal Culture. This is a type of culture that we have often seen with our customers in the Netherlands. The other culture typologies the model uses are Contest, Connected, System and Hierarchy. Based on the latest research we have even identified a number 6: The Individualistic Culture.

The key driver of Tribal Culture is harmony. Harmony and loyalty are important and employees are first and foremost part of the group. Support and reward are given in return for their loyalty. This makes the leaders in Tribal Cultures powerful and respected. They are protective and sometimes directive. They guide a group of followers based on norms and group dependence. This often results in a warm and inclusive atmosphere. We often see this type of culture with small organisations (family owned or started based on a group of friends). You can imagine the power of this type of culture; a strong group feel, loyalty and strong engagement (which is a popular HR topic).

You can also imagine the risks of these type of organisation cultures. Some areas of attention:

  • Innovation might not come natural to this organisational culture unless the leader is very much focused on this.
  • Sometimes the “processes and procedures” are unclear. Behaviour might be rewarded by the leader (the father or mother of the pack), but it might not always be clear to others why some behaviour is rewarded and some is not.
  • Reward is often based on the group and collective results. This obviously can be a strength but for some individuals this can be frustrating. Especially those who are motivated by a direct link between performance and reward.
  • Within organisations, there can be tension between different tribes. This might result in a less efficient way of working together or in not working together at all. It might also result in unnecessary competition.

If you are interested in the Tribal Culture, this article provides some great insights.

It also shows that when growing a business or a team, the tribal culture might not be the best culture to cultivate. It might limit the implementation of your strategy. Typically because the span of control of a leader at one point gets too big and the strength of the leadership style turns into a risk.

Are you interested to brainstorm about your organisation culture, the way it supports your strategy and learning how you can change culture on different levels? Give us a call!