top of page

Are You Riding a Culture-Shifting Pendulum?

Updated: May 19, 2023

Adapting your Organizational Culture to an inter-culturally complex world, Part 2 of 3

To thrive in today’s global world, it is necessary to strive toward both Relational Excellence and Transactional Excellence. However, this often sets a culture-shifting pendulum in motion.


In Part 1, Three reasons your Organizational Culture needs to evolve, we described the need to view your organizational culture as something that shouldn't be assumed, but as something you need to get intentional about: that you must intentionally understand it, establish it if need be, direct it, and adapt or develop it. In this article we explore one common issue that creates a confused organizational culture. In Part 3, we suggest the creation of a Third Culture Space can unlock excellence across your organization.


Setting the stage

To recap, Organizational Culture (OC) is the sum total of the speaking, thinking, and acting of your team, your department, or your organization. Your OC is NOT a list of values, quotes, or power phrases that you display on a website or on a plaque on a wall: these do not mean anything in the final analysis. All the unavoidable things that we all actually do and say, and all the attitudes we betray through those things paint our real organizational culture. And that is where we need to look, in order to ask "Is our DNA global enough?"

Also, mere diversity of workforce or location do not make an organization’s DNA “global”. Some will say, “Oh, but we have people from 100 nationalities working for us!” Or, “We have offices in 50 countries!” No, DNA goes much deeper than these circumstantial factors; and increasingly your DNA will determine how successful your organization is at meeting these circumstances, and using them to thrive in today’s world.


Thriving while a cultural pendulum is in motion is extremely difficult

Both Relational Excellence and Transactional Excellence are important and worthy objectives for any organization, critical even. Relational Excellence has to do with people and how their sense of belonging and alignment with your organization’s goals contribute to the attainment of those goals. And Transactional Excellence has to do with the consistency and efficiency with which your organization complies with the processes, procedures, and standards you adopt to perform successfully in the marketplace.

The problem is, the two objectives of Relational Excellence and Transactional Excellence are often perceived, both philosophically and in practice, as two different poles you must choose between as you point yourself toward one or the other at any given time. It is often perceived that if you are focusing on one of them, then not only is the other objective being ignored but it is possibly also hindered or derailed. It is felt that an investment of time, money, or resources spent on one, is an investment of time, money, or resources that could have been spent on the other one instead.

Sooner or later, a focus on just one of these objectives does cause the other to become weak and sloppy. This may occur over a period of a few years. The tendency is to then rush to focus on the neglected objective. And so the “pendulum” swings back and forth between the objectives of Relational Excellence and Transactional Excellence, each one subject to fits and starts. Indecision and missed opportunities occur, as an organization feels it must "go down one road or the other".

As a result, Organizational Culture – and the development of it – begins to look extremely confused. And when your OC is confused, it is difficult and consuming for your organization to achieve excellence and move towards your goals in any sphere. When you cannot decipher and develop your OC, your organization is not thriving in these circumstances.


Increasing Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI)

Our entry point for discovering the elements and drivers of your organizational culture, however confused or confusing your OC may be, is our ICI framework, which helps you to put your finger on your living, current OC. Within our ICI framework we have developed a number of practical activities and tools.

Some of our ICI tools highlight how, for example, an emphasis that you may place at any one time upon either Transactional Excellence or Relational Excellence resonates with some members of your organization, but not with others. Different aspects of various objectives resonate with different team members in different ways, because each member of an organization operates with a personal worldview that heavily influences their values, motivations and interactions with others. (We explore this a bit further in Part 3.)

KnowledgeWorkx profiles personal worldviews for individuals and groups using our Three Colors of Worldview Discovery Tool©. Between that and our 12 Dimensions of Culture Cultural Mapping Inventory©, we help you discover how your team or organization can be internally misaligned without realizing it, no matter what you stated or assumed OC might be, and what to do about it.


This series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



bottom of page