Behind Organisational Success: Expert Culture and Collective Culture

When asked to define corporate culture, one might draw an analogy between human beings and organisations by saying that just as a human beings have personalities, so do the organisations whose personality lies in their organisational culture. When you break it down into components, organisational culture is the outcome of a mix of tangible, easy measurable elements and intangible elements which are essential to organisational success.

So what do we need for organisational success?

A great leader, who knows how to merge mission, values, and vision into a strong organisational culture. Without exceptional leadership, even the best mission, values and vision statements cannot come together to produce even a solid organisational culture. The most important factor in understanding how to manage organisational culture is to understand the difference between collective cultures and expert cultures. 

What defines the collective culture?

Collective culture is created by highly connected employees who tend to favor work environments that put others ahead of self, who are trusting and value commitment. These employees like to work in groups, keep away from conflict, are not high risk-takers, and tend to be sensitive (i.e., easily offended psychologically). When speaking of change management, collective cultures are most discussed as an example. However, each organisation also has a very powerful group that does not conform to the definition of collectives. This group prefers the expert culture environment. In healthcare industries, this group would be comprised of physicians, while the collective would be comprised of other clinicians.

What defines the expert culture?

Expert cultures are usually found in engineering firms, multi-specialty law firms, architectural firms, and the profession of medicine.They have very different traits and dynamics compared to collective cultures and are not attached to mission or value statements. Loyalty, very important in collective cultures, is replaced by a very narrow range of straightforward expectations for performance. Expert cultures are identified by individualized behavior that is motivated primarily by self-interest.

How do you merge these two groups in order to create a knowledge sharing culture?

Contrary to collective cultures, in which collaboration is the crucial motivational influence, expert cultures are motivated by success and power. Employees succeed in cultures which mirror their respective socialisation experiences. Healthcare industry, for example, is comprised of both experts and collectives where physicians are experts and other clinicians are collectives. The challenge of leadership is to produce an environment in which both cultures can manifest their needs for the greater good—servicing the healthcare requirements of the community. This means that knowledge sharing strategies for collectives should include group work that is contextualized in mission, values, and vision. The knowledge sharing strategies for experts need to focus on a shared vision in which the expert can see his or her self-interest manifest in the successful achievement of the vision. Self-interest vs group interest separates the expert culture from the collective culture. A good leader needs to understand that the expert's need to feed self-interest is his or her's main motivation. Any other motivational interventions that do not include personal needs will not succeed. The formula that works with experts is: identify a common, shared vision in which the experts recognises his or her self-interest being met when the vision is achieved. 
A shared mission and core values are not the components that make this model succeed. Actually, an emphasis on mission and values will tarnish this model to the point that it may not function at all.  Experts respond well to a situation where they can sense professional respect throughout the development and implementation of the process. 
On the other hand, collectives are more focused on shared values. Both groups want to see how they fit into the future of the organisation, but while collectives want to merge with a group with similar views, experts do not see shared values as a prerequisite for commitment. 

How can TallyFox help?

At the moment, experts are regarded as people who tell collectives what they should do. They are often burdened by high expectations of always having the correct answer so they hang on to their knowledge because the expert culture connects individual knowledge with accolades and downplays what the rest of the organisation can contribute. With TallyFox Tallium and its SmartMatchProTM algorithm, the role of experts shifts slightly: it becomes the pursuing, evaluating, parsing, synthesizing, and spreading of expertise in the organization — wherever it is. They become guardians, mentors, and champions of excellence. They feel more comfortable in guiding the knowledge of collectives and contributing at the top, thus forming a knowledge sharing culture where access to expertise is facilitated and interests are aligned. That is the true benefit of organisational success.


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