Organizational Culture Inventory®

Research and Development by Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. and J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D.

“Culture is everything.”
Lou Gerstner of IBM (2002)


Quantifying and managing organizational culture is critical for bringing an organization’s values “to life,” supporting the implementation of its strategies, and promoting adaptation, goal attainment, and sustainability. Organizations dedicate significant resources to developing structures and systems (e.g., performance management) on the one hand and measuring outcomes (e.g., engagement and service quality) on the other. However, it is essential to understand the factors in the middle of the equation—culture and the behaviors you’re trying to drive—to ensure that initiatives are in alignment with values and will move the organization toward its mission. More generally, you need confirmation that the culture you’re creating is one that is proven to be linked to high performance. But where do you begin? As with most organizational change and development initiatives, it makes sense to start things off with the metrics provided by a statistically reliable and valid survey.

The Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) is the most widely-used and thoroughly-researched tool for measuring organizational culture in the world. Numerous research studies utilizing the OCI demonstrate the importance of measuring and managing culture. At the organizational level, the research shows a relationship between the Constructive culture styles measured by the OCI® and outcomes including employee engagement, safety and reliability, successful merger integration, creativity, adaptability, and customer satisfaction. Similarly, at the societal level, research underscores the importance of the Constructive styles and demonstrates a negative relationship between the Defensive culture styles and World Competitiveness.

How It Works

The OCI® provides organizations with a visual profile of their operating cultures (Current Culture) in terms of the behaviors that members believe are required to "fit in and meet expectations." Such expectations guide the way they approach their work and interact with each other. In turn, these behavioral norms have a significant impact on the organization’s ability to solve problems, adapt to change, and perform effectively.

OCI® results are plotted on profiles that illustrate individual normative beliefs (when the perspective of only one member is considered) or the shared behavioral expectations that operate within the organization and represent its culture (when the perspectives of multiple members are combined). Results are presented for 12 behavioral norms grouped into three types of cultures—Constructive, Passive/Defensive, and Aggressive/Defensive—on the Circumplex.

Defining an Ideal Culture

A special version of the OCI®, the OCI-Ideal, provides leaders and organizations with a tool for quantifying, envisioning, and communicating their ideal or preferred organizational culture. Leaders and other members of the organization answer questions to describe the types of behaviors (i.e., the culture) that would maximize effectiveness in their organization. The end result is a picture of the organization’s Ideal Culture based on their shared values and beliefs. The Ideal Culture profile serves as the benchmark against which the actual organizational culture can be compared. Together, these profiles provide a visual gap analysis, targets for cultural change, and a foundation for identifying the appropriate levers for effecting this change.

Outcomes of Culture

Beyond measuring operating culture, the current form of the OCI® assesses key outcomes: individual member satisfaction, intention to stay, role clarity and role conflict, and perceptions of the organization's service quality.

Additional outcomes, plus levers for cultural change, can be assessed by running the OCI® in tandem with the Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI).

The OCI can be used for:

  • Signaling and/or validating the need for cultural transformation
  • Planning and monitoring organizational development programs
  • Supporting programs designed to enhance strategy implementation, employee engagement, organizational learning, quality and reliability, and/or customer service
  • Facilitating mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances
  • Enhancing managers' understanding of culture and sustainability
  • Managing diversity and corporate responsibility
  • Measuring culture for teaching and research purposes

Unique characteristics of the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI)

  • Measures behavioral norms and expectations that have a well-documented impact (positive and negative) on performance
  • Provides a reliable, valid, and true measure of culture—clearly distinguishing culture and climate as distinct yet interrelated organizational variables
  • Meets rigorous academic and psychometric standards with results reported in numerous journals and the Handbook of Organizational Culture & Climate
  • Is part of the Integrated Diagnostic System, which visually links individual, manager, leader, team, and organization behaviors with the Human Synergistics International Circumplex

Interested In Using The OCI?

Contact us for information on product pricing and/or consulting and coaching services. (Online ordering is not available.)

The OCI Detailed Report requires accreditation from Human Synergistics before being purchased. Click here for more information about accreditation with the Culture Workshop.

The Culture Accreditation Program is preapproved for HRCI recertification credit hours.

The use of this seal is not an endorsement by the HR Certification Institute of the quality of the activity. It means that this activity has met the HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.