BCG’s Seven Aspects of Corporate Culture

Francisco Homem de Mello

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According to The Boston Consulting Group, a top-notch strategic consultancy,

“A high-performance culture requires more than a standard set of attributes. We have found that such cultures, regardless of the organization’s industry or size, share two characteristics:


A Set of “Good” Behaviors, Manifested as High Employee Engagement.

Employees are involved in and committed to their work and to the purpose and goals of the organization, and are willing to go the extra mile.  


A Set of Specific Behaviors That Align with the Organization’s Strategy.

The way work gets done (individuals as well as by teams) promotes the organization’s purpose and goals and the strategy designed to realize them. For example, a high appetite for risk-taking may be essential to the strategy of a design company or a venture capital firm, but would be disastrous for a nuclear-power utility.”


The 7-Axes of Culture

These specific behaviors are what sets your company apart from the pack, and really aligns culture with your company’s own strategic goals. They can be broken down into 7 major axes:

  • Structured Versus Flexible: How specifically are processes and acceptable behaviors defined? How closely are they followed in practice?
  • Controlling Versus Delegating: To what extent is power and decision making concentrated at the top or diffused throughout the organization?
  • Cautious Versus Risk Permitting: How much does the organization support risk-taking?
  • Thinking Versus Doing: To what degree do people spend time developing ideas versus actually executing them?
  • Diplomatic Versus Direct: How transparent are interactions and communications between co-workers and managers?
  • Individualistic Versus Collaborative: To what extent are employees concerned with their own individual performance versus shared goals?
  • Internal Versus External: To what extent are processes and behaviors oriented toward the outside world versus the internal environment?

Defining these traits is the role of the CEO, HR lead, and those involved in the “culture” project. They comprise what we call the top-down part of the culture definition.”