Every institution has its own unique set of cultural values. Schools are no exception. Of course, people have studied organizational culture and shared insights. Cameron and Quinn (1999) developed the Competing Values Framework, in which they identified four main types of institutional cultures.
Internal vs. External Focus
The Competing Values Framework has two dimensions and four quadrants which can be found when dealing with a cartesian coordinate system. The x-axis measures whether an institution is internally or externally focused. This is perhaps self-explanatory, but internally focused cultures or more concerned about what is happening within the organization rather than what is happening outside of it.
Stability vs. Flexibility
The y-axis measures whether the institution values stability or flexibility. A culture that favors stability will dislike change and dynamic environments. Naturally, flexible cultures thrive on change.
A market culture values an external focus and high flexibility. Market culture sare results-oriented, values competition, and generally appreciates getting things done. Survival in this context requires an achievement-oriented personality.
Schools have moved away from competition and achievement over concerns with inequality. There have even been pushback against standardized testing, which is highly results-oriented. It would be unusual to see a school that heavily supports a marketed-oriented culture.
An adhocracy culture is externally focused and appreciates high flexibility. This type of culture is focused on risk-taking, innovation, and dynamic change. To survive in such a climate involves initiative and self-organization. Many tech companies have an adhocracy culture.
Schools would generally not adhere to the adhocracy approach because they are often heavily regulated by the government. It is possible to see demands for this type of culture on an individual level. However, strong innovation and change are difficult at a particular level when you have to report and document everything you do.
A hierarchy culture values being internally focused and a high degree of culture. This culture is highly rigid, searching for efficiency and structure. Hierarchy is often associated with government bureaucracies such as the Postal system or the Department of Education.
Schools would generally fall into this culture type. However, schools, especially smaller schools and elementary schools, our more focused on the children than a large hierarchical culture would generally allow. Hierarchical cultures probably do not want to neglect people. It’s just that the size of the work makes it hard to support everyone the way they need to be.
The clan culture is internally focused while appreciating flexibility. In such a culture, there is a focus on mentoring, nurturing, participation, and empowering individuals. There is a heavy emphasis on people and supporting their development.
Schools would probably most likely fall into the clan culture. Many schools emphasize helping students, and there is a huge demand for flexibility when dealing with students’ needs. Being a teacher is essentially about mentoring, developing, and investing in young people.
There is no single best institution. What this framework does is determine where an individual institution is. One type of culture will work in one context and be a disaster in another. What really matters is that an institution can identify their values and culture and whether this matches the context within which they work.