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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Profiles in Organizational DNA Research and Remedies

The Org DNA Profiler
Using a short, online self-assessment tool called the Org DNA Profiler™ (, employees at all levels can now identify their organization’s DNA type (e.g., Resilient, Just-in-Time, Military, Passive-Aggressive, Fits-and-Starts, Outgrown, Overmanaged) and diagnose the root causes of value-destroying traits and behaviors, a first step in improving execution effectiveness and financial performance. The organizational DNA framework helps companies identify and expose hidden strengths and entrenched weaknesses…so that managers can focus efforts on reinforcing what works in their organization and modifying what does not. (With that in mind, we have referenced various readings throughout this article that can help managers trace the root causes of dysfunction in their organization and remedy what is not working.)

Similar in nature to familiar individual personality assessments, the Org DNA Profiler™ assessment tool categorizes organizational character based on employees’ responses to a five-minute survey composed of 19 questions. This assessment tool, while based on individuals’ survey responses, focuses on the traits and behaviors of the organization as a whole rather than on the individuals who populate it, although certain general demographic data (e.g., position/level, division, industry, annual revenue) are collected to enhance the analysis.

Each survey question addresses organizational behavior with regard to one of the four building blocks of organizational DNA: decision rights, information, motivators, and structure. The 19 responses are then fed through proprietary software that assigns the organization described to one of seven organizational profiles developed by Booz Allen consultants based on years of working with companies to diagnose and overcome organizational impediments to effective execution. The seven profiles are described below:

The Resilient Organization. This organization is flexible enough to adapt quickly to external market shifts, yet it remains steadfastly focused on and aligned around a coherent business strategy. This forward-looking organization anticipates changes routinely and addresses them proactively. It attracts motivated team players and offers them not only a stimulating work environment, but also the resources and authority necessary to solve tough problems effectively.

The Just-in-Time Organization. Although not always proactive in preparing for impending changes, this organization has demonstrated an ability to “turn on a dime” when necessary, without losing sight of the big picture. Although it manages to hold onto good people and performs well financially, it has not managed to bridge the gap between good and great. This organization tends to miss opportunities by inches rather than miles, and to celebrate successes that are marginal rather than unequivocal. Despite its frustrations, however, it can still be a stimulating and challenging place to work.

The Military Organization. Often driven by a small, hands-on senior management team, this organization succeeds through sheer force of will...that of its top executives. It can conceive and execute brilliant strategies—sometimes repeatedly—but its middle management bench can be shallow and short lived. This organization’s biggest liability is preparing for growth beyond the tenure of its current leaders. Junior talent in this organization typically learns by seeing rather than doing, and middle management often defects as up-and-comers realize they must leave the nest to get flying experience.

The Passive-Aggressive Organization. So congenial that it seems conflict free, this is the “everyone agrees but nothing changes” organization. Building a consensus to make major changes is no problem; implementing them is what proves difficult. Entrenched, underground resistance from the field can defeat Corporate’s best efforts. Lacking the requisite authority, information, and incentives to undertake meaningful change, line employees tend to ignore mandates from headquarters, assuming “this too shall pass.” Confronted with an apathetic organization, senior management laments the futility of “pushing Jell-O.”

The Fits-and-Starts Organization. Scores of smart, motivated, and talented people populate this organization, but they do not often pull in the same direction at the same time. When they do, they can execute brilliant, breakout strategic moves, but the organization typically lacks the discipline and coordination to repeat these successes on a consistent basis. It is an environment that lures intellect and initiative—those people with an entrepreneurial bent—because the opportunities to pursue an idea and exercise responsibility are abundant. The result, however, can be an organization with a disjointed self-image on the verge of spinning out of control.

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