The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool for organizations that evaluates how well the various elements within these organizations work together. The result is the identification of performance gaps. These gaps have to be closed in order to improve the organization's productivity and profitability. The gaps are identified because the Nadler-Tushman congruence model looks at the way the company processes information and input from both internal and external sources. Furthermore, it analyses communication structures to make them process the information as effectively as possible.
The congruence model for a business is a change management process that examines the performance of an organization based on how it operates as a system. The company is broken down into separate elements, and the congruence model examines those elements and looks to improve the organization by improving each part. The congruence model places the greatest emphasis on the transformation process between inputs and outputs. The inputs include the external environment, such as competition and government regulation; financial, human and other resources; organizational culture; and the strategic decisions necessary to meet future challenges and opportunities. The outputs refer to products and services, and overall performance and effectiveness.
Elements of the Congruence Model
To help determine the causes of underperformance, management must first identify key performance drivers. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model assigns key drivers to four categories:
- Task – or the work carried about by employees. What are the tasks or processes being carried out regularly? What steps are being taken to maximize task efficiency and efficacy? Is the work meaningful or fulfilling and if not, what are the challenges in making it so?
- People – do the employees possess the requisite skills or knowledge? Does the business tend to hire staff with a certain personality type? Are they suitably compensated? These questions must be asked of every employee, from upper management to process workers.
- Organizational structure – encompassing the standardization of policies, processes, procedures, and systems. How many levels of management are there between executives and employees? To what extent are decision-making capabilities assigned? Here, it is also helpful to consider the physical structure – how many business units are there? Are divisions product, region, or function-based? Are they centrally located or do they occupy several locations?
- Culture – one of the hardest categories to define yet also the category most critical to success. Culture refers to tangible aspects such as values, vision, and leadership style. But it also includes intangible aspects of employee-management relations. In other words, how much trust do the employees have in management? What level of engagement or support is offered to decision-makers? Are the ethics of management expectations sound?
Why the Four Elements
The model is based on the idea that for an organization, business, or team to be successful, the work that forms the core of the organization’s performance, the people who are responsible for this work, the structure of the organization, and the culture of the organization need to fit together or to be congruent. The basic premise of the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is consistent with the basic premise of the open systems theory.
The more congruent these four elements are, the better the performance of the organization and the faster it achieves its goals. When there is a poor fit or incongruence between these four elements, problems arise, leading to poor performance by the organization.
The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model focuses on these four elements because they are they are the means through which an organization converts its inputs – such as strategy, resources, environment, and history – into outputs such as goods and services.
Due to its effectiveness in analyzing the interaction between the four critical elements of an organization, the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a great tool for identifying the factors that lead to poor performance within an organization. For instance, an organization might have some of the best talent working for them, but the organization’s culture might not be a good fit for the working styles of this talent, leading to poor performance despite having the best talent.
Similarly, an organization might be using the latest technology, but then lots of bureaucratic red tape and the wrong organizational structure could prevent the organization from reaping the benefits of this technology. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model provides businesses with a tool to identify such problems that could be hindering performance. Once you identify these problems, you then have to make changes to some aspects of the organization in order to resolve the problems.
By analyzing the interaction between the four critical elements of an organization, the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model also allows business leaders to think about the impact of such changes on other areas of the organization. This is especially important in today’s business environment where change is very critical due to the high level of business competition.
Applying the Congruence Model
To apply the Congruence Model, look at each component and then analyze how they relate to one another.
- Step One: Analyze Each Element
- Work: start by looking at the critical tasks that underpin your organization's performance, from two perspectives – what work is done, and how it is processed. Consider what skills or knowledge individual tasks require, whether they are mechanical or creative, and how the work flows. Identify approaches that work best – for example, quick, thorough, empathic, analytical, precise, or enthusiastic – and what the stresses and rewards of the work are.
- People: look at who interacts to get these tasks done – bosses, peers, and external stakeholders, for example. Identify the skills, knowledge, experience, and education that they possess. Then, explore how they like to be compensated, rewarded and recognized for their work. Also, consider how committed they are to the organization, and what career progression expectations they have.
- Organizational Structure: map your organization's structures, systems and processes. Are there distinct business units or divisions (for example, regional, functional, or product- or market-specific)? Are there different levels or ranks, or does it have a flat structure? And how distinct or rigid are the reporting lines? Also, consider how standardized work is within your organization, and look at the rules, policies, procedures, measures, incentive schemes, and rewards that govern it.
- Culture: this is often the element with the greatest influence, but the hardest one to analyze. You can explore your organization's culture by considering the leadership style and the beliefs and values of the individuals who work there. Think about the "unwritten rules" that define how work really gets done. (These stem from people's attitudes, beliefs, values, behavior, and so on, and from the processes and structures that you've already examined.) Look at how information flows around the organization, and whether there are any political networks in play.
- Step Two: Analyze the Relationships Between the Elements: Now organize the four elements into the following six pairs, and analyze how they interrelate.
- Work and People: is the work being done by the most able and skilled people? Does the work meet individuals' needs?
- Work and Structure: is work done in a well-coordinated manner, given the organizational structure in place? Is that structure sufficient to meet the demands of the work being done?
- Structure and People: does the formal organization structure allow the people to work together effectively? Does it meet people's needs? Are people's perceptions of the formal structure clear or distorted?
- People and Culture: are the people working within a culture that best suits them? Does the culture make use of people's own resources?
- Culture and Work: does the culture help or hinder work performance?
- Structure and Culture: do the culture and the organizational structure complement one another, or do they compete?
As you work through these pairs, identify areas of congruence and incongruence, and consider how your organization's performance measures against its goals.
- Step Three: Build and Sustain Congruence: Now, consider what steps you could take to reconfigure each element, and resolve the incompatibilities that you've identified. As you identify solutions and move forward with them, don't forget to look at how you could strengthen the things that are already well coordinated. It's as important to reinforce and sustain what is already congruent as it is to fix what's incongruent.
According to the Congruence Model, the best strategies for fixing incongruence will be those that reflect the unique character of your team or organization, and the environment that you operate in. This is why one organization can thrive on a certain structure or type of work, while another apparently similar one struggles to make a profit.
Pros and Cons of the Congruence Model
The congruence model provides a rigorous framework for analyzing complex organizational problems. The model does not place restrictions on managers, according to management consulting firm Oliver Wyman. It is a tool for thinking through organizational problems, not a rigid template for classifying observations. It does not specify a particular approach for designing organizational structures or processes as long as there is a fit between the various components. The model also helps companies think through the impact of change management on organizational interactions and performance. The social components -- people and informal structures -- and technical components -- tasks and formal structures -- must fit as part of the congruence model. For example, if the product manager is not on speaking terms with the marketing manager, there could be design delays and poor market penetration.
Applying the congruence model could be a long and expensive process, especially for global organizations with several business units and thousands of employees. The model does not specify a direct way for incorporating group dynamics into organizational analysis. The absence of a structured template, while giving managers flexibility, might also limit their ability in quickly coming up with proven solutions to organizational problems. The application of this model may exclude the possibility that the absence of a fit does not necessarily imply a problem because there may not always be a perfect fit between tasks and individuals, especially in small entrepreneurial companies. However, this should not limit effectiveness because companies have to adapt continually to changes. For example, training and mentoring programs could bring new employees up to speed on new responsibilities.
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