The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model: Aligning The Drivers Of High Performance
I want you to imagine for a minute that the 11 top footballers in the world were brought together to form one team – people like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, you name them.
If this team was brought together within a day and asked to play against another team, they wouldn’t perform as greatly as you would expect them to.
Individually, each of these players is highly talented, but as a team, they wouldn’t perform as greatly as fans would expect them to.
This is because they would have a hard time aligning their style of play with each other.
For them to give their highest level of performance, they would need to practice together for a couple of days in order for them to fit as a team and perform at their optimal level.
The same principle also applies in business. Your businesses might have very good drivers of performance – the best talent, the very best technology, a highly optimized structure, the most efficient processes, and so on.
However, if these drivers of performance do not fit well with each other, your business will not deliver optimal performance.
To make matters worse, a lot of business leaders do not even realize that some part of their system is not working well with the others.
They know that they have the best drivers of performance, and they realize that their businesses are not performing as well as they would like, but they are unable to point out the reason why things are not going as they should.
The best way to figure out what is not working within your system is to perform a gap analysis. Gap analysis allows you to compare the current state of your business or organization against where you would like to be.
The gap analysis also allows you to find the factors holding back your business from performing as you would like it to.
In this article, we are going to be focusing on the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model and how it can be used to analyze the interaction between the key components of your organization.
WHAT IS THE NADLER-TUSHMAN CONGRUENCE MODEL?
The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is performance evaluation tool that was developed by organizational theorists Michael L. Tushman and David A Nadler at Columbia University back in the early 1980s.
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 NADLER-TUSHMAN CONGRUENCE MODEL
Now that you know what the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is, how do you apply it to analyze and improve the interactions between the four key elements of the organization to eliminate problems and boost performance?
The process of applying the model can be broken down into three key steps:
Step 1: Analyze Each Element
The first step is to take an in-depth look into the four elements that drive the organization’s performance. These are:
Work: This element refers to the critical tasks that form the core of your organization’s performance. When looking at the work element, you should look at both the work that needs to get done, as well as how it gets done.
Here, you need to consider things such as the workflows that are in place within the organization, the kinds of tasks and processes that employees are required to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis, the approaches that the organization uses to make sure that these tasks get done efficiently and effectively, and so on. The aim here is to thoroughly understand the tasks that support the organization’s performance.
Next, you also need to consider the kind of knowledge and skills – both creative and technical – that are required to get the work done. What approaches are needed to ensure that the work gets done in the best way possible? What are the rewards of the work? What are the major challenges associated with doing the work? Is the work capable of giving the people a sense of meaning and satisfaction? Is it the kind of work that is best suited for your staff?
People: The people who put in their effort to ensure that the tasks that form the core of the organization’s performance get done are probably the organization’s most important assets. Here, you are going to take a look at the people who are directly and indirectly responsible for the work you identified above, including the employees, bosses, as well as other stakeholders, both internal and external.
When evaluating this element of your organization, you need to consider the education, knowledge, skills, and experience that the people working for your organization possess. You also need to look at their attitudes and expectations from the organization. What do these people feel about working for your organization? How committed are they to the organization? How do they prefer to be compensated by the organization for their work? How do they like the organization to recognize and reward them for their work? What career progression opportunities do they expect from the organization?
The attitudes and expectations of your workers are very critical to the performance and success of the organization.
For instance, if you have highly skilled workers, but then they feel that they are not being properly compensated, they will feel demotivated and may not deliver their highest level of performance. Some of them might even start looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Similarly, if they feel like they are not being recognized for their work, they will become disengaged.
Organizational Structure: Here, you will be looking at the organization’s structure, as well as the processes and systems that fall under this structure. An organization’s structure can be further broken down into multiple elements.
The first one is the organization’s hierarchical structure. What does the organization’s chain of command look like? Does the organization have a command chain with different levels and ranks, or is it more of a flat structure? How many levels of management are there between top management and staff level employees? How are the decision making capabilities distributed within the organization?
The second element is the organization’s physical organization. How many divisions or business units does the organization have? Are all these divisions located together or in different offices? Are the divisions based on region, product, market, or function? Are these divisions reliant on headquarters for decision making, or do they have the autonomy to make their own decisions?
Finally, you also need to consider the different rules, processes, procedures, policies, measures, rewards, and incentive schemes that govern each level of the organization’s structure, as well as the standardization of work between these levels.
Culture: This is a very critical element of the organization. It has a very huge impact on the organization’s performance, yet it is also the hardest to measure and analyze.
An organization’s culture refers to several things. First, it refers to the company’s vision, mission, its beliefs and core values and how the people relate to them. It is also influenced by the leadership style employed by the organization’s top management.
The organization culture also refers to the “unwritten rules” that influence how workers interact with each other within the organization and how work gets done.
These unwritten rules are based on the organization’s structure and processes, the people’s values, beliefs, attitudes, behavior, and so on. The unwritten rules are also influenced by the flow of information within the organization, as well as power relationships and political networks within the organization.
Culture also encompasses other hidden aspects of the organization, such as how result oriented the organization is, the trust the workers place in the organization’s management, how engaged the employees are, the ethics and expectations of the organization’s workers and leadership, and so on.
Step 2: Analyze How The Elements Interact With Each Other
Once you have defined the four elements that underpin the organization’s performance, the next step is to analyze how these elements interact and relate to each other.
When analyzing the relationships between the elements, you will need to arrange them into the following six pairs:
- Work and people: Here, you are going to analyze the relationship between work and people. Do the skills of the people match the work that needs to be done? Can improving the skills and knowledge of the people lead to better (or more) work getting done? Is the work aligned with the individual needs and expectations of the people?
- Work and structure: Here, you are going to analyze the relationship between work and structure. Does the structure put in place within the organization allow work to be done in a well-coordinated way? Does the structure support the demands of the work that needs to get done? How do the processes, policies and procedures related to organizational structure affect the delivery of work?
- Structure and people: The next thing is to analyze the interaction between structure and people. Does the structure put in place within the organization provide ideal conditions for the people to effectively work together? Do the people have a clear understanding of the organizational structure and how it affects them and their work? Does the structure meet the needs of the people? Is the current structure the most ideal for optimal performance by the people, or is it possible for the organization to improve performance by switching to a different kind of structure?
- People and culture: How do the people relate to the organizational culture? Is the current culture well-suited to the needs of the people? Are they happy and comfortable with the culture, or would they prefer a different culture? How does the culture affect their performance? Does the culture enhance employee engagement? Are the beliefs and values of the people aligned with the values of the organization, as well as the vision and mission?
- Culture and work: Does the organizational culture support work performance, or does it hinder work? Are the tasks that form the core of your organization’s performance aligned with the organization’s mission and vision? Can changes in culture lead to an improvement in work performance?
- Structure and culture: Here, you will look at the relationship between organizational structure and culture. Are they two aligned, or do they seem to oppose one another? For instance, a culture that promotes speed, experimentation and innovation might clash with a structure that is highly hierarchical and where all decisions have to be made by the top management.
As you analyze the relationships between these elements, identify pairs that have a high level of congruence, as well as those that do not seem to fit well together.
Pairs that do not seem to fit together are probably causing problems that are hindering your organization’s performance, and therefore, you should start thinking of ways to bring congruence between these pairs.
Step 3: Build And Maintain Congruence
Having identified the relationships between the different elements and the level of congruence between each pair, it’s now time to start thinking about how to supercharge the performance of your business by changing the relationships between these elements.
Your major concern here should be to address any problems in your business performance by resolving all the incompatibilities and incongruences you uncovered in the previous step.
To do this, you need to take a deeper look into the problem and try to determine the kind of changes that will help eliminate the incongruence.
Here, you need to be very careful, because a change in one element will affect multiple relationships.
Therefore, as you think up and move forward with strategies to resolve the incongruence, you need to make sure that your solution of choice does not negatively affect other relationships.
For instance, if you notice that work is not congruent with the existing organizational structure, you will need to institute changes either to the work or the organizational structure.
For example, let’s assume that your business has launched a new product line, but the current organizational structure does not allow for effective and efficient management of this product line.
In this case, it might be necessary to make a change to the organizational structure to allow the new product line to be managed more effectively and efficiently, say by adding a new business division or department to deal with the new product line.
If the people (workforce) are highly educated and highly skilled but are not happy with the corporate culture, the organization will need to instill a new corporate culture to prevent the workforce from getting disengaged or searching for opportunities elsewhere.
Similarly, if there is some incongruence between the work and the organizational structure, the business will need to make changes to make these two more congruent.
For instance, if the business needs to be highly agile, transforming quickly to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions, a highly formal structure where several meetings have to be held to decide on how the business needs to move will impede the agility of the business.
In this case, the business needs to adopt a less formal structure where lower level managers can make business decisions without having to constantly consult with top management.
In the same way, if the business has a presence in multiple regions, a hierarchical structure where every decision has to be made by the top executives from the main headquarters will might not be very effective.
In this case, the business needs to adopt a structure that allows regional heads to make decisions for their markets without having to constantly consult with top executives.
In addition to eliminating problems by resolving the incompatibilities you uncovered, you should also think of ways to enhance the relationships between pairs that are already congruent to strengthen performance in areas that you are already doing well in.
By eliminating incongruences and enhancing relationships between elements that are already congruent, you’ll start seeing improvements in overall performance and profits.
LIMITATIONS OF THE NADLER-TUSHMAN CONGRUENCE MODEL
Despite its usefulness, the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Models also has some limitations that you need to be aware of.
First, the model’s main focus is on helping organizations and teams identify problems that could be negatively affecting performance.
Once you identify these problems, however, the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model does not provide you with a tool for resolving the problems.
It does not tell you which structure works best or which culture works best for your organization. It does not recommend any actions you can take to resolve these problems.
To resolve these problems, you might need to rely on other tools. For instance, if you have determined that there is incongruence between work and people, you might need to use a tool like the BALM task allocation model to resolve this incongruence. If the work and organizational structure are not congruent, you might need to use a tool such as Organizational Design.
Another limitation of the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is that it only focuses on internal factors affecting performance.
However, poor or suboptimal performance could also be caused by external factors, which the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model does not look at. To analyze the impact of external factors on your organization’s performance, you might need to use other tools, such as PMESII-PT and PEST Analysis.
The basic premise behind the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is that businesses and organizations can only achieve high performance when the four key drivers of performance – work, people, structure, and culture – are congruent.
When these elements fit together and work together like a well-oiled machine, the organization runs smoothly, efficiently and effectively, resulting in increased overall performance across the organization.
When these elements are not compatible with each other, they cause friction that prevents the business or organization from performing at its optimal level of performance.
The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model allows businesses to analyze the compatibility or congruence between the four elements and find out the root causes of any problems that could be affecting your organization’s performance.
Once you identify these problems, you can then come up with ways to resolve them and supercharge your organization’s performance.
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