AMSTERDAM—Omnicom’s European-headquartered public relations firm Pleon has developed a new change management typology based on the social behaviors of various types of animals. The Pleon Cultural Zodiac encourages organizations to identify their culture with animal signs such as the buffalo, orang-utan or leopard.
What started as a research study between Daan Muntjewerf, a student at the University of Amsterdam interned at Pleon’s Netherlands office, and Dr. Maarten Frankhuis, former director of the Artis zoo in Amsterdam, has developed into a new methodology.
“We’ve received a great deal of attention in the study from Dutch and Belgian media who like the animal metaphor,” said Raymond Schra, a senior advisor in Pleon’s Amsterdam office who supervised the project and is applying the Cultural Zodiac to existing Pleon clients. “Now we are using the model as a powerful instrument for change, helping companies evaluate and influence their dominant cultures.”
The Pleon Cultural Zodiac is based on the social norms of eight different animals. Companies are asked to respond to an extensive questionnaire that examines everything from customer interactions and leadership style to employee satisfaction and levels of empowerment. The responses help assess whether their culture resembles that of a mole/rat, leopard, wild dog, lion, vulture, orangutan, buffalo or elephant.
If a company does not like the outcome in the Zodiac model, the responses in the questionnaire can identify specific dimensions that a company can change through a step-by-step process. For example, if they want to become more results-oriented, they will have to become more decisive or give employees more freedom to take risks.
Says Ralf Langen, leader of Pleon’s European change and transformation practice, “The universal nature of the Cultural Zodiac does not limit itself to the Dutch context. We’re finding tremendous interest from global organizations struggling with the desire to create borderless cultures. Our follow-up research will soon identify who the lions are in organizations across Europe and give them concrete information needed to transform into elephants if they want to.”