The values and culture of regions, organisations and career groups: a summary of case studies

By Maretha Prinsloo on April 28, 2017


Both qualitative and quantitative research methods have been used to validate the Value Orientations (VO) assessment instrument. The VO is aimed at measuring the worldviews, valuing systems as well as the decision making and perceptual frameworks of individuals. Besides the results of the quantitative studies that appear in the VO Technical Manual, a number of findings on the values of different career groups, organisations and regions, are briefly discussed here. More detailed information on these studies can be found here.

The aim of broadly describing these case studies is to tell, in an almost anecdotal manner, the “story” of how culture and values are manifested in organisations. Such an approach is well-suited to the descriptive nature of Psychology, a science which relies on empirical findings to back up often contradictory theoretical models.

The theoretical model according to which culture and values are interpreted by the VO, includes those of a number of developmental psychologists and consciousness theorists such as Kohlberg, Loevinger, Gebser, Wilber, Perry and Piaget, all of which are inherently similar to the structure of consciousness as reflected by the Spiral Dynamics model of Clare Graves. The model is represented below:



The following tendencies emerged from findings on organisational culture and career group values:

It seems that certain industries are characterised by particular value systems.


  • Mining, Manufacturing, Technical, Construction, Sales, Information Technology and Engineering industries are often characterised by Red-Orange values which are sometimes also combined with Blue values. Such an orientation can be described as energetic, a practical-tangible, results oriented and realistic in nature, and is guided by competitive strategies, a performance focus and commitment to certain goals.
  • Legal firms often also show Red-Orange-Blue value orientations which are well suited to the somewhat rule-based, adversarial and commercial nature of the work involved.
  • Research, Scientific and Regulatory bodies, given their responsibility for managing risks and downstream effects of impending scientific and industrial solutions, tend to be characterised by being more aware, inclusive and having holistic world views. These are often associated with Orange-Green-Yellow values.
  • The Banking sector, given its structured and rule-based nature, largely seems to match the Blue value system, characterised by an acceptance of authority, hierarchical and positional power structures, clear norms and procedures. In one study an ineffective marketing team within the banking sector in South Africa showed a counter-productive Purple-Blue culture associated with a traditional, structured approach as opposed to a more independent-minded, commercial approach which normally characterises Marketing. Similarly, in a study of the IT teams at Central Banks in Africa, Purple-Blue value orientations prevailed which is more characteristic of Banking per se and of the African region than of the IT industry.
  • Executives from both a Regulatory body and the Nuclear Energy industry in South Africa, as well as executives from a national Energy provider in Australia, all showed suitably high levels of Green-Yellow and even Turquoise awareness, which is well suited to the potential risk profiles of those industries.

Organisations within the same industry, however, may differ in terms of their value orientations.


  • Executives in India from two global Manufacturing firms seem to differ completely in terms of their value orientations – probably due to the strength of the respective organisational cultures. In the one organisation the collectivistic Purple-Blue-Green values prevailed and in the other, the individualistic and commercially driven Red-Orange values consistently emerged across regions.
  • Banks, Investment Banks and Insurance firms often completely differ from one another in terms of organisational culture. Efforts aimed at instilling a particular organisational culture, through particular selection and promotion practices for example, seem to determine the cultural profiles of these organisations.

Different career groups may embrace similar or diverse valuing systems depending on the organisational and regional context.


  • Financial and technically oriented professionals in the Manufacturing, IT, Mining, Construction, Sales and Engineering industries mostly show Red-Orange values. However, due to organisational culture, those from technical and financial career groups may also show Purple-Blue, Purple-Blue-Green, Orange-Green-Yellow or Red-Blue value orientations.
  • Researchers and general staff versus Systems Engineers within the same organisation, a Scientific Research Institute, showed somewhat different value orientations in the sense that the researchers and general staff rejected Yellow-Turquoise values whereas the Systems Engineers did not reject the high level, inclusive valuing systems.

Different levels of work also seem to be characterised by different value orientations.


  • Operational work is often associated with the more tangible and realistic approach of the Purple-Red-Blue approaches.
  • Professional and managerial levels often reflect a Red-Blue-Orange orientation.
  • Executive levels may to some extent be characterised by an element of Green or Yellow values in combination with Orange values.
  • Specialists, managers and executives within one particular organisation, may show somewhat different value orientations.
  • Except in the case of one study of executives of a Regulatory body in South Africa basically none of the other corporate studies reported on here, showed Turquoise value orientations, which is surprising given an international concern about environmental impacts, global warming in particular. In one study, however, some of the Swiss executives who received 360 degree performance ratings of “exceed requirements” also showed Turquoise value orientations.
  • In an Insurance firm characterised by a Purple-Blue culture given a marketing slant towards addressing the security and family oriented needs of their customers, the highly qualified Executive team largely showed independent-minded and individualistic Orange-Yellow values.
  • In an Investment bank, which typically takes on a Red-Orange culture, the highly qualified and diverse executive management team showed Orange-Green-Yellow values.

Certain regions may be characterised by specific value orientations which can impact personal and organisational value orientations.


  • African companies involving administrative and operational work, tend to show a predisposition towards Purple-Blue values. It seems that in certain instances the values of the socio-geographical region thus overrule typical career related value preferences.
  • Within the Manufacturing industry, clear value differences were found amongst executives from different regions. Within one global organisation, the North American executives showed an in-group, forceful Purple-Red orientation, the South American executives a practical, realistic, commercial Red-Blue-Orange approach, the Indian executives collectivistic Purple-Blue-Green values and the Swiss executives a humanistic, theoretical and systems thinking Yellow-Green worldview.
  • In a Mass Media entertainment company employees across various countries in Africa showed traditional and rule-bound Blue values associated with the region rather than with the industry. To a lesser degree, Orange values also emerged which is more typical for the industry than Blue values.
  • European companies generally tend to be more Orange-Yellow in their approach and South American and South African companies often tend to show a more practical-realistic Red-Blue-Orange approach (though regional groups are not reported on here). Certain South African and African companies characterised by an operational focus, tend to show a collectivistic Purple-Blue approach.
  • IT people in the Production Industry from various regions showed diverse value orientations.


It seems that broad regional impacts on the culture of organisations and career groups are quite powerful, especially where the business focus is of an operational nature for the bulk of the workforce. An organisational culture often mirrors the socio-geographical culture in the case of the mining, production and manufacturing industries.

Various career groups may show different value orientations where management, specialist or professional work is involved. These differences may, however, be mitigated by regional or organisational culture.

Highly qualified executives, often with experience across disciplines, industries and regions tend to show values that are similar to that of the organisational culture. This may be due to natural selection as well as HR practices regarding placement and promotion of those showing certain orientations.

These executives may in fact also play a key role in determining organisational culture. At times, executives show meta-level Yellow or Turquoise values by which the culture of the organisation is managed and calibrated to optimise organisational functioning.




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