Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model In A Nutshell

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University.  The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

Concept OverviewThe Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is an organizational diagnostic tool and framework developed by organizational theorists David A. Nadler and Michael L. Tushman in the 1980s. This model is designed to help organizations assess and improve their performance by examining the congruence or alignment among various elements or components within the organization. It emphasizes the importance of aligning internal and external factors for effective organizational functioning and adaptation.
Key ComponentsThe model identifies several key components or elements within an organization that need to be in congruence with each other:
1. Work: This refers to tasks, processes, and activities within the organization.
2. People: It encompasses the skills, capabilities, and behaviors of individuals and teams.
3. Structure: The organization’s formal hierarchy, roles, and reporting relationships.
4. Culture: The shared values, norms, and beliefs that shape organizational behavior.
5. Tasks and Goals: The objectives, strategies, and goals set by the organization.
6. Environment: The external factors, including market conditions, competition, and regulatory influences.
Assessment ProcessTo assess organizational congruence, the model involves a comprehensive analysis of each component to determine whether they align with one another. The assessment typically includes gathering data, conducting surveys, and evaluating the organization’s strengths and weaknesses in each component.
Congruence AnalysisThe essence of the model lies in assessing the alignment or congruence among the components. The level of congruence can range from high (components are well-aligned) to low (components are misaligned or in conflict). The goal is to identify areas of misalignment and take corrective actions to improve overall organizational performance.
Adaptation and ChangeThe Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model also highlights the need for organizations to adapt to their external environment. Effective adaptation requires adjusting internal components to match changes in the external environment, such as shifts in customer preferences, market conditions, or technological advancements.
ApplicationsThe model is applied in various organizational contexts, including strategic planning, organizational development, change management, and performance improvement. It helps leaders and managers understand the complexity of their organizations and make informed decisions for achieving alignment and effectiveness.
Benefits and CritiquesBenefits of the model include its holistic approach to organizational analysis and its ability to identify areas of improvement. Critics argue that the model’s complexity may make it challenging to apply comprehensively, and some aspects, such as culture, may be difficult to quantify accurately.

Understanding the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

For example, congruence can occur between shareholders and management through the implementation of attractive salaries and incentives.

Appropriately compensated, management becomes more motivated in growing the company and the resultant share price.

However, congruence is not always present. The presence or absence of congruence explains why some organizations thrive while others fail to turn a profit

The four elements of the Nadler-Tushman 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:


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? 


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

An organizational structure allows companies to shape their business model according to several criteria (like products, segments, geography and so on) that would enable information to flow through the organizational layers for better decision-making, cultural development, and goals alignment across employees, managers, and executives. 

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? 


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?

Analyzing the interaction of the four categories

Next, arrange the categories into six pairs and analyze the interactions that occur between each:

  1. Work and people. Are employees skilled enough to carry out the work? Is the work aligned with employee needs or expectations? How could this relationship be improved?
  2. Work and structure. Does organizational structure support the nature of the work? How could policies or procedures affect the quality of work?
  3. Structure and people. Is structure creating an ideal work environment where employees are engaged and fulfilled? If not, why not?
  4. People and culture. How do people influence culture, and vice versa? Is there a general feeling of contentment or unease? Are employee beliefs and values aligned with those of the organization?
  5. Culture and work. Does culture support or detract from work performance? Can improved culture result in more efficient work?
  6. Structure and culture. Do structure and culture work harmoniously? For example, an innovative culture that favors speed and collaboration may clash with a hierarchical structure where cumbersome decision making is confined to upper management.

Building and maintaining congruence

The basic premise of the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is that a business can only achieve high performance when the four categories are congruent.

In other words, categories only reach congruence if decision-makers reach their desired output.

At this stage of the process, caution must be exercised. A single change that is made to one category pair may negatively impact one or more other pairs. As a result, each incongruence should be analyzed in detail to identify gaps and adjust where necessary.

It is important to note that Nadler and Tushman’s model does not provide a means of solving congruency problems. Decision-makers will need to choose a third-party diagnostic tool specific to the category pair where the incongruence exists.

Nadler-Tushman congruence model example

Let’s now take the fast-food company McDonald’s and use the company as a hypothetical example of the Nadler-Tushman model at work.

McDonald’s is a heavy-franchised business model. In 2021, over 56% of the total revenues came from franchised restaurants. The long-term goal of the company is to transition toward 95% of franchised restaurants (in 2020 franchised restaurants were 93% of the total). The company generated over $23 billion in revenues in 2021, of which $9.78 billion from owned restaurants and $13 billion from franchised restaurants. 

We will skip ahead and look at the interaction of the four categories in six pairs outlined in a previous section:

1 – Work and people

While some of the tasks in its fast-food restaurants could be considered menial, McDonald’s is well known for its standardized processes and procedures that streamline tasks across locations around the world.

Frontline staff are trained via a combination of interactive and computer-based training, with shift leaders educated at a training headquarters otherwise known as Hamburger University.

The company also provides extensive training to franchisees, helping them build healthy relationships, support communities, resolve conflict, and best represent the McDonald’s brand.

Much of the work is aligned with employee needs and expectations, with many employees using their skills and experience at McDonald’s to further careers elsewhere.

In fact, many employers see the McDonald’s training program as a desirable skill on a resume.

2 – Work and structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division handles specific strategic objectives or operational areas.

There is also a global hierarchy where the CEO passes directives to all areas of the business via middle managers, restaurant managers, franchise owners, and frontline staff. 

This structure supports the consistent and extremely standardized nature of the work that is carried out in each McDonald’s restaurant.

Indeed, uniform policies and procedures ensure that the quality of a Big Mac in Los Angeles is the same as one served in Sydney.

3 – Structure and people

As hinted at earlier, the skills a McDonald’s employee learns in their role are useful in many other contexts.

The hierarchical managerial structure of the company supports top-down employee training and direction which is ideal since many job applicants are young, inexperienced, or applying for their first job.

While the structure of McDonald’s supports this way of learning, it should be noted that there is some scope for employee autonomy.

In 2019, the company launched the Where You Want To Be initiative to provide the education, tuition assistance, and career tools necessary for employees to advance their careers – either at McDonald’s or elsewhere.

4 – People and culture

McDonald’s is committed to empowering its employees to ensure they feel welcomed, valued, and integral to its community.

It also strives to foster a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace with careers available to all.

According to Comparably, 68% of employees left a favorable review of McDonald’s as a place to work. People and culture are also aligned with the company’s mission to make delicious, feel-good moments for everyone.

The cultural diversity of employees in a McDonald’s restaurant is reflected in the company’s ability to develop region-specific menu items that respect the customs, cultures, and religions of countries around the world.

5 – Culture and work

With most employees having a positive experience as a McDonald’s employee, it is likely the organizational culture is one that supports on-the-job performance. 

Standardized procedures and processes support company values that put customers first and earn their trust, with many based on a set of core values McDonald’s uses to define how its restaurants are run.

6 – Structure and culture

The organizational structure of McDonald’s supports the company’s cultural values that pertain to diversity, consistency, fairness, trustworthiness, and equality.

The structure also dictates a set of procedures that help the company deliver on the customer-focused aspect of its culture, which is based on value, cleanliness, quality, and safety.

These procedures also serve as pseudo-laws that must be followed by employees and franchise owners alike.

While there is a clear preference for top-down managerial control under a global hierarchy, employees – regardless of race, religion, expertise, or otherwise – are afforded the freedom to learn new skills and advance their careers with McDonald’s or utilize them elsewhere.

The esteem with which McDonald’s training programs are held enables the company to create a relatively favorable culture despite its top-down approach and preference for control.

Key takeaways

  • The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a performance evaluation tool based on the degree of congruence between four key categories: task, people, structure, and culture.
  • Nadler and Tushman argue that high performance in a business is contingent on all four categories being congruent. All inputs must contribute to a desired final output.
  • The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model identifies incongruences but provides no support in addressing them. Decision-makers must use specific diagnostic tools to complete the whole process.

Key Highlights about the Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model:

  • Definition and Purpose: The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool developed by David Nadler and Michael Tushman to identify problem areas within organizations. It focuses on the alignment (congruence) of key components for achieving high performance.
  • Congruence in Business: Congruence is achieved when the goals of different stakeholders within an organization align. For example, shareholders and management might achieve congruence through attractive salaries and incentives.
  • Importance of Congruence: The presence or absence of congruence explains the success or failure of organizations. When there’s alignment among various elements, organizations thrive; otherwise, they struggle.
  • Four Elements of the Model:
    • Task: Focuses on the work carried out by employees, task efficiency, and meaningfulness of work.
    • People: Addresses employee skills, personality types, compensation, and alignment with organizational goals.
    • Organizational Structure: Involves the structure’s impact on information flow, decision-making, and alignment with goals.
    • Culture: Encompasses values, leadership style, trust, engagement, and employee-management relations.
  • Interaction Analysis: The four categories are analyzed through six pairs to understand their interactions and impacts:
    • Work and people
    • Work and structure
    • Structure and people
    • People and culture
    • Culture and work
    • Structure and culture
  • Building and Maintaining Congruence: High performance is achieved when all four categories are congruent and aligned with the desired output. Changes to one category can affect others, so careful analysis is required.
  • Model Limitation: The Nadler-Tushman model identifies incongruences but doesn’t provide solutions. Decision-makers need to use other diagnostic tools for addressing specific incongruences.
  • Example – McDonald’s:
    • Task: Standardized processes, training programs for employees, alignment with employee needs.
    • Structure: Divisional structure, global hierarchy, support for standardized work.
    • People: Top-down training, autonomy, career advancement opportunities.
    • Culture: Inclusive, diverse, customer-focused culture, aligned with values and procedures.
    • Interactions: Positive alignment across all pairs due to effective training, standardized procedures, and cultural values.

Connected Business Frameworks

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Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

Mintzberg’s 5Ps

Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy is a strategy development model that examines five different perspectives (plan, ploy, pattern, position, perspective) to develop a successful business strategy. A sixth perspective has been developed over the years, called Practice, which was created to help businesses execute their strategies.

COSO Framework

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TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

Lewin’s Change Management

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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