Change Focus: Culture Change 

Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework is a model used in business management, organisational culture, and leadership training.
Competing Values Framework
Download a free Competing Values Framework template

What is the The Competing Values Framework?

The Competing Values Framework (CVF) is a theoretical model that helps organisations identify their cultural orientation and improve their functionality. This model, created by Robert Quinn and John Rohrbaugh, is based on two dimensions of effectiveness. The first is related to an organisation’s focus, either internal or external, and the second pertains to the organisation’s preference for stability and control or flexibility and change.

The Competing Values Framework is built upon the premise that an organisation’s effectiveness hinges on reconciling conflicting values, such as stability versus flexibility and internal versus external focus. Despite the tensions these opposing values can create, a balance between them is essential for the organisation’s success. The CVF encourages organisations to assess their values and practices, helping them navigate these inherent tensions and foster an effective organisational culture.

The CVF is not just a model for understanding organisational culture. It also offers insights into leadership styles, decision-making processes, and human resource practices. By providing a comprehensive view of an organisation’s workings, the CVF allows organisations to pinpoint areas for improvement and devise strategies for change.

How is the The Competing Values Framework used?

The Competing Values Framework is used as a tool to analyse and develop organisational culture. It helps organisations understand their current cultural orientation, identify their desired culture, and plan strategies to bridge the gap. The CVF is used to create a detailed profile of an organisation’s culture, providing a holistic view of the organisation’s practices, attitudes, and values.

Additionally, the CVF is used to improve leadership effectiveness. By identifying the leadership styles associated with each of the four cultural types, leaders can understand their leadership approach and its impact on their organisation. The CVF provides leaders with insights into how their style aligns or conflicts with their organisation’s culture, enabling them to adjust their approach for better results.

The CVF also aids in employee development and management. By understanding the cultural values and practices that drive an organisation, managers can create a work environment that aligns with these values, enhancing employee satisfaction and performance. The CVF can guide training and development programs, performance appraisals, and reward systems, ensuring they are congruent with the organisation’s culture.

The scales of the The Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework is a model that helps organisations to understand their culture, values, and priorities. It is based on two main axes: the Flexible – Stable axis and the Internal – External axis.

Competing Values Framework - Axis

The Flexible – Stable axis refers to the organisation’s ability to adapt to change. On the one hand, some organisations are more flexible and adaptable, and they value innovation, creativity, and risk-taking. On the other hand, some organisations are more stable and conservative, and they value efficiency, consistency, and predictability. Organisations that are more flexible tend to be more innovative and responsive to changing market conditions, while organisations that are more stable tend to be more reliable and consistent.

The CVF recognises that organisations must balance between individuality and flexibility on one hand, and stability and control on the other. While individuality and flexibility foster innovation and adaptability, stability and control ensure consistency and efficiency. Both these scales are crucial for an organisation’s success. Organisations must continually assess their position on these scales and make adjustments as needed to maintain a healthy balance.

The Internal – External axis refers to the organisation’s focus on its internal operations versus its external environment. On the one hand, some organisations are more internally focused, and they value teamwork, collaboration, and employee development. On the other hand, some organisations are more externally focused, and they value competition, customer satisfaction, and market share. Organisations that are more internally focused tend to be more supportive and collaborative, while organisations that are more externally focused tend to be more competitive and results-oriented.

The CVF’s other scale contrasts internal maintenance with external positioning. Internal maintenance encompasses activities focused on the organisation’s internal environment, such as employee welfare, team cohesion, and shared values. External positioning, on the other hand, involves activities aimed at the organisation’s external environment, such as competition, market trends, and customer needs. Both these orientations are necessary for an organisation’s survival and growth.

The Competing Values Framework Model

The Competing Values Framework is represented as a two-dimensional model, with the two scales forming four quadrants. Each quadrant represents a distinct cultural type: Collaborate, Create, Control, and Compete. Each of these cultural types is associated with specific characteristics, leadership styles, and focuses.

Clan (Collaborate)

Competing Values Framework - 1. Clan

Characteristics

The Collaborate quadrant is characterised by a focus on internal maintenance and flexibility. Organisations in this quadrant value teamwork, participation, and consensus. They prioritise employee welfare, shared values, and open communication.

Leadership style

Leaders in the Collaborate quadrant are facilitators. They foster a supportive environment, promote teamwork, and encourage participation in decision-making. These leaders value open communication, trust, and consensus.

Focus

The focus of the Collaborate quadrant is on building a cohesive internal community. These organisations emphasise shared values, employee welfare, and team cohesion.

Pros and cons

While the Collaborate quadrant fosters a strong internal community and high employee satisfaction, it can sometimes lead to a lack of external focus and slow decision-making due to the emphasis on consensus.

Adhocracy (Create)

Competing Values Framework - 2. Adhocracy

Characteristics

The Create quadrant is characterised by a focus on external positioning and flexibility. Organisations in this quadrant value innovation, adaptability, and change. They thrive on creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation.

Leadership style

Leaders in the Create quadrant are innovators. They foster a culture of creativity and change, encouraging new ideas, risk-taking, and experimentation.

Focus

The focus of the Create quadrant is on innovation and adaptability. These organisations prioritise creativity, experimentation, and staying ahead of market trends.

Pros and cons

While the Create quadrant fosters innovation and adaptability, it can sometimes lead to instability and a lack of control due to the emphasis on change and risk-taking.

Hierarchy (Control)

Competing Values Framework - 3. Hierarchy

Characteristics

The Control quadrant is characterised by a focus on internal maintenance and stability. Organisations in this quadrant value efficiency, consistency, and order. They prioritise formal rules and procedures, clear lines of authority, and standardised practices.

Leadership style

Leaders in the Control quadrant are coordinators. They foster a culture of order and predictability, emphasising efficiency, reliability, and smooth operations.

Focus

The focus of the Control quadrant is on stability and control. These organiSations prioritise efficiency, consistency, and predictability.

Pros and cons

While the Control quadrant fosters stability and efficiency, it can sometimes stifle creativity and adaptability due to the emphasis on control and predictability.

Market (Compete)

Competing Values Framework - 4. Market

Characteristics

The Compete quadrant is characterised by a focus on external positioning and stability. Organisations in this quadrant value competition, results, and achievement. They prioritise goal achievement, market dominance, and customer satisfaction.

Leadership style

Leaders in the Compete quadrant are competitors. They foster a culture of competition, focusing on results and achievement.

Focus

The focus of the Compete quadrant is on competition and results. These organisations prioritise goal achievement, market dominance, and customer satisfaction.

Pros and cons

While the Compete quadrant fosters a results-oriented culture and market dominance, it can sometimes lead to a lack of internal focus and employee welfare due to the emphasis on competition and results.

Case Studies using the Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework has been successfully used in numerous organisations to improve their culture and effectiveness. For instance, a multinational technology company used the CVF to identify a mismatch between their desired and actual culture. By understanding their current cultural orientation and the changes needed, they were able to implement strategies to foster an innovative and adaptive culture.

In another case, a healthcare organisation used the CVF to improve their leadership effectiveness. By identifying the leadership style associated with their culture, they were able to train their leaders to align their approach with the organisation’s cultural values, improving their leadership effectiveness.

Summary

The Competing Values Framework offers a comprehensive model for understanding and improving organisational culture. By recognising the inherent tensions between conflicting values, the CVF helps organisations navigate these complexities and foster a balanced and effective culture. The CVF offers insights into an organisation’s cultural orientation, leadership style, and practices, enabling organisations to pinpoint areas for improvement and devise strategies for change. Whether it’s improving leadership effectiveness, enhancing employee satisfaction, or fostering an innovative culture, the CVF provides a valuable tool for organisational development.

Competing Values Framework Template

Click the link to download this template and use it to explore your organisational culture.

Competing Values Framework

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 James Freeman-Gray 

I'm James. A change consultant and organisational development specialist. I've been working in people-centred change for over 15 years. I partner with causes, champions, teams & leaders on projects for social, environmental, technological & human good. If you think I can support in making your change a success, drop me a message. 

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