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Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework (CVF) emerged from research to identify the organizational effectiveness criteria (Quinn & Rohrbaugh, 1981). The criteria that were found to make a difference are the dimensions internal-external, and stability-flexibility.

Internal-External dimension

An organization might have an internal orientation; focusing inward on development, collaboration, integration of activities, coordination. Or it might have an external orientation; looking at the market, what’s possible with the latest technology, what competitors are doing, what customers want, and it could diversify activities as a result.

Both internal and external attention are needed to be successful in the long run - but depending on their environment an organization will have a dominant preference. An agile, volatile market will evoke an external orientation whereas a stable environment will allow for an internal focus.

Note the “competing” nature of the values: you have to choose whether you look inside or outside - you cannot do both at the same time.

Stability-Flexibility dimension

The second defining dimension is the focus on stability or flexibility — organizations that prefer to organize for stability value clear structures, planning, budgets, and reliability. They assume that reality can be known and controlled. Organizations that organize with flexibility assume the opposite: you can never predict and control everything. They prefer a flexible attitude and organization to adapt quickly to changing circumstances - focusing more on people and activities than on structure, procedures, and plans.

The “competing values” nature of stability and flexibility prevents you from doing both at the same time. Organizations can spend their money, attention, and time only once, so they tend to emphasize certain values. Quinn and Cameron found that flexible organizations are most effective, which sometimes leads to contradictory behavior. The “best” organizations use all four value sets when necessary.

A culture type works best in the activities domain that aligns with its values. In the health care sector, for instance, we often see clan culture.
Beware: there is no ultimate “best” organizational culture prescribed by the Competing Values Framework. The model is descriptive.
In a specific domain or market, one culture type might fit better than another, and this is for the organization to decide. "When would be at our best?"

Competing values framework

When you map those two polarities in a 2x2 matrix, you see four culture types emerge.

Competing Values Framework

The Competing Values Framework is validated by a ton of research (Denison, 1990; Howard, 1998; Deshpande & Farley, 2004). It is aligned with other dimensions that describe how people behave when organizing (Linnenluecke, 2010; Ralston, Tong, Terpstra, Wang & Egri, 2006; Cameron & Quinn, 2006).

These underlying dimensions of organizing exist in all human and organizational activity. It aligns with the four biological determined drives in the brain: the need to bond, to learn, to acquire, and to defend. (Paul Lawrence, Nitin Nohria, 2002).
The CVF and OCAI can also be related to the “Big Five” personality traits, the MBTI, and the four psychological types discovered by Carl Gustav Jung. 

Because of this conceptual “archetypical” basis, the Competing Values Framework can integrate many other organizational culture instruments.

This scientific basis is excellent but what is best is its practical applicability. The CVF helps you see what people value and emphasize when they organize activities, whether they are in a for-profit organization, a sports club, local community, or a family. The framework shows where you are and where you’d like to go.

Continue with the Organizational Culture Types.