What Is A Competing Values Framework? The Competing Value Framework In A Nutshell

The competing values framework was created by Robert Quinn and John Rohrbaugh, emerging from research into the major characteristics of effective organizations. The competing values framework is a tool used to understand and characterize organizational behaviors and beliefs and how they contribute to success.

Understanding the competing values framework

Based on the study of culture, leadership, structure, and information processing, Quinn and Rohrbaugh discovered 39 different indicators of effectiveness. These were then analyzed for patterns and distilled into two major dimensions of organizational success:

  • Organizational focus –  which may be internal or external. Some companies focused on internal processes to achieve success, while others achieved similar results by maintaining a focus on competitive advantage and rivalry.
  • Organizational structure – is the business flexible or does it prioritize stability? The researchers found that some companies were successful because they were adaptable and agile. Conversely, some succeeded because of stable leadership and process orientation.

The competing values framework has been recognized as one of the 40 most important frameworks in the history of business. It has wide-ranging applications in leadership competency, organizational culture, financial strategy, information processing, and life cycle stage development.

The four major models of the competing values framework

Four major models, or cultural archetypes, are derived from the degree to which a company is internally or externally focused and flexible or stable. 

The interaction between each archetype appears to send conflicting messages, which gives the competing values framework its name. For instance, an organization may need to be flexible while also displaying control and stability at the same time.

With that said, let’s take a look at each archetype below:

  1. Clan (collaborative) – an organization underpinned by shared values such as stability, cohesion, and participation. The culture is dominated by an emphasis on personal development, mentorship, empathy, and openness. Company effectiveness is also bolstered by risk aversion.
  2. Adhocracy (creative) – adhocracies are innovative, externally focussed, and flexible. Creative and diverse ideas drive the company forward because leadership is not afraid to take risks. This type of organization is supremely adept at navigating uncertainty, ambiguity, and instability. 
  3. Hierarchy (controlling) – these organizations are focused internally and owe their success to control, order, and continuous improvement. Culture is overtly formal and procedural. Leadership makes long-term predictions based on efficient, capable, and stable processes that are known quantities.
  4. Market (competing) – competing companies are driven by profitability, market share, and goal achievement. Success is acquired with an aggressive and decisive mindset that is energized by the presence of competitors. Winning through hard work and productivity is actively pursued. With a relatively stable structure, market organizations create a strong brand identity by delivering high customer value.

The competing values framework and leadership

The organizational values of the framework can also be used to model leadership styles.

Below is a brief look at some leadership types based on the hierarchies listed in the previous section:

  1. Mentor, team builder, facilitator (Clan) – these leaders value development, communication, and commitment. 
  2. Innovator, visionary, entrepreneur (Adhocracy) – these leaders preach values around agility, transformation, and innovation.
  3. Coordinator, organizer, monitor (Hierarchy) – these leaders prefer consistency, uniformity, predictability, timeliness, and efficiency.
  4. Producer, competitor, go-getter (Market) – these leaders are primarily concerned with attaining dominant market share, goal attainment, and profitability.

Key takeaways:

  • The competing values framework categorizes the values, beliefs, and behaviors that make up organizational and individual success.
  • The competing values framework measures success in terms of organizational structure and focus, two dimensions based on the quantitative analysis of 39 effectiveness indicators.
  • The competing values framework suggests four different archetypes, with each displaying varying degrees of structure and focus. They are clan, adhocracy, hierarchy, and market. The framework also details the leadership styles that thrive in each archetype.

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