The Competing Values Framework

Analyzing Corporate Culture

Clan cultures display strong teamwork.

© iStockphoto/Palto

Think for a moment about the Google organization. What comes to mind? Probably words like "flexible", "innovative", or perhaps "fun corporate culture", right?

Now think about a government department, or a university. When you envisage organizations like these, words like "stable", "dependable", and "steadfast" are more likely to come to mind.

All companies have their own unique culture. Some companies are effective and successful because they're fast, adaptable, and always at the cutting edge. Others are known for their slow, steady evolution, their dependable values, and their longevity.

Understanding your own corporate culture is important, because that culture will affect the decisions you make, the processes you want to implement, and the results you can expect from your teams. But correctly identifying a corporate culture can be tricky!

This is where the Competing Values Framework comes in. The Competing Values Framework not only makes it easier for companies to identify their corporate culture, but it also helps leaders make the right decisions, recognize and work with the contradictions inherent in their organization, and improve value and effectiveness.

In this article we'll look at exactly what the Competing Values Framework model is, and we'll show you how you can use it in your work place to improve your own and your team's performance.

Understanding the Tool

The Competing Values Framework (CVF) was first published in 1981 by R.E. Quinn and J. Rorbaugh, as a result of their research into organizational culture and leadership.

The CVF was created to help an organization understand its culture, and to determine what makes it truly effective.

The model is based on the finding that most organizations can be described using two dimensions, represented by a horizontal and vertical axis each running between opposite or "competing" values. In practice, this means that even the most transformational and innovative companies have somewhat predictable patterns. What's great about the CVF is that it helps organizations to locate their starting point, and to predict what tensions and trade-offs they can expect when implementing change.

The CVF is shown in Figure One, below:

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