Values define the culture of an organization. Its philosophy, mission and vision are all a part of this. While large businesses might have a culture of their own—in most organizations—the leadership is what drives it.

And its importance can’t be overestimated. According to the competing values framework, the culture of an organization is the key to understanding its effectiveness.

  1. What Is A Competing Values Framework?

  2. The Quadrants Of The Competing Values Framework

  3. Value Frameworks And Leadership

  4. How The Competing Values Framework Can Help

What Is A Competing Values Framework?

The Competing Values Framework was created by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983) to study organizational culture and the kinds of management styles that lead to these.

This theory proposes there are two major dimensions to organizational effectiveness:

Organizational Focus

There are two types of organizational focus—internal and external. If an organization is focused on the external world, reputation and market share might be its primary motivators. If it focuses on the internal, it’s more concerned with functioning within the organization.

Organizational Structure

Is a business flexible or does it prioritize stability? If it values flexibility, it will base its decisions on it.  This can result in a more agile structure, essential in certain industries such as information technology. If an organization leans toward stability, it will be process-oriented, which is suitable in other industries.

Following the competing value approach, there are four quadrants between flexibility and stability, and internal and external that define organizational culture.

The Quadrants Of The Competing Values Framework

There are four competing value types that emerge from this Competing Values Model. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

  • Clan

This is a collaborative culture that emerges when an organization is flexible, with internal focus. These are organizations where people are front and centre. If you’ve ever worked at a place that felt like a family-run business, it probably fit into the clan quadrant of the framework.

  • Adhocracy

This is an external-facing, flexible environment ideal for innovation. Creativity and risk-taking are welcome. This culture is typically seen in advertising agencies and other organizations that need to push the boundaries and step outside their comfort zone.

  • Hierarchy

This is an internally-focused organization that prioritizes stability. Think of large, process-driven corporations. The strength of the culture lies in its standardization. This helps cut costs and makes work smooth.

  • Market

Organizations with a high external motivation with a stable structure fall into this category. These are fiercely competitive organizations that strive to create a strong brand identity and employees work to maintain an external image. Customers are king in this culture.

Each competing value approach can be equally effective depending on the sector the business is operating in and how efficiently the culture is translated into action.

Value Frameworks And Leadership

The Competing Values Framework can be used to study leadership styles just as it is used to study organizational values. Here are the eight leadership characteristics that fit within each quadrant of the framework.

  • Human Relations Model

If the leader falls into the flexible, internal quadrant, they might be a mentor or facilitator

  • Open Systems Model

The flexible, external leader can be described as the innovator or the broker

  • Internal Process Model

The stable, internal leader can be described as the monitor and coordinator

  • Rational Goal Model

The stable, external leader is the  dynamic producer and director of the team

Robert E. Quinn, the cofounder of the Center of Positive Organizations, developed this model. He believes that leaders can play a combination of each of these roles at different times. In fact, a leader should be able to balance all these roles depending on the needs of the situation.

How The Competing Values Framework Can Help

Organizations can understand their own culture better using the Competing Values Framework. Once they have done so, they can evaluate if change is needed. Leaders can learn how to function better within the existing culture as well.

In this era of increased globalization and rapid change, businesses need to adapt. By understanding their current values, it’s possible to bring about that change intentionally.

By learning from other organizations through examples of Competing Values Framework, a leader can change their management style if they wish to.

Learning different management styles and analytical tools will help any organization move forward. In Harappa’s High Performing Leaders program, mid-career professionals can refresh their knowledge on the various analytical frameworks. Managers who lack theoretical knowledge—they may have risen through the ranks without formal management training—can learn how to use the tools to take their leadership to the next level. The blended, self-paced learning model fits in well with the life of a busy professional.


Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Who is a Project Manager, Must-Have Skills For Leadership, Top Behavioral Skills For Managers, Operational Manager Skills & Managerial Roles And Skills that will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.

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