Competing Values Framework

Pulled in too many directions?

There are four basic competing values within every organization: Collaborate, Create, Compete and Control. When these values are in alignment with individual and organizational goals, teams thrive but when in conflict they are the most powerfully destructive force a team can experience.

When these forces are out of alignment it is the top of the class who are first to jump ship when cultures don’t fit. The New York Times reported that more than 200 top Google employees, including their COO Sheryl Sandberg, have recently defected to Facebook. This despite offers of pay raises, independent projects and promises of autonomy. They left to find a culture that better fit their own goals and aspirations. Others who lack the impetus for change merely “retire on the job”. Some have names for it. They call it the “HP Way”, “The Spirit of Southwest Airlines” or the Marines, “Semper Fidelis”. More often it is the unspoken, unwritten understanding of the-way-we-do-things-around-here.

Competing Values FrameworkThe CVF was developed through research conducted by the University of Michigan faculty, Competing Values Framework has been identified by the Financial Times as “one of the 40 most important frameworks in the history of business”. This diagnostic instrument is prized for its ability to predict the ROI of an organization based on the congruency of its values. The CVF Survey is powerful in its simplicity and reliable in its proven accuracy contrasting organizational cultures by both their levels of flexibility as well as areas of focus. Together these views help define the shared values and underlying beliefs that guide decisions and determine reinforcements. Best Buy has recently determined that a .1% increase in engagement will increase annual revenues by $100,000 per store.

This instrument is a set of six weighted online questions repeated twice. The first round is to represent the current state of the organization, and the second the preferred or goal state. The value for teams lies in the comparative perspectives of the leadership (values are generalized allowing complete anonymity) as well as insights into the evolving relationship with both staff and stakeholders. The instrument further provides a view of the focus needed to accomplish idealized future values. Questions explored include: Do you want people who are innovative, visionary and enjoy constant change or do you prefer a more controlled and organized environment? Do you value commitment and communication or are transformation and agility more prized characteristics within your team? What about your leaders. Are they hard-driving competitors, entrepreneurial visionaries, or the kind who facilitate, mentor and support?

Competing Values Framework: What changes (if any) are necessary to become what your team envisions for the future. CVF is one of the most extensively studied organizational models of all time spawning dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Every organization struggles with balancing the polarities across three dimensions: organizational structure (control vs. flexibility), organizational focus (external vs. internal), and means vs. ends. Successful teams are those who can effectively manage the tensions between competing priorities.


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