Competing Values Framework (CVF)


Originally developed from research conducted by faculty members at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, that sought to identify organizational effectiveness and has since been refined and validated by many third-party sources[i].

There are a few premises that are appealing about this way of looking at organizational culture, which I will summarize very briefly. Again, you can read more in both my book The Center of Experience as well as countless other books that have explored CVF in more detail. Here are a few reasons why I believe it is worth considering as a measurement framework:

  • It operates on the premise that there is not a “good” or “bad” type of culture (other than an unhealthy one), and that an organization’s culture may need to shift over time to achieve strategic objectives.
  • It operates on the premise that an organization does not just have one monolithic culture, but rather that an organization’s culture is made up of several aspects, along with different focuses (internal and external, flexible and focused).
Figure Competing Values Framework
Figure Competing Values Framework

Figure Competing Values Framework

As you can see from the figure above (Figure, the Competing Values Framework contains four quadrants and two different scales of focus. To briefly summarize, there are two areas that are internal-focused: collaboration (teamwork-focused) and control (operational and hierarchy-focused), and two that are external-focused: creation (innovation-focused) and competition (sales and growth-focused). The quadrants on the top favor more flexibility, and those along the bottom are more focused.

Understanding where your organization currently is on this quadrant, as well as where you’d like to be, or where you need to be to accomplish your goals can help provide a shared frame of reference for everyone.

Figure Plotting the results of the CVF assessment
Figure Plotting the results of the CVF assessment

Figure Plotting the results of the CVF assessment

As you can see from the figure above (Figure, when the results are plotted, you can see where an organizaiton sits in the quadrants. While it is rare that a score in any quadrant will be zero, you will see that there is often a skew. In the case of this figure, you can see that, generally the organization is external-focused (because the quadrants on the right are favored), and that there is a stronger focus on sales growth (because the Competition quadrant is favored).

I take this a step further in my The Center of Experience (2020), demonstrating that more value can be gained if you add the element of plotting the following distinct coordinates:

  • Leadership desired culture (based on a firm understanding of the organization’s strategic needs)
  • Employee desired culture (based on the kind of company they would like to be working for)
  • Employee experienced culture (based on what the employees are currently experiencing in the culture of the organization)

Showing the gaps here, and measuring them over time, can help an organization close gaps between where leadership needs the organization to move towards, and what the experience currently is. It can also ensure that the current workforce is on board with the culture that is desired and needed by leadership.

[i] Degraff, Jeff, Robert E. Quinn, Anjan V. Thakor, Kim S. Cameron. “Competing Values Leadership: Creating Value in Organizations.” Elgar Publishing, Inc. 2007.