The Competing Values Framework Diagram and How to Use It

February 14, 2024


Emily May

Are you a visual leader who likes to view concepts from a high-level perspective?

If so, the Competing Values Framework is an excellent resource for managing organizational culture within your team to improve adaptability, performance, and innovation.

This article provides an overview of the framework and how to leverage it for cultural assessment of the entire organization, strategic planning, and cohesive leadership.

What is the Competing Values Framework?

The Competing Values Framework, also known as CVF, was created in 1983 by Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron to provide a tool for leaders to assess and transform their workplace culture.

Agile leaders continue to use the model to ensure that all internal processes and communications align with organizational values and strategies.

One unique aspect of the Competing Values Framework is its visual component–allowing teams to follow along with an organizational assessment and transformation in real time.

The Competing Values Framework Diagram

The Competing Values Framework identifies two categories of competing values:

  1. Flexibility & discretion vs. stability & control
  2. Internal focus & integration vs. external focus & differentiation

The framework also establishes four major organizational types of culture:

  • Clan culture: Collaboration & employee development
  • Adhocracy culture: Innovation & flexibility
  • Market culture: Competition & results
  • Hierarchy culture: Efficiency & control

These components are combined to create a diagram with two axes and four distinct quadrants that serve as a guide for how management approaches and competing values intersect.

The 4 Quadrants

As pictured in the figure above, two intersecting axes create four quadrants. The vertical axis represents whether an organization manages its team with more flexibility and discretion, as listed on the top, or with stability and control, as listed on the bottom.

For example, a 5-person tech startup will likely be taking suggestions from employees on how to manage internal processes–falling into the adhocracy culture closer to the top of the vertical axis with an emphasis on flexibility.

From left to right, the horizontal axis represents organizations with an internal focus to an external focus. For example, a business prioritizing market dominance and individual performance will fall closer to the right side of the x-axis.

The diagram provides leaders with a visual assessment of their current organizational culture and what leadership behaviors, culture models, and organizational structure that would move the needle toward values and priorities that closely align with their cultural goals for the future.

How to Leverage the Competing Values Framework

Organizational leaders can leverage the CVF diagram to assess the current culture, set goals, and develop strategies for cultural alignment.

The framework helps support key transformational processes, including:

  • Organizational culture assessment
  • Strategy & goal setting
  • Leadership & human development

Conduct a Cultural Assessment

The first step in implementing the Competing Values Framework is to develop a deep understanding of the organizational cultures represented in the four quadrants.

Read this article for a detailed description of each culture type and how to design change.

Leaders should include their teams in the discovery process to assess the current dominant culture in the workplace and where improvement is necessary.

It’s essential to encourage a blend of all four quadrants within the team structure that apply to different internal processes for a well-balanced, dynamic culture. For example, a clan-dominant organizational culture can also prioritize the innovation we see in adhocracy culture.

Identify Organizational Goals

In uncovering valuable insights during the cultural assessment, teams can discover aspects of culture, such as weak points to improve upon to move the needle on the y or x-axis of the four quadrants.

With a clear view of cultural priorities, teams can establish roadmaps that align with their targeted values and focus points–edging them closer to overarching goals.

It’s essential to have strategies and initiatives in place to reinforce the desired results. The strategy behind each unique organizational culture should aim to drive performance and success for employees, customers, and stakeholders.

Choose a Leadership Approach

Understanding the dominant culture type within an organization allows for improved leadership and management practices.

The Competing Values Framework helps agile leaders develop management approaches that resonate with an organization’s core values–creating an environment with clear messaging that drives cultural transformation.

Rather than inventing management techniques that may or may not align with fundamental values, leaders know how to nurture their work environment based on the dominant culture.

For instance, pairing employees for mentorship programs for personal development may be a productive strategy for a clan-dominant culture.

The Importance of Cultural Adaptability

Organizations should adapt their cultural strategies as industries, technology, and employee needs evolve.

Ongoing organizational culture monitoring and assessment ensures that teams progress toward goals and track their results. It also opens the room to extensive discussions that include opportunities for feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Through continuous observation of cultural shifts, leaders can identify misalignments and take proactive measures to address them–resulting in competitive positioning in the marketplace.

Why the Competing Values Framework Is Still Relevant

The Competing Values Framework provides a strategic structure for leadership practices. Managers have the context they need to brainstorm and apply tactics that fit their organization's cultural goals and core values.

Additionally, the CVF model encourages leaders to think outside their dominant culture and borrow tactics from other culture types, resulting in a more diverse and inclusive approach to the workplace.

Finally, the CVF tool helps teams assess the current culture while visually tracking their progression, leading to more productive and adaptable ways of working.


The Competing Values Framework supports leaders and their teams in understanding their dominant culture type and developing strategies to align with cultural goals.

Such tools provide cultural insights that allow organizational developments to activate and measure change, inspiring a cohesive effective culture that strives for agility, satisfaction, and productivity.

Are you a motivated leader who wants to learn more about guiding a team in an agile work environment? Learn more about our Leading with AgilityAgility in HR, and Adaptive Org Design certification courses.

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About the author

Emily May | ICAgile, Marketing Specialist
Emily May is a Marketing Specialist at ICAgile, where she helps educate learners on their agile journey through content. With an eclectic background in communications supporting small business marketing efforts, she hopes to inspire readers to initiate more empathy, productivity, and creativity in the workplace for improved internal and external outcomes.