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The Competing Values Framework


Explanations > Culture > The Competing Values Framework

Cultural dimensions | Competing Values | OCAI | So what?



The Competing Values Framework for cultural assessment was distilled by Quinn and Rorbaugh (1983) from analysis of Campbell's longer list of effectiveness dimensions into a two dimensional pattern.

Cultural dimensions

Horizontal: In/Out

The horizontal dimension maps the degree to which the organization focuses inwards or outwards. To the left, attention is primarily inwards, within the organization, whilst to the right, it is outwards, towards customers, suppliers and the external environment.

An internal focus is valid in environments where competition or customer focus is not the most important thing, but in competitive climates or where external stakeholders hold sway, then this challenge must be met directly.

Vertical: Stability/Flexibility

The vertical axis determine who makes decisions. At the lower end, control is with management, whilst at the upper end, it is devolved to employees who have been empowered to decide for themselves.

Stability is a valid form when the business is stable and reliability and efficiency is paramount, but when environmental forces create a need for change, then flexibility becomes more important.

The Competing Values map



Flexibility and discretion


Internal focus and integration

Clan Adhocracy External focus and differentiation
Hierarchy Market
  Stability and control  


The four hierarchies are to some extent historical in their development and are presented in this order below.


The hierarchy has a traditional approach to structure and control that flows from a strict chain of command as in Max Weber's original view of bureaucracy. For many years, this was considered the only effective way of organizing and is still a basic element of the vast majority of organizations.

Hierarchies have respect for position and power. They often have well-defined policies, processes and procedures.

Hierarchical leaders are typically coordinators and organizers who keep a close eye on what is happening.


The Market organization also seeks control but does so by looking outward, and in particular taking note of transaction cost.

Note that the Market organization is not one which is focused just on marketing, but one where all transactions, internal and external are viewed in market terms. Transactions are exchanges of value. In an efficient market organization, value flows between people and stakeholders with minimal cost and delay.

Market cultures are outward looking, are particularly driven by results and are often very competitive.

Leaders in market cultures are often hard-driving competitors who seek always to deliver the goods.


The Clan organization has less focus on structure and control and a greater concern for flexibility. Rather than strict rules and procedures, people are driven through vision, shared goals, outputs and outcomes.

In contrast to Hierarchies, clans often have flat organizations and people and teams act more autonomously.

It has an inward focus and a sense of family and people work well together, strongly driven by loyalty to one another and the shared cause. Rules, although not necessarily documented, do still exist and are often communicated and inculcated socially.

Clan leaders act in a facilitative, supportive way and may take on a parental role.


The Adhocracy has even greater independence and flexibility than the Clan, which is necessary in a rapidly changing business climate.

Where market success goes to those with greatest speed and adaptability, the adhocracy will rapidly form teams to face new challenges. It will use prototyping and experimenting rather than long, big-bang projects and development.

Leaders in an adhocracy are visionary, innovative entrepreneurs who take calculated risks to make significant gains.


The Organization Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)

The OCAI is a simple questionnaire that has six categories in which you distribute 100 points between four sub-items for each that represent the four Competing Values cultures, where:

  • Type A style indicates a Clan culture
  • Type B style indicates an Adhocracy culture
  • Type C style indicates a Market culture
  • Type D style indicates a Hierarchy culture


Category Style
1. Dominant organizational characteristics A: Personal, like a family

B: Entrepreneurial, risk taking

C: Competitive, achievement oriented

D: Controlled and structured

2. Leadership style A: Mentoring, facilitating, nurturing

B: Entrepreneurial, innovative, risk taking

C: No-nonsense, aggressive, results oriented

D: Coordinating, organizing, efficiency oriented

3. Management of employees A: Teamwork, consensus, and participation

B: Individual risk taking, innovation, freedom, and uniqueness

C: Competitiveness and achievement

D: Security, conformity, predictability

4. Organizational glue A: Loyalty and mutual trust

B: Commitment to innovation, development
C: Emphasis on achievement and goal accomplishment

d: Formal rules and policies

5. Strategic emphasis A: Human development, high trust, openness

B: Acquisition of resources,
creating new challenges

C: Competitive actions and winning

D: Permanence and stability

6. Criteria for success A: Development of human resources, teamwork, concern for people

B: Unique and new products and services

C: Winning in the marketplace, outpacing
the competition

D: Dependable, efficient, low cost


This is often done twice: once for 'now' and once for 'preferred'.

The scoring is then summed across A, B, C and D for each category, to give axis scores, which is plotted on a chart which then shows the differences between 'now' and 'preferred' and hence guides actions to close these gaps.

So what?

As with other models, this may be used to help understand your working environment and match the culture to the operational climate.

See also

Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (1999). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Quinn, R. E., & Kimberly, J. R. (1984). Paradox, planning and perseverance: Guidelines for managerial practice. In J. R. Kimberly and R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Managing organizational transitions (pp. 295–313). Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.

Quinn, R. E., & Rohrbaugh, J. (1981). A competing values approach to organizational effectiveness. Public Productivity Review, 5, 122–140.

Quinn, R. E., & Rohrbaugh, J. (1983). A spatial model of effectiveness criteria: Towards a competing values approach to organizational analysis. Management Science, 29, 363–377


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