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What Are the Competing Values in Your Workplace Culture?

Have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult to create a truly effective workplace culture? Perhaps it’s because your organization is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Haworth has a great white paper that gives you a simple way to visualize how this works with the Competing Values Framework. It uses two sets of opposing values set at right angles to create four “quadrants” that encompass a remarkably complete picture of the different definitions of effectiveness found across organizational cultures. The system is also scalable from small groups to large corporations.

The framework contrasts flexibility vs. focus along one line and internal vs. external along the other. For example, an organization that values flexibility is highly adaptable and interested in promoting transformation. A more focused organization places value on stability and prefers a predictable environment. An internally focused organization seeks harmony and collaboration while an externally focused one is interested in outdoing the competition. The quadrants created demonstrate the key characteristic of the organization based on its two main values (e.g., internal/flexible, external/focused, etc.). These are the characteristics:

  • Collaborate (do things together)
  • Create (do things first)
  • Compete (do things fast)
  • Control (do things right)

How Can This Information Be Used?

According to Haworth, “The Competing Values Framework is used to organize an approach to leadership and management development. Individual leadership competencies, for example, are developed and improved in the context of the organization’s culture, its strategic competencies, financial strategies, pressing problems, and desired outcomes.”

Since each set of values is diametrically opposed, there is no way to “have it all”. For example, you can’t have both complete control and complete creativity. That’s OK. There is no one correct way to run an organization. So, this diagram isn’t designed to invite judgment. Instead, this tool is designed to:

  • Make it easy to see the currently existing culture for what it is
  • Identify areas where competing values within the organization are leading to conflict and loss of effectiveness
  • Determine what areas need to be focused on to create more balance – or an even more finely tuned emphasis on the areas of greatest strength
  • Discover which technologies and resources will help bolster the desired quadrants

Basically, when you understand the framework, your organization can stop pulling in all four directions and pull together in the desired direction.


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