Enterprise Design Systems Management

Competing Values Framework

Ben Callahan

Ben Callahan

Enterprise Design Systems Management

Check out a free preview of the full Enterprise Design Systems Management course

The "Competing Values Framework" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Design Systems Management course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ben discusses the four primary types of organizational culture and where they fall on a scale of internal to external and focused to flexible. Examples of student's current organizational culture are also covered in this segment.


Transcript from the "Competing Values Framework" Lesson

>> So the other bit of kind of rabbit hole research landed me on another quick framework that I wanna share with you that was developed by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn in 1999. It's called the competing values framework. And in this framework, there are four primary types of organizational culture.

And they call it competing values because the x and y axis are two spectrums of competing values. Let's just take a look and maybe that'll make it clear. So the y axis spans from flexible to focused, flexible meaning a really dynamic culture or an adaptive cultures. These are cultures that have a willingness to change as things shift around them, and focused meaning more stable or ordered cultures.

These maybe have confidence to stay true to their founding ideals in the midst of a lot of change. And then on the x-axis, we span from an internal orientation to an external orientation. Internal means that they make decisions based on factors that originate inside the company. So maybe the concerns of their employees.

External means they make decisions based on factors that originate outside the company. In that scenario, we're thinking about things like the economy or the market or technology changes, right? So it's about their orientation for change. Now, I'll tell you this, that most organizations are gonna have some characteristics of each of these things, okay?

So when you take the assessment to figure this out, the way you do it is you answer all these questions and you give weight to different priorities in a series of six questions. And each of the options in those six scenarios correlates to one of these four concepts.

And what that ends up giving you is a diagram that kind of is like an oddly shaped thing that kind of maps out how much flexible internal orientation flexibility do you have, and how much of this, and how much of that. So what we can do though, is just by me explaining these four quadrants, you will probably be able to kind of look at this.

And say, yeah, I think my organization lives mostly here. I have some suspicions already just based on some of the questions that you all have asked. So let's talk through these really quick and then you can tell me where you think you fit. So the top left we're joining flexibility with an internal orientation.

This is called collaborative or a clan culture. This is where you've got an eye toward long-term development, cohesion morale, mutual support, and the phrase here is kind of like just doing things together. That's the focus, right? That bottom left we are joining focus with an internal orientation, and this is a control or hierarchy culture.

So this is where progress is really incremental. This is respect. There's a respect for hierarchy and values placed on stability and predictability, and doing things right. And that top left, that's where a lot of times a service company is. In fact, that's where my organization, Sparkbox, operates. That's personally, that's kind of where I live.

The bottom left is oftentimes things like banking or healthcare or even like the military, organizations where there's more risk tend to gravitate towards a more controlling measured approach to things. Now, this is a good point for me to stop and say, none of these are good or bad, okay?

So there are healthy versions of a hierarchy culture, there are unhealthy versions of collaborative culture. So they're healthy versions and unhealthy of all four of these. So I don't want you to associate your own sort of, maybe baggage around the word control or baggage around the word collaborate with these quadrants.

Just think of them as neutral. They're just different. And then we'll talk through at some point here in a moment the health and unhealth scenarios that can exist with each. That make sense? Okay, so in that top right, we're looking at a flexible organization and we're balancing that with an external orientation.

So the authors call this a creative or adhocracy culture where new ideas can really break through. There's flexibility, creativity, disruption, entrepreneurship is rewarded here and great value is placed in doing things first. A lot of times this is where your startup or scale up organization exists, okay? They're trying to figure out, where does my product fit?

So, they need a lot of flexibility, a lot of creativity, and they're making decisions based on the market, right? Now, I had to look up the word adhocracy. It just means the opposite of bureaucracy. So, basically, anything goes [LAUGH]. So in the bottom right, we're left with this one remaining cultural type, and that's where we're joining focus with an external orientation, and this is a competitive or market culture.

So they've got an eye here towards short term performance. Acquisition tends to be a strategy for growth here. They're just buying up competitors instead of trying to kind of beat them in other ways in the market. Individuals here are rewarded for doing things fast, right? Speed is just all about this, do it fast.

These are the companies that are again are buying their competitors a lot of times. And I'll also say it's normal for your organization as it ages and matures to move between these. So one common scenario I've seen is I talk with folks that are in some startup and they're building a system.

They're up in that top right creative scenario and then before they know it, they're being pulled into competitive. Cuz they found their niche and now they're trying to go out and just destroy the competition, right? So that mindset shift happens a lot in organizations and over time they morph to sort of have more or less of the characteristics of each of these.

And my conversations with folks and in some additional surveys and stuff that we've done with the industry. We've done a bunch of work to try and understand kind of what's the perspective of the individuals that are in these organizations. And so I've added this sort of layer of sentiments.

This is me kind of quoting to you the things that I hear these folks say just to kind of give you another layer of understanding. So what I'd love for you to do is just, I'll read those and I just want you to think about the CEO or the president of your company, the sort of topmost leader.

And I want you to tell me which of these do you think you could hear that person saying? So could you hear them say, we're all about our people. It's all about unity and collaboration. Could you hear them say, we're going to avoid risk at all costs here, right?

Could you hear them say, we wanna disrupt the market, disrupt everything. Or could you hear them say, look, our job is just to beat the competition. So I would love for you to to share with me, if you're willing to share, sort of where you feel your organization as a whole fits in this model.

Anybody see it obviously or?
>> I feel like I'd get mixed results depending upon which leader I'm talking to.
>> Sure.
>> Our CEO would definitely say disrupt everything. Which I feel like has at times pushed us into a corner that's hard to get out of. Those that I work with on a regular basis are more of the people first which I think we've discussed as well.

Also kind of puts us in a little bit of a circumstance where we're just designing in circles because we're trying to cater to everyone.
>> Yeah.
>> All the time, all at once.
>> Totally. Yep.
>> Yeah. So kind of in those top two.
>> Cool. Anyone else have an easy decision here?

Is it clear to you? No.
>> I think it depends on who you talk to.
>> Yeah, but to answer for me from the, if I sat down and showed this to the CEO or the president or the leader, the highest level leader, what would they say? What do they want the company to be?

>> People first.
>> People first.
>> Or avoid risk.
>> Yeah, those things, it's on the left side.
>> Yeah.
>> Probably more people first, but some avoid risk.
>> Got it. Okay, that's clear.
>> Yeah.
>> I suspect we're heavily in the beat the competition, sort of disrupt everything, but more of just move fast.

>> Yeah. That's right, I can see that.
>> Probably people first.
>> People first, okay. Yeah, with smaller teams a lot of times that's the case, because they're just hey we know each other, we're like a family, it's that kinda feel. Yeah, I mean, our company, my company is definitely in that top left.

But what's interesting, some of what you said, I think is really interesting, and actually what you all said about, it depends on who I talk to, and that's actually very true. And that's because culture is formed any place where people are getting together consistently. So that means you have a culture as an organization but you also have a culture as a team, or the group of folks who read a book together over lunch every week, they have a culture, right?

The whatever cross section of all the people who care about, I don't even know, how we're writing our documentation, that group of people, they got their own culture. Those are all subcultures of the bigger organizational culture. And this is where things get really interesting. So that means if you've got a design system, your design system has its own subculture.

Learn Straight from the Experts Who Shape the Modern Web

  • In-depth Courses
  • Industry Leading Experts
  • Learning Paths
  • Live Interactive Workshops
Get Unlimited Access Now