Competing Values Framework

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Analyzing organizational effectiveness and leadership roles. Explanation of Competing Values Framework of Quinn and Rohrbaugh. ('83)

What is the Competing Values Framework? Explanation

The Competing Values Framework of Robert Quinn and Rohrbaugh is a theory that was developed initially from research done on the major indicators of effective organizations. Based on statistical analyses of a comprehensive list of effectiveness indicators, Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983) discovered two major dimensions underlying conceptions of effectiveness.

Competing Values in Organizational Effectiveness

  • The first dimension is related to organizational focus, from an internal emphasis on the well-being and development of people in the organization towards an external focus on the well-being and development of the organization itself.
  • The second dimension differentiates the organizational preference for structure and represents the contrast between stability and control and flexibility and change. Together the two dimensions form four quadrants.

The Competing Values Framework got its name because the criteria within the four models at first seem to carry conflicting messages. Organizations must be adaptable and flexible, but we want them at the same time to be stable and controlled. A paradox.

Each quadrant of the framework represents one of four major models of organization and management theory (Quinn 1988):

  1. Human Relations Model. Places a lot of emphasis on flexibility and internal focus. It stresses cohesion, morale, and human resources development as criteria for effectiveness.
  2. Open Systems Model. Emphasizes flexibility and external focus, and stresses readiness, growth, resource acquisition and external support.
  3. Rational Goal Model. Emphasizes control and an external focus. It regards planning, goal setting, productivity and efficiency as being effective.
  4. Internal Process Model. Emphasizes control and an internal focus, and stresses the role of information management, communication, stability and control.
Quinn, Rohrbaugh Competing Values Framework analyzing organizational effectiveness

Competing Values in Leadership Roles

Another variant of the Competing Values Framework deals with leadership. Quinn uses his competing values framework of organizational effectiveness to organize the literature on leadership. Eight categories of leader behavior, or roles, emerge from his review of the literature. The figure on the right plots these eight roles onto the same framework as for the organizational effectiveness.


The resulting model of leadership was derived theoretically and represents "a hypothetical rather than an empirical statement about the perceptual understructure of leadership".


Quinn argues that more effective managers have the ability to play multiple, even competing leadership roles. Managers are expected to play all of these roles. And they should simultaneously consider and balance the competing demands that are represented by each set of expectations.

quinn leadership roles

The Competing Values Framework can be used in organizational context. It can be used as a strategic tool to develop supervision and management programs. It can also be used to help organizations diagnose their existing and desired cultures. Furthermore, it can be seen as a tool to examine organizational gaps. Another function might be to use it as a teaching tool for practicing managers. Or to help interpret and understand various organizational functions and processes. Another application is: to help organizational members better understand the similarities and differences of managerial leadership roles.

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