I found this book as I was reviewing the literature on adhocracies, and was intrigued by some similarities with the TIMN framework. The book is based on many years of research conducted by Quinn and his colleagues, research that characterizes organizational culture.
The book itself, however, is not a research text but more of a how-to: How do organizations characterize their own internal culture, and how do they use that characterization to better understand how to change it? As the authors state, “The current challenge … is not to determine whether to change but how to change to increase organizational effectiveness.”
To help these organizations characterize their org culture, the authors present a heuristic and various instruments for filling it out. This heuristic, the Competing Values Framework (CVF), is described as “now the most dominant framework in the world for assessing organizational culture.” It’s a grid with two axes. The horizontal axis “differentiates effectiveness criteria that emphasize flexibility, discretion, and dynamism from criteria that emphasize stability, order, control” (cf. my Genre 2012 presentation). The vertical axis “differentiates effectiveness criteria that emphasize an internal orientation, integration, and unity from criteria that emphasize an external organization, differentiation, and rivalry.” So:
- Horizontal: control v flexibility
- Vertical: internal v external
- Clan (collaborate)
- Adhocracy (create)
- Market (compete)
- Hierarchy (control)
- Hierarchy. This discussion is based on Weber and describes the Hierarchy form as involving
- a formalized, structured place of work
- stability, predictability, efficiency
- formal rules and policies
- Market. This discussion is based on Williamson and Ouchi and describes the Market form as involving
- transaction costs
- orientation toward the external environment
- economic market mechanisms, competitive dynamics, monetary exchange
- Clan. This discussion is based on Ouchi; the Clan form is specifically traced back to the success of Japanese firms. The Clan form involves
- shared values and goals, cohesion, participativeness, individuality, and “we-ness”
- the organization as an extended family
- teamwork, employee involvement programs, corporate commitment
- semiautonomous work teams; team accomplishment
- Adhocracy. This discussion is not extensively sourced, but seems loosely based on Mintzberg. The Adhocracy form involves
- responsiveness to the information age and its “hyperturbulent, ever-accelerating conditions”
- innovativeness and pioneering initiatives
- fostering of entrepreneurship, creativity, and activity on the cutting edge
- temporary, specialized, dynamic work
- fostering of adaptivity, creativity, and flexibility
- the disintegration of the structure at the end of the project
Furthermore, the authors argue, “mature … organizations tend to develop subunits or segments that represent each of these four culture types.” One example is Apple’s “pirates” on the Macintosh development team during Steve Jobs’ first term, which functioned as a clan.) And “the organization must develop the capability to shift emphases when the demands of the competitive environment require it.” Indeed, the authors say, culture change is much less predictable in mature organizations.
The CVF is a powerful heuristic for assessing organizational culture. Yet it is powerful in part because it is reductive and that reductiveness poses limitations. For instance, the developmental account isn’t strong, and since it focuses on developments in the modern era, it doesn’t give us a good tool for analyzing organizations historically or for analyzing long change. CVF provides a way to see competing values, but not to analyze them in terms of their contradictions, again particularly in terms of how those contradictions lead to developments in the long term. The spatial metaphor leads us to think of increments or decrements in each dimension rather than examining how they overlap or interact and can become points of innovation. And the CVF focuses on culture within an organization, not on how cultural dimensions can stretch across organizations. I’m particularly interested in how the notion of adhocracy can be applied to federations of activities, for instance, but the CVF is not geared to that sort of analysis.
But it doesn’t pretend to be. The CVF seems to be very helpful for getting one’s arms around the competing values in an organization along these specific dimensions. If you’re interested in that sort of analysis, either directly or in terms of how it can interact with other sorts of analyses, definitely check it out.