The World of Work Project

Cameron & Quinn’s Competing Values Culture Model

Cameron and Quinn have identified four different types of organizational culture based on whether an organization is primarily internally or externally focused, and where it is focused on flexibility or stability. The four cultures they define are: hierarchy, clan, adhocracy and market.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Cameron & Quinn’s Competing Values Culture Model

Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron’s culture model is a four box model used to categories organizational cultures. Its vertical axis looks at whether an organization is more focused on stability or flexibility, and its horizontal axis looks at whether the organization is more inwards or outwards looking.

Because the model looks to compare these competing priorities that organizations can have, it’s sometimes known as the “competing values framework”.

Cameron and Quinn say that they way that organizations prioritize the competing values captured in their model will determine the types of cultures that will emerge within them. They conclude that there are four types of cultures:

Hierarchy

Hierarchies arise and are effective when organizations are inward looking and focused on stability and control. With these values organizations look within themselves to drive control and efficiency. Hierarchies bring structure and rigor to operations though controlled operating processes and ensure that things are done in smooth, ordered and controlled ways.

These organizations may be less responsive to changing situations and the demands of the market than other organizations.

Clan

Clans are collaborative and supportive of their members.

Clans arise when organization are primarily inward looking and value responsiveness. With this value mix organizations look within themselves for ways to respond quickly and effectively to change. Clans value team-work and collaboration, they often feel like families that are glued together by their desire to work towards their common goals.

These organizations may be more focused on and interested in their internal outcomes, such as engagement, than in external outcomes, such as customer results. If there is a conflict between the needs of the customer and the needs of the organization, the organization will probably win, provided the need isn’t a matter of survival.

Adhocracy

Adhocracies exist where organizations are outward looking and focused on being flexible and response. With this value mix organizations value pace of work, innovation and risk taking, all in the name of moving quickly to meet external needs.

These organizations are held together by their desire to experiment, innovate and create quickly. As a result they are entrepreneurial, ah-hoc, and driven to create new things and find new ways of succeeding.

While these organizations may grow and develop quickly, they may have less control over their operations and provide less nurturing environments than other organizations.

Market

Market organizations are outwards looking and internally focused. They are very aware of the organizations position in the market, and are driven to improve it. As a result they are highly customer and supplier focused and prioritize doing a great job for customers and improving market position.

These organization are competitive and bond over their desire to get things done and to win in the current marketplace. As a result, they may be less forward looking and responsive than some organizations, and may be less nurturing than same organizations.

Markets are competitive, difficult places to survive.

The World of Work Project View

We think this model is fine, and useful to be aware of. It’s provides one set of categorizations that can be helpful when trying to understand organizational cultures, or when trying to decide what type of organizational culture might be good for a specific organization.

We particularly like the competing values concept that underlies this model. We think that many behaviors and decisions of organizations, and individuals, are reached through a balance of competing values frameworks.

In our experience though, it’s not been the case that one can classify entire organizations into categories like this. In many larger organizations a wide range of cultures exist. Of course, this model may be helpful in determining these sub-cultures.

It’s also our view that the role of leadership and the personalities and behaviors of leadership play a large role in shaping cultures. This can be as a direct result of emulation, or as a result of the incentives and structures that leaders build into organizational systems. We feel that this model perhaps doesn’t capture these impacts as well as it could.

In summary, it’s a useful tool, but there may be more to cultures than simply these four competing values.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

The concepts behind this post are based on work by Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron. You can read more in his 2005 book, “Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework“.

Cameron, K. S. & Quinn, R. E. (2005). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework. John Wiley & Sons.

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