top of page
  • Writer's pictureKarim Harbott

The Competing Values Framework: Steering the Ship of Business Agility and Innovation

The Competing Values Framework: Steering the Ship of Business Agility and Innovation

In the vast ocean of organizational development, a ship that has proven to sail smoothly is the Competing Values Framework (CVF). This framework, a culmination of over 40 years of academic research and practical application, serves as a compass for businesses seeking to navigate the tumultuous waves of the market and emerge as leaders in agility and innovation.

Understanding the Competing Values Framework

At its core, the CVF categorizes organizational culture into four distinct quadrants, each reflecting a set of underlying assumptions, values, and behaviors that contribute to a company's effectiveness.

Control Culture: The Orderly Waters

Control cultures, structured and process-oriented, thrive on efficiency, predictability, and consistency. They are the sturdy vessels that value clear hierarchies, specialization, and formal rules—think of the traditional financial institutions rooted in stability and control.

Compete Culture: The Fast-Paced Currents

In the realm of compete cultures, the race is always on. These cultures are competitive, results-driven, and focus on market dominance and speed. Companies with a compete culture sail fast, aiming for quick victories and valuing growth and performance above all.

Create Culture: The Exploratory Depths

Then we have create cultures, the submarines exploring the depths of innovation. Dynamic and entrepreneurial, these cultures emphasize risk-taking, learning, and innovation. They are the tech start-ups and creative industries, constantly pushing boundaries and valuing adaptability and change.

Collaborate Culture: The Harmonious Seas

Collaborate cultures are the fleets that sail on the principles of unity and community. They focus on teamwork, trust, and participation. These cultures foster environments where teams work autonomously, solving complex problems in a collective effort.

Aligning the Framework with Business Agility and Innovation

The CVF is not just a static map; it's a dynamic guide that helps organizations pivot towards cultures that promote agility and innovation. For businesses to survive in high-VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) environments, they must adjust their sails from the rigid Control and Compete quadrants to the more adaptable Create and Collaborate ones.

The Five Levers of Culture Change

To effectively shift an organizational culture towards agility and innovation, leaders must pull on five levers:

  • Structures: This involves the design of teams and their inter-team collaborations.

  • Policies: These are the rules that govern organizational behavior, including investments and decision-making processes.

  • Incentives: What behaviors are rewarded through pay, bonuses, and promotions.

  • Metrics: The behaviors that are measured, tracked, and valued.

  • Leadership Behaviors: The actions of leaders that are visible and set the tone for the organization.

Navigating Towards Agility

To foster a culture conducive to business agility, an organization must:

  1. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and break down silos.

  2. Implement policies that promote flexibility and innovation.

  3. Design incentive systems that reward not just the end results, but also the creative processes that lead to them.

  4. Track metrics that go beyond financial performance to include innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

  5. Demonstrate leadership behaviors that value learning, adaptability, and risk-taking.

Charting the Course for Innovation

For innovation to thrive, companies must:

  1. Build environments that nurture creativity and experimentation.

  2. Shift from a solely profit-driven focus to one that values customer and employee experience.

  3. Embrace transformative change and encourage visionary leadership that can steer the company into uncharted territories.

The Destination: A Culture of Success

By understanding and applying the CVF, businesses can set a course towards a culture that not only supports but drives business agility and innovation. It's a journey where every adjustment to the organizational sails is deliberate, strategic, and aimed towards the ultimate destination of long-term success and adaptability.


If you would like to dive more deeply into Agile Leadership and Business Agility, we have three great options to help you grow in that space:

1) Check out Karim’s best-selling book, The 6 Enablers of Business Agility.

2) Check out Karim’s self-paced, on-demand Agile Leadership & Business Agility course.

3) Attend Karim’s live Certified Agile Leader (CAL) class.

1 view0 comments


bottom of page