Interestingly enough, as I was working on this article and INFOGRAPHIC, Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group, published his list of trends and predictions for 2014/2015. In it he states, "To expedite adaptation, companies will need to create a culture of innovation, which is core to the future of work and competition." He also posed a question, "How do we change our culture to disrupt before we’re disrupted?"
I have an answer to that question...
Named as one of the top 50 most important business models in the history of business, this framework was developed by professors, Quinn and Rohrbaugh, at the University of Michigan in 1983, in a research effort to answer the question of what makes organizations effective. It has been studied by universities, many books and papers have been written about it, and it has been used to improve thousands of enterprises since that time.
The Competing Values Framework is a tool that is used to assess internal company culture, and one of the most important applications for the CVF is to be used as a guide for change.
In this article, I want to give you a foundational understanding by introducing the Competing Values Framework at a basic level, and then to explain how this insight is relevant when applied to social business today.
If you take a look at my INFOGRAPHIC of the CVF, you will notice that it is divided by two separate polarities in an organization - one being Flexibility vs. Stability, and the other being Internal vs. External. You will also see that these polarities divide the framework into four different quadrants that represent leadership style - Collaborative, Creative, Controlling and Competitive. This framework highlights the contradictions between these types of leadership and the two inherent tension points that are created between them.
The first point of tension you will see on the CVF is between the Controlling and Creative leadership styles. The Control quadrant fits between the polarities of being internal and stable. Why? Because the characteristics that produce effectiveness of a controlled environment are processes, uniformity, regulation, rules, and obedience. This level of rigidity guarantees extremely low risk, but also very incremental innovation. The Creative quadrant is identified as both flexible and external. This leadership style is identified by freedom, and this leader would be considered a visionary. Although a substantial amount of risk is involved, the effectiveness of creative leadership is demonstrated by high levels of breakthrough innovation and high adaptability to change.
The second point of tension is between the Collaborative and Competitive leadership styles. If you look at the Competitive quadrant, you see that it falls between the external and stable ends of the polarities. This leadership style is characterized by goal achievement and hard driving profitability in the market share. Here, the effectiveness is derived by customer focused, opportunistic and aggressive competition. The outcome is high levels of fast results, but the draw-back is a lack of sustainability and short-term performance. Whereas, if you consider the Collaborative quadrant, it is identified as being both internal and flexible, and this leadership style focuses on people. Effectiveness of collaborative leadership is represented in developing relationships through commitment and communication. You will see slower results, but the goal here is long-term change and a high level of sustainability.
These four quadrants represent the four competing value cultures within an organization. If you want to assess your own company culture, it is important to remember that company culture is a reflection of your employee perspective of your company mission, values, ethics, expectations, goals and work environment. How would your employees translate these traits in relation to the CVF? Find that out, and you will know where your organization stands. From there, you can use this model as a guide for identifying and making positive changes in your company to establish a new culture that promotes successful business transformation.
If your company culture falls heavily into only one of these quadrants, then you are going to have a tough time successfully implementing social business strategies and seeing results. Every organization needs to find a balance within both of these areas of tension in order to be successful, and there needs to be a shift toward increased focus on human development and fostering innovation architects within businesses.
If your company culture is all about rigidity, control and fear of risk, then you will not be able to empower your employees to be creative and innovative with the constantly changing and disruptive technologies of digital media in a way that communicates with your customer base and employees in real time.
If your company culture is all about the competitive angle as a results based - do it first, do it now, attitude, then you will be missing key elements that act like glue to hold a successful social business community together... Things like authenticity, trust, loyalty, REAL relationship.
So, while you can have control and competitiveness somewhat in your mix, you also need to be sure that you have people in place who are empowered to nurture the other sides of those tensions and foster the collaborative/community and the creative/innovative sides of the Competing Values Framework. This is absolutely necessary for success in internal and external communications, by creating positive tension for a positive company culture that allows for the dramatic growth and launch of change initiatives that are inevitable for all businesses during this digital transformation that is social business.