Competing Values Framework and Why it Matters for Agile Transformations

We’re going to walk through a couple of tools that we’ve found particularly useful for Agile adoptions, for coaching teams, and for working with individuals. The first in this video series is what we call the Competing Values Framework based on the work of University of Michigan.

The Competing Values Framework comes into play when leaders from an organization moving toward Agile ways of working are considering what they want to see happen, what an Agile adoption will look like for them.

Start with a survey of the people in the organization like Strengths Finder, Compete, DISC, Myers-Briggs. This will return a view of how people in the organization respond to certain situations.

  • Collaborate – really enjoys working together; like the idea of teamwork; it’s more about “we”
  • Create – fond of brand new ideas; breakthrough innovation; new things happening
  • Compete – really like just getting things done; all about results; second person is the first loser
  • Control – appreciate step-by-step, incremental progress; wind it up, watch it glow; smooth systems

Drawbacks to four culture types when taken to an extreme:

  • Collaborate – becomes a party
  • Create – becomes chaotic
  • Compete – becomes a sweatshop mentality
  • Control – becomes a bureaucracy

How these Values Work Together (or not)

Competing Values Framework, agile transformation, Rocket Nine Solutions, RocketNineBetween the Collaborate and the Compete culture, there’s a tension. Collaborate wants us all to work together and collaborate, but Compete wants results. If I want everyone to be involved in the decision making process, that will take a long time. If we just drive for results, we might leave people out of the process of getting their input and buy-in.

If there is a need for your organization to move faster in the marketplace, you’re going want to move the culture towards Compete. But if we want buy-in from people and wonder why people are disenfranchised and feeling left behind, we need to go towards Collaborate.

Let’s consider an example of control vs. create. If we want breakthrough new ideas we should take steps moving towards the Create culture. However, if you feel like things are getting too chaotic, your processes aren’t in control, your releases are unpredictable, you actually want to shift toward Control to gain maturity and structure.

There’s a tension between Create and Control culture. We can’t easily be step-by-step, always documenting and double checking everything, and expect some kind of breakthrough idea.

Why this Matters for Agile Transformation

Lots of companies say, “We want to go Agile!” Well that’s great. But not just for Agile’s sake. Let’s not just ‘go Agile’ and check the box, “Hey, we’ve trained everyone! We have Scrum Masters now. They know the drill”. If an approach to being Agile doesn’t fit for your culture, the culture will trump your strategy. It will push it out like an antibody.

Agile is about Inspect and Adapt.

I recommend that you look at your existing culture and what you need to become. For example, we’re not competing in the marketplace because we’re not making new innovations. This would entail a shift away from Control toward Create. As you look at Agile ways of working, you look at what structures, metrics, and policies can help you move toward a Create culture. What would those team structures look like? What would those processes look like? What assumptions do we need to make visible to consider alternatives? Those pieces, as a means to becoming more of a Create culture, are far more likely to last because of the intentional decision-making, and supporting structures implemented to get there.

How to use Competing Values Framework at an Organization

Competing Values Framework - Culture Map, agile transformation, agile adoption, change managementStart with an assessment to baseline where the company culture is at on the Competing Values Framework. Draw this out as a status quo Competing Values Framework culture map. Consider what we want to do to shift that culture. Draw those target points on the culture map. This map will help your organization identify where change will be needed.

Now, we’re looking essentially at your as-is, to-be. We can consider Agile structures, processes, and tools that you can use to move there. Agile is a means to an end to get those wins.

Approached in this way, an Agile adoption is far more likely to effect a lasting positive change. We’ve seen lots of Agile adoptions where that push-in gets pushed-back-out. The change doesn’t last more than a year or two. Sometimes we are asked to help companies on their second or third attempt.

Consider the Competing Values Framework model to look at when you’re saying, “Why are we going Agile? What kind of culture do we have? What kind of culture do we want to become?” And then, look at those Agile pieces that you can use to get there.

We will walk through more structures, metrics, policies, tools, and tips in a later post.

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