Quinn, Robert E. - Competing Values Framework

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

The competing values framework of management developed by Quinn, Faerman, Thomspon and McGrath is an approach to management and management education that is entirely based upon concern structure concepts (Quinn et al. 2003[1]). They begin their analysis with a review of different approaches to management as they emerged in the history of American industrialization, and then construct a unified approach which combines all of the historical methods into one contemporary method which applies different styles to different situations according to relationships of fit. In management education, this framework helps managers consider all of the roles they may have to play, identifying areas of strength and weakness and indicating where further learning and training are needed.

The various historical epochs reviewed by Quinn et al. are reviewed below, preceded by the Adizes PAEI letters that characterize the different stages. Historical dates refer to the time periods when these models emerged. None of these models are considered to have disappeared entirely. The concerns of each remain valid to a degree even as new models arise.

PA – 1900 to 1925: The Rational Goal Model & the Internal Process Model
During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the US economy grew dramatically as the society shifted from its agrarian base towards an industrial one. People faced new economic pressures to create wealth. Living conditions changed, and new techniques for increasing productivity emerged, including Henry Ford’s assembly line; in part an application of Frederick Taylor’s principles of ‘scientific management’. Taylor’s rationalization of work particularized the production process, involving an analysis (or ‘science’) of every job, selecting and training workers to fit these explicit requirements, rewarding productivity and keeping the process coordinated and running smoothly so that workers would never be hindered in their work.

These socio economic pressures and developments gave rise to what the authors call the rational goal model of management. Profit was the ultimate goal and final arbiter of management decisions, and making harsh rationalistic judgments that ruthlessly placed the drive for profits above humane considerations was seen as a sign of strong management. There was little unionization and a lot of hardship for workers.

As industrial organizations grew, their process of hierarchical layering also exhibited the same penchant for particularized roles and explicit rules free of redundancy. This so-called internal process model of American management began to develop during this period, but came more fully into its own in the second quarter of the twentieth century when Max Weber’s work on bureaucracy and Hernri Fayol’s work on administration were translated into English.

I – 1926 to 1950: Emergence of the Human Relations Model
This period saw the stock market crash, the Depression, and World War II with its massive concentration of the American public into large industrial cities. Unionization and rising wages prompted a boom in the market for consumer goods, putting technological labor-saving devices in peoples’ homes. Workers were less docile, and more willing and able to withhold their cooperation during disputes with management. New management skills were needed in this environment, and Dale Carnegie’s legendary book How to Make Friends and Influence People hit the market and became hugely popular. The academic study of industrial relations began, and the human relations model of management emerged.

The human relations model of management emphasizes commitment, involvement, team cohesion and the upkeep of morale. Equality-enhancing group processes like consensus-building and conflict resolution. The goal is still to increase productivity, but to do this by increasing employee commitment, by resolving tensions and enhancing motivation.

The human relations model directly opposed many of the assumptions of the still-ascendant rational goals and internal processes model. This made it incomprehensible to many managers at first, setting up a two-cultures problem in management. Uptake of its recommendations was uneven, and it was often diluted into a sort of friendly authoritarianism. However, its development continued (and continues still), and by the next period of the twentieth century it began delivering more meaningful results in major industrial organizations.

E – 1951 to 1975: Emergence of the Open Systems Model
The American economy grew up against some limits during this period, specifically the 1971 oil embargo and the swift growth of the Japanese export market. Government debt was high. Heavy industries had to reinvent themselves, and service industries gained increasing importance in the domestic economy. Opposition to the Vietnam war prompted a re-evaluation and distancing from a collective national identity. Education levels had risen, and people began reading across a broader range of topics, including social, economic, ethical and ecological issues. The human relations school of management had been articulating a contrarian position in the field of management for some time, and the population was in a searching and questioning mood. These were receptive times for new insights.

The message from prominent management thinkers was that organizations were much more open and dynamic than earlier theories had indicated. Systems thinking entered the profession through the efforts of researchers at various American institutions. Empirical studies revealed that organizations were really not much like machines that managers could control according to plan. Mintzberg’s work showed that managers actually worked in dynamic and highly unpredictable contexts, with little time or use for rational planning. Much of their time had to be spent creating quick solutions for contingent problems. The calm, rational organizational pyramid gave a false impression of how hectic and spontaneous management work really was.

Emerging open systems models emphasized the need for fluidity, attentiveness and responsiveness in an ambiguous environment. It emphasizes how constant innovation and adaptation is needed in order to acquire and leverage external resources. Executive risk is high in turbulent times, and decisions have to be made quickly and on the spot at times, so a strong shared vision, mission and value framework are needed for coordination of actions. In this missionary culture, employee underperformance is often attributed either to disaffection or burnout/overload stress. Managers need to find creative ways to help keep the balance on their teams.

PAEI – Balance/Contingency Models and the Competing Values Model
After decades of experimentation, management thinkers were beginning to notice that all of the various styles of management seemed to produce their share of successes and failures. It seemed that managers sometimes needed to use one approach, and sometimes another. Getting the right balance was key. Importantly, it was also clear that the priorities within a certain situation shifted and changed quite often. Balance always had to be adjusted to track the changing context.

Quinn, Faerman, Thompson and McGrath position their own competing values model as a balance model. Their model explicitly affirms the usefulness of all four approaches to management. The four competing values are arranged along two continua, flexibility-control and internal-external focus. For example, the rational goal model reflects a control motive and an external focus. Within each resulting quadrant, they define two management roles or “orientations”. The rational goal quadrant contains two management roles: director and producer. These have a circumplex relationship with the axes, so if a circle was drawn around the crossed axes and sliced into eight pie-sections, the producer role would be on the “external focus” side of the rational goal quadrant, and the director role on the “control” side. One could say that the rational goal value set has a control slant and an external focus slant, and varying emphasis can be placed on each one.

The four competing values from Quinn et al are summarized below.

P – Rational Goal Model (Control, External Focus)

Values: Success measured by profits, attained through goal/task clarification and taking action.

Role (External slant) – Producer: Full task focus, high interest, motivation, energy, drive. Great personal productivity and intense goal focus. Can foster a productive work environment and manage time energy/stress levels of team. – Negatives: Overachieving, individualistic (destroys cohesion).

Role (Control slant) – Director: Maps out the way through problem clarification, option evaluation, planning, goal setting, role/task definition and designing rules and instructions. Directly supervises work and keeps team on task. – Negatives: Unreceptive, unfeeling (offends individuals).

A – Internal Process Model (Control, Internal Focus)

Values: Stability, hierarchy, continuity, routinization, attainted through defining responsibilities, measurement and documentation.

Role (Internal slant) – Monitor: Tracking individual job performance, tracking team or project performance, ensuring standardization of processes, analyzing information and critical thinking. – Negatives: Unimaginative, tedious (neglects possibilities).

Role (Control slant) – Coordinator: Managing project dependencies, breaking down and designing work assignments, managing dependencies across functions. – Negatives: Skeptical, cynical (stifles progress).

E – Open Systems Model (Flexibility, External Focus)

Values: Innovation, adaptation and growth through external bargaining, brokering and negotiation, creative problem solving, innovation and change management.

Role (External slant) – Broker: builds and maintains a resource network and power base, presents concepts and new ideas, negotiates agreements and commitment. – Negatives: Opportunistic, overly aspiring (disrupts continuity).

Role (Flexibility slant) – Innovator: Living with, adapting to and managing change, creative thinking. – Negatives: Unrealistic, impractical (wastes energy).

I – Human Relations Model (Flexibility, Internal Focus)

Values: Commitment, cohesion and morale through involvement, participation, conflict resolution, teamwork and consensus building.

Role (Internal Slant) – Facilitator: Team building, managing conflict and participatory decision making processes. – Negatives: Overly democratic, too participative (slows production).

Role (Flexibility slant) – Mentor: People skills, understanding of self and others, effective communication and personnel development. – Negatives: Soft-hearted, permissive (abdicates authority).

1. Quinn, R. E., Faerman, S. R., Thompson, M. P., & McGrath, M. R. (2003). Becoming a Master Manager: A Competency Framework (3 Ed.). New York: John Wiley and Sons.
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