The Competing Values Framework shows that organizations are the arena where seemingly opposing values compete: the Yellow “Cooperators” versus the blue “Competitors” on the one hand and the green “Creators” and the red “Controllers” on the other hand. Competition is inevitable and these 4 mindsets must be harnessed to work together effectively to deliver the outcomes required to meet the specific business needs.
As Jeff deGraff from the University of Michigan Business School points out, value is created through the organization’s specific culture, competencies and practices and it is always assumed that the right culture, competencies and practices are determined by market and business needs.
However, research shows that organizations quite often adopt the culture, competencies and practices demonstrated by the leader rather than what the market needs! Simply put, Green leaders tend to produce green organizations, blue leaders produce blue organizations, etc. when what is required is a subtle blend of all 4 mindsets to meet complex market expectations. As we said previously, to succeed, all companies need all 4 mindsets.
Let’s therefore start with the “Cooperators” or “Yellows” as Jeff deGraff calls them.
Yellow Focus: Relationships
The “Yellows” occupy the upper left flexible/inwardly focused quadrant of the Competing Values Framework. “Yellows” are essentially people-focused and share objectives around building community, building trusting relationships, increasing morale, empowering, mentoring and coaching, all activities focused on relationships. “Yellows” are very much “feelings” oriented people and seek to get things done together in teams, seek consensus, are very much risk averse and consider their organization as a family. The tools, methods and processes they rely on involve “employee surveys”, “focus groups”, “team building”, “training and development”, activities and all types of actions that focus on team spirit, creating a feeling of group and togetherness and acting through consensus.
They are usually helpful, seek to resolve conflict, empower, listen well, encourage participation, seek to build harmonious environments and spend a lot of time networking and communicating informally.
The decision making process with “Yellows” is often extremely slow as they are focused long-term and like to get things done through consensus. “Yellows” are slow to decide and even avoid decision making, can be perceived as resistant to change, prefer informal decision making to formal procedures, spend a lot of time networking and of course, as they reason in terms of building a family, taken to the extreme, they can sometimes perhaps be perceived as hostile to being challenged and may even appear somewhat “clannish”, again in some extreme cases.
De Graff explains that quite often “Yellows” are what he calls “Value-centred” leaders who are “true believers” in the company culture and values and, as they readily adhere to the organizational goals, they are as a result paradoxically quite often the hardest to change.
Yellow type organizations and preferred roles
According to Jeff deGraff, good examples of “Yellow” type organizations would be consultancy firms and the world of solution selling which rely on getting things done through others. Examples according to Jeff deGraff would be McKinsey and Facebook and even Harley Davidson because the latter culture is heavily focused on “clan-like” family, togetherness values. “Yellows” are to be found particularly in functions like HR and organizational development, in sales & marketing, and of course in customer support, all functions the role of which is to serve others internally and/or externally and depends on strong relationships.
So why do organizations needs “Yellows”?
Why therefore do organizations need “Yellows“? Because as Jeff deGraff says, “Yellows” help to build long-term organizational sustainability through reinforcing employee loyalty, engagement and a shared identity and by helping to build the skills and competencies the organization needs to meet present and future needs.
All of these strengths and weaknesses of course “compete” particularly with the Blue “Competitor“, whose profile we will look at in a future blog.
In the meantime, check out Jeff deGraff enjoying himself explaining the strengths and weaknesses of “Yellows” in the video above. Do you agree?