Managing complexity via the Competing Values Framework

Yew Kwan Tong, Richard D. Arvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose – While advancements in theory have helped illumine the complex workings of today’s organization, little is said on the practical implications for managers in terms of their role and behavioral style. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how a behavioral diagnostic tool – the Competing Values Framework (CVF; Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1983) – can be utilized to develop managers in the behavioral skills needed to stay relevant and effective amid new organizational realities. Design/methodology/approach – The conceptual anchor of this paper is in complexity theory. The authors conducted a literature search for articles on complexity theory in selective management journals, and reviewed them to extract key lessons for effective managerial behavior. Findings – Three behaviors found to be central to managing complexity were: enabling, sensemaking, and facilitating shared leadership. It is suggested that the CVF is a useful tool for helping managers develop their behavioral repertoire and hence their skills for enacting these behaviors. Originality/value – The paper synthesizes a guiding frame for developing managers in some of the behavioral skills needed to handle complexity at the workplace. Toward this end, useful tips are offered for putting together a short training workshop where the CVF is rediscovered as a unique developmental tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-673
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Management Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 8 2015


  • Competing Values Framework
  • Complexity theory
  • Management learning

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