Reframing Organizations
Lee G. Bolman &
Terrence E. Deal
Typical Organization Diagnosis
• Blame the people
– They are incompetent or have bad attitudes
• Blame the bureaucracy
– The rules are too stifling or there is a chaotic
lack of roles and processes
• Blame the thirst for power
– People are only looking out for themselves
These aren’t wrong
they’re just an oversimplification
Frames
Lenses –focus, filter
some things and
allow others to pass
through, help us
order experience.
Frames
Tools –strengths and limitations.
Wrong tool gets in the way; right
tool makes the job easier.
Structural Frame
•From sociology and management science.
•Emphasizes goals, specialized roles, and
formal relationships.
•Structures (Organization charts) fit
organization’s environment and technology.
•Responsibilities, rules, policies, procedures.
Structural Tensions
Differentiation (of roles/tasks)
Integration (coordination of rules/products)
–
–
–
–
Specialized roles/committees
Rules and policies
Authority or a “Coordinator” role
Systems of control/coordination (meetings,
committees, reporting lines, etc)
Structural Frame
Problems arise
when the structure
does not fit the
situation.
Time to
restructure.
Human Resource Frame
•From psychology.
•Organization as an extended family.
•Individuals with needs, feelings, prejudices,
skills, and limitations.
•Capacity to learn—and capacity to defend
old attitudes and belief.
Human
Resource
Frame
Challenge is to tailor
organizations to people—find a
way for individuals to get the job
done while feeling good about
what they are doing.
Attending to People’s Needs
•
•
•
•
Training and Development
Belonging
Mattering
Esteem (both proud of selves and feel
valued by others)
• Self-actualization (reaching fullest
potential)
Political Frame
•Rooted in political science.
•Organizations as arenas, contests, or jungles.
•Different interests competing for power/resources.
•Rampant conflict—
differences in needs,
perspectives, and
lifestyles.
•Bargaining, negotiation,
coercion, compromise,
coalitions.
Political Assumptions
• Organizations are made of people and interest
groups with their own goals/agendas
• The most important decisions involve allocating
scarce resources – who gets what?
• Conflict is central to organization dynamics
• Power is the most important asset
• Decisions emerge from: bargaining, negotiation
and jockeying for position, and have winners
and losers.
Political Resource Frame
Problems arise when power is
concentrated in the wrong places
or is too broadly dispersed.
Political skill
•Know your sources of power.
•Know everyone else’s sources of power and
what they want.
•Use informal communication.
•Anticipate strategies others are likely to
employ.
Symbolic Frame
Draws from social and cultural
anthropology
• Intentional shaping of organizational
culture.
Tools:
• Story/Narrative
• Heroes/Tales
• Traditions/Rituals
• Initiations/Ceremonies
• Symbols
• Use of Space
• Metaphor
Assumptions Symbolic Frame
• What is important is not what happens, but what
it means (what it is interpreted to mean)
• Events have multiple meanings because people
interpret experience differently.
• Events and processes are more important for
what is expressed than what is produced.
• Culture (shared stories, traditions, symbols) are
the glue that unites people around shared goals
and values.
Symbolic Frame
Problems arise when actors play their parts
badly, when symbols lose their meaning, when
ceremonies and rituals lose their potency.
Rebuild the expressive or
spiritual side of organization
through the use of symbols and
stories.
Reframing Organizations: A
Review
Match the theory or model with
the frame.
Abraham Maslow (1954)...

defined the hierarchy of pre-potent needs
5
4
3
2
1
5. self-actualization
4. self-esteem
3. belongingness
2. safety, security
1. physiological
Helgesen’s Web of Inclusion
The term “web of inclusion” originally came from The
Female Advantage. The women-led organizations I studied
in that book were not standard hierarchies led from the top
down. They were more circular in structure and were led
from the center…. I believe that great companies will all
operate as webs of inclusion in the future. Webs allow
organizations to draw on the widest possible base of talent,
a huge advantage in an economy based on knowledge.
They allow resources to flow to where they’re needed.
They undermine the tendency to become hierarchical. They
put organizations more directly in touch with those they
serve, and make partnerships easier to achieve.
- Sally Helgesen
Bolman and Deal’s
Leading with Soul
• Honor the past
• Celebrate the present
• Look to the future
Theory X and Theory Y
Mintzberg’s Five Configurations
of Organizations
•
•
•
•
•
Simple Structure
Machine Bureaucracy
Professional Bureaucracy
Divisionalised Form
Adhocracy
Niccolo Machiavelli
• It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
• There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the
advantage of others.
• Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to
secure themselves against attack, and then they attack
others.
• It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges
laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that
they are always going to act according to the wickedness
of their spirits whenever they have free scope.
Denning’s The Secret Language
of Leadership
In his exciting new book, The Secret
Language of Leadership: How Leaders
Inspire Action Through Narrative, (JosseyBass, October 2007), business narrative
expert Steve Denning explains why
traditional approaches to leadership
communication don’t work and reveals the
hidden patterns that effective leaders use to
spark change. He shows how anyone can
inspire enduring enthusiasm for a cause,
even in skeptical, cynical or even hostile
audiences and provides a comprehensive
guide to the nitty-gritty of transformational
leadership.
Fisher and Ury’s, Getting to Yes
Do not engage in positional bargaining –
staking out a position and making relectant
concessions.
•Separate people from the problem
•Focus on interests, not positions
•Invent options for mutual gain
•Insist on objective criteria – standards of
fairness in substance and procedure
•Create value for both parties
Overview of the Four-Frame Model
Frame
Structural
Human
Resource
Political
Symbolic
Metaphor
for
Organization
Factory or
Machine
Family
Jungle
Carnival, temple,
theater
Central
Concepts
Rules, roles, goals,
policies,
technology,
environment
Needs, skills,
relationships
Power, conflict,
competition,
organizational
politics
Culture, meaning,
metaphor, ritual,
ceremony, stories,
heroes
Image of
Leadership
Social
architecture
Empowerment
Advocacy
Inspiration
Basic
Leadership
Challenge
Attune structure
to task,
technology,
environment
Align
organizational
and human
needs
Develop agenda
and power base
Create faith, beauty,
meaning
Organization
al Ethic
Excellence
Caring
Justice
Faith
Leadership
Contribution
Authorship
Love
Power
Significance
Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 15 & p. 344
Reframing Organizations: A
Review
Identify your natural frame(s)
IMPLICATIONS FOR
LEADERSHIP
Reframing Leadership
Frame
Structural
Human
Resources
Political
Symbolic
Effective
Leader
Analyst,
architect
Catalyst,
servant
Advocate,
negotiator
Prophet, poet
Effective
Leadership
Process
Analysis,
design
Support,
empowerment
Advocacy,
coalition
building
Inspiration,
framing
experience
Ineffective
Leader
Petty tyrant
Weakling,
pushover
Con artist,
thug
Fanatic, fool
Ineffective
Leadership
Process
Management
by detail
and fiat
Abdication
Manipulation,
fraud
Mirage, smoke &
mirrors
Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 303
Effective Structural Leaders
• Do their homework, they understand all
aspects of the organization and how each
affects the others
• Understand the relationship of structure,
strategy and environment
• Focus on implementation, are ready to
address resistance, training, and power
grabs
• Experiment, evaluate, and adapt
Effective Human Resource Leaders
• Believe in people and communicate their
belief
• Are visible and accessible
• Empower others
Effective Political Leaders
• Clarify what they want and what they can
get
• Assess the distribution of power and
interests
• Build links among key stakeholders
• Persuade first, negotiate second, and
coerce only if necessary
Effective Symbolic Leaders
•
•
•
•
•
•
Lead by example
Use symbols to capture attention
Frame experience
Communicate a vision
Tell stories
Respect and use history
Chapter 16: A case study
WHEN TO USE WHICH
FRAME?
Four Corners
WHEN TO USE WHICH
FRAME?
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Frame if answer is No
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Frame if answer is No
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Human Resource, Symbolic Structural, Political
Is the technical quality
of the decision
important?
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Frame if answer is No
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Human Resource, Symbolic Structural, Political
Is the technical quality
of the decision
important?
Structural
Human Resource,
Political, Symbolic
Are there high levels of
ambiguity and
uncertainty?
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Human Resource, Symbolic Structural, Political
Is the technical quality
of the decision
important?
Structural
Are there high levels of Political, Symbolic
ambiguity and
uncertainty?
Frame if answer is No
Human Resource,
Political, Symbolic
Structural, Human
Resource
Are conflict and scarce
resources significant?
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Frame if answer is No
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Human Resource, Symbolic Structural, Political
Is the technical quality
of the decision
important?
Structural
Human Resource,
Political, Symbolic
Are there high levels of Political, Symbolic
ambiguity and
uncertainty?
Structural, Human
Resource
Are conflict and scarce
resources significant?
Structural, Human
Resource
Political, Symbolic
Are you working from
the bottom up?
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Choosing a Frame
Question
Frame if answer is Yes
Frame if answer is No
Are individual
commitment and
motivation essential to
success?
Human Resource, Symbolic Structural, Political
Is the technical quality
of the decision
important?
Structural
Human Resource,
Political, Symbolic
Are there high levels of Political, Symbolic
ambiguity and
uncertainty?
Structural, Human
Resource
Are conflict and scarce
resources significant?
Political, Symbolic
Structural, Human
Resource
Are you working from
the bottom up?
Political, Symbolic
Structural, Human
Resource
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 310
Reframing Change
Frame
Structural
Human
Resources
Political
Symbolic
Barriers to
Change
Loss of clarity
and stability,
confusion,
chaos
Anxiety,
uncertainty,
feelings of
incompetence,
neediness
Disempowerment,
conflict between
winners and
losers
Loss of meaning
and purpose,
clinging to the
past
Essential
Strategies
Communicating,
realigning and
renegotiating
formal patterns
and policies
Training to
develop new
skills,
participation
and
involvement,
psychological
support
Creating arenas
where issues can
be renegotiated
and new coalitions
formed
Creating
transition rituals:
mourning the
past, celebrating
the future
Source: Bolman & Deal (2003), p. 321
No one best way…
Learn to work across and integrate frames.
Organizations simultaneously have multiple
true realities.
Have awareness of your natural tendency.
Use that strength
Remind yourself to use other frames
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Structural Human Resources Political Symbolic