Bolman/Deal Reframing Organizations

Reframing Organizations


Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal

Subtitled: The Leadership Kaleidoscope

  • Reframing is a key idea.
  • Failure due to lack of imagination.
  • Frames concept employs usable knowledge.
    • Structural
      specialized roles
      formal relationships
      division of labor
      rules, policies, procedures, and hierarchies
      Problems arise when structure does not fit situation
    • Human Resources
      extended family
      feelings, prejudices, skills, and limitations
      tailor org to people
    • Political
      interests compete for limited resources
      conflict is rampant
      bargaining, negotiation, coercion, and compromise
      Problems arise when power is concentrated in wrong place
      or when so broadly dispersed nothing gets done.
    • Symbolic
      cultural and social anthropology
      tribes, theater, or carnivals
      cultures on rituals, ceremonies, stories, heroes, myths
      org is actors
    • Integrating the Four Frames
      Multiframe thinking requires movement beyond narrow mechanical thinking.

    See Overview Table of Four Frames

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    Structural Frame

    Specialized tasks, sequential work, close supervision, top down.
  • Blueprint for pattern of expectations and procedures.
  • stable environments are hierarchies and rule oriented.

  • to achieve goals and objectives
  • rationality prevails over personal and external pressure
  • designed to fit orgs circumstances.
  • increase efficiency through specialization & division of labor
  • forms of coordination and control to insure success
  • problems solved through restructuring.

    1. How to allocate work

    knowledge or skill
    customers or clients
    2. How to coordinate different roles
    Combining vertical and lateral power.
      As a group, the org decides course of action, this is lateral or horizontal decision making. Once all agree, consensus, then the leader can act in vertical fashion because all have had a stake in its creation. Problems arise in top down situations.


  • Size and Age
  • Core Process
  • Environment
  • Strategy and Goals
  • Technology
  • people


  • Impulsive
  • Stagnant
  • Headless
  • Environment shifts
  • Technology Change
  • Growth of Org
  • Leadership Change

    Zebra pages 77 & 332

  • Small groups:
    one boss is top down
    dual authority task oriented
    Simple hierarchy is layers
    Circle borders on "web inclusion"
    All-channel network is the web. Star within the circle.

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    Human Resources Frame

    McGregor of MIT helped develop ideas. "Open system," communication of good and bad news, self-managing teams, peer-controlled pay system. This frame regards people's skills, attitudes, energy, commitment. This frame champions idea that orgs can be stimulating, rewarding, and productive. If org concerns itself with it's people's welfare then it will succeed.
  • Maslow's hierarchy of human needs:
    Physiological (oxygen, water, food, comfort)
    Safety (safe from attack)
    Belongingness and Love
    Esteem (to feel value of self)
    Self-actualization (to reach one's potential)
  • Manager's assumptions about people become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you have low expectations you will get low productivity.


    If conflicts arise people tend to:
  • withdraw
  • become apathetic, passive, indifferent
  • resist (sabotage, featherbedding, deception)
  • try to climb hierarchy to better jobs
  • form groups (unions)
  • teach children negative things about work

    Improving HR Management

  • David Owen Wales 1771, knitting mills. Stopped child labor, sent them to schools. He cared for his workers by giving clean safe homes. Preschool, child care, and schools. He knew value of human capital.
  • Invest in People
    hire right
    Reward well
    Provide job security
    Promote from within
    Train and Educate Dewey: Learn by doing OJT
    Share the wealth
  • Empowerment
    Autonomy and Participation
    Job Enrichment and Cross-Utilization
    Democracy and Egalitarianism
  • TQM = Total Quality Management
  • T-Groups: "sensitivity training," participants and researchers quorum after session to discuss observations. Trainers and participants join in groups as a sort of "plenary." Honest feedback is crucial.
  • Survey workers re motivation, communication, leadership, climate.
  • OD = Organization Development became product of TQM, T-groups, and Surveys.

    Putting it in Action

  • Interpersonal Dynamics
    What is happening?
    Why do people behave as they do?
    What can I do?
  • Model I
    problem caused by other people
    develop private, unilateral diagnose and solution
    get other person to change by logic, influence, force
    if other resists become defensive
    intensify pressure
    Result is wasted energy, strained relationship, deterioration in decision-making processes.
  • Model II
    Emphasize common goals & mutual influence
    Communicate openly publicly test assumptions
    Combine Advocacy with Inquiry
  • When mangers feel vulnerable, they revert to self-protection.

    Personality Tests

  • Meyers-Briggs
  • Barbarian's Online Test Page

  • Groups needed to solve problems
    creates informal roles with so many formal roles around
    informal rules evolve
    develop listening skills
    agree on basics
    search for commonness
    Doubt your infallibility
    differences of personalities are a groups responsiblity
  • Groups create shared vision, Leader steers the ship.

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    Political Frame

    Sees orgs as alive screaming arenas. Political Frame appears to be primary determinant of success in certain jobs. p 278
    Focus of the political Frame is not on resolution of conflict, but on strategy and tactics.
  • Orgs are coalitions
  • differences among coalition members
  • scarce resources
  • scarce resources and differences = conflict
  • bargaining, negotiating, jockeying

    PF Insists Orgs are Coalitions

  • Org should clear and consistent goal(s)
  • established by person with authority
  • articulate between structural and political.
    result can be confusing with multiplicity of goals
    many in conflict


  • Authority is just one power
  • recognizes people
  • recognizes resources
  • forces groups to articulate need and to mobilize
  • produces reality
  • players = authority + partisans
  • to those with info and expertise
  • who does rewarding has power
  • coersive
  • alliances and networks
  • Access and control of agendas
  • Control of meaning and symbols
  • Personal power


  • not a problem as much as something is amiss
  • not to be resolved as much as to form strategy and tactic
  • has benefits and costs
  • natural and inevitable
  • challenges status quo
  • encourages new ideas and approaches
  • Horizontal: between groups, depts
  • Vertical: between levels
  • Cultural: groups with diff values, traditions, beliefs. Imported


  • Managers should be "constructive" politicians.
  • political frame offers different perspectives

    Skills of Political Manager

  • Set Agendas
    sets goals and schedules
    statements of interests and direction
    provide a vision and strategy for achieving vision
    provide direction while tending to needs of stakeholders
    while gathering plant too.
    a vision without a strategy is an illusion
    not automatic
    find order amid chaos
    move with speed and focus
  • Mapping the Political Terrain
    know where explosives are
    channels of informal communications
    id principal agents of influence
    possibility of internal and external mobilization
    anticipate strategies of others
    draw it up on paper
  • Networking and Building Coalitions
    Id relevant relationships
    Assess who might resist, why and how strongly
    develop relationships with opponents to facilitate communications
    When 3 fails be forceful or subtle
    No strategy will work without power base
    Find friends, cheerleaders
    "horse trading", negotiating
  • Bargaining and Negotiation
    bargaining is central to decision making
    Creating Value vs Claiming Value
    Creative = be inventive and cooperative for win-win
    Claiming = be forceful, to achieve win-lose
    Positional bargianing means you start at a place and give concessions
    Principled bargaining: emphasizes creating not claiming
    1. separate people from problem
    2. focus on intersts, not positions
    3. invent options for mutual gain
    4. insist on objective criteria: standards of fairness


  • Individuals empower self through understanding
  • Bureaucrcies leave indiv feeling vulnerable, powerless, helpless
  • promote empowerment
  • build support
  • adversaries are both difficult and interesting
  • Let them go
    tell them your vision
    state your best understanding of their position
    Id your own contribution
    What you plan to do
  • appeal to higher order: morals, ethics
  • What is ethical
    following rules that are understood and accepted?
    comfortable discussing and defending your action?
    Would you want someone to do it to you?
    What if everyone acted that way?
    Are there more ethical ways?
  • Moral judgement:


  • conflicts as well as shared interests
  • Bottom-Up Pol action
    civil rights movement
  • Political Barriers to Control from the Top
    Central admin institutes
    Workers are surprised, not in process
  • Lesson is to involve community


  • Agents of change in larger ecosystem
  • All orgs have power

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    Symbolic Frame

    Organizations reek of symbolism from the edifices they work in to their mascots, colors, and products. That some company names have become words, ie xerox, scotch tape, coke, attest to the power of symbolism.
  • Meaning, belief, and faith are central to symbolism
  • not what happened but what it means
  • how people interpret
  • life is ambiguous
  • symbols are created to eliminate confusion, ambiguity
  • To provide direction, and anchor hope and faith
  • They form culture tapestry, myths, rituals, ceremonies, and stories.
  • sees life as more fluid than linear
  • embody and express culture
  • symbols help find meaning in chaos, give clarity in confusion, predictability in mystery
    myths, fairy tales, stories provide explanations
    rituals and ceremonies give heritage
    Metaphor, humor, and play loosen up and provide depth to situation.
  • MYTHS: Provide stories behind the story. They can blind us to new info and learning opportunities. Myths are not authority. They can keep us sane. All orgs rely on myths or sagas. Myths create internal cohesion, sense of direction, confidence.
  • STORIES & FAIRY TALES: They convey info, morals, values.
  • RITUAL: Gives structure and meaning to daily life. Morning Coffee. Used to create order, clarity, and predictability. Intiate newcomers.
  • CEREMONY: Grander than Ritual, more elaborate, less frequent. They punctuate special events.
  • METAPHOR, HUMOR, & PLAY show "as if" quality of symbols. Metaphor: Cook says he is a professional, an artist, a business person and a worker. Humor allows for loosening of tension.
  • Organizations are Cultures
  • Meetings attract people, problems and solutions
  • An org without a plan is rudderless, short-sighted, and reactive.
    Plans are symbols
    Plans become games
    Plans become excuses for interaction
    Plans become advertisements
  • Evaluations are a ritual to appease the natives.
  • Evaluation is high drama and symbolizes success or failure.
  • Power is inherently ambiguous
  • Orgs are judged primarily by appearance or symbols

    Leading Principles

  • How one becomes a member is important
    done by ritual, applying, interviewing etc
  • Diversity gives competitive edge
  • Example, not command, holds team together
  • Specialized Language fosters cohesion and commitment
  • Stories record History and Give Group Identity
  • Humor and Play Reduce Tension and Encourage Creativity
  • Informal players contribute disproportionately to Formal Roles
  • Soul is the Secret of success

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    Integrating Frames

    Table 15.1


  • Simultaneous events
  • Multiple Realities
  • Matching Frame to Situation
    Choosing A Frame

    Reframing in Action

    Essence of reframing is examining the same situation from multiple vantage points to develop holistic picture. Each Frame provides advantages, but also blind spots.
  • Structure: ignores everything outside jurisdiction, rules, policies, org charts. Does this mean schools should be concerned with things in the home etc? Reliance on structure negates other frames influence.
  • Human Resources: can cling to romanticized view of human nature. Not all are looking for growth and collaboration.
  • Politics: clinging can create cynicism and mistrust. Often misunderstood to be amoral, scheming, and unconcerned about the common good.
  • Symbolic: can be mere fluff or camoflage

    Pages 282-293 provide a great look at how to utilize the frames in action. Cindy Marshall in new position and how she could handle given situations to her advantage/disadvantage.


  • Leadership has great reverence.
  • Not tangible
  • It exists only in the relationships and in the imagination and perceptions of the engaged parties.
  • We expect leaders to persuade or inspire not coerce
  • We expect leaders to produce cooperative efforts
  • Obedience to leaders is voluntary not forced
  • Authority is often an impediment to leadership
  • Leaders make things happen and things make leaders happen.
  • Context determines what to do
  • Leaders are not independent actors
  • Leadership is a sutble process of mutual influence fusing thought, feeling, and action to produce cooperative effort in the service of purposes and values of both the leader and the led.
  • Single frame leaders fail!
  • Good leaders have vision, strength, commitment and are situational (they adapt).
  • They set standards, create focus and direction, ability to communicate vision, doing work well, inspire trust and build relationships, honesty.
  • Leadership varies with the situation.

    Reframing Leadership

    See Chart

  • Structural Leaders:
    do their homework
    rethink the relationship of structure, strategy, and environment
    focus on implementation
    experiment, evaluate, adapt
  • Human Resource Leaders:
    believe in people and communicate their belief
    visible and accessible
    empower others
  • Political Leaders:
    clarify what they want and what they can get
    assess the distribution of power and interests
    build linkages to key stakeholders
    persuade first, negotiate second, coerce when necessary
  • Symbolic Leaders:
    use symbols to capture attention
    frame experience
    discover and communicate vision
    tell stories, See Gettysburg Address

    Reframing Change

  • Hopeful beginnings, turbulent middle, and a discouraging ending
  • Change rationally conceived traditionally fail
  • Restructuring, Recruiting, and Retraining are simultaneous actions to effective Reframing
  • Retraining is crucial esp when new technology comes in
  • Veterans become neophytes
  • In realignment structure provides clarity, predictablity, and security.
  • Change creates conflict
  • As change emerges camps form: supporters, opponents, fence-sitters
  • Often status quo prevails and change agents lose
  • Arenas provide rules, referees, and spectators
  • Successful change requires an ability to frame issues, build coalitions, and establish arenas
  • Ritual is essential in change


  • The Factory: Excellence and Authorship
  • The Family: Caring and Love
  • The Jungle: Justice and Power
  • The Temple: Faith and Significance

    Chapter 20 pages 354-376 provides a great scenario of using the Frames in action. New Principal walks into problems and uses frames to solve them.

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