Are con!ict and scarce resources signi”cant? Human resource logic !ts best in situations favoring collaboration—as in pro!table, growing !rms or highly uni!ed schools. But when con”ict is high and resources are scarce, dynamics of con”ict, power, and self- interest regularly come to the fore. In situations like a bidding war or an election campaign, sophisticated political strategies are vital to success. In other cases, skilled leaders may !nd that an overarching symbol helps potential adversaries transcend their differences and work together.
In 1994, after decades of increasing turmoil, the Republic of South Africa !nally ended its systemofwhite rule and held a national election inwhich the blackmajority could vote for the !rst time. The AfricanNational Congress and its leader, NelsonMandela, came to power with more than 60 percent of the vote, but it was a sudden and wrenching adjustment for many South Africans. Historic tensions plagued the new government, and there was a serious threat of violence and guerilla warfare from armed and dangerous white bitter-enders.
Looking for a way to build unity, Mandela alighted on an unlikely vehicle: rugby. White South Africans loved the sport and the national team, the Springboks. Black South Africans hated rugby and routinely cheered for the Springboks’ opponents. Mandela lobbied to bring the rugby world cup tournament to South Africa, and he charmed the Springbok captain in order to enlist him as a champion of a united nation. Mandela then undertook the even harder task of persuading black South Africans to
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support a team they hated. He was initially booed by distressed supporters, but his credibility, persuasive skills, and a mantra of “one team, one nation” eventually persuaded most of his followers to get on board. Then something magical happened. No one expected the Springboks to go very far in the tournament, but they kept winning until they reached the !nals.
Mandela’s coup de grâce, the !nal submission of white South Africa to his charms, came minutes before the !nal itself when the old terrorist-in-chief went onto the pitch to shake hands with the players dressed in the colors of the ancient enemy, the green Springbok shirt.
For a moment, Ellis Park Stadium, 95 per cent white on the day, stood in dumb, disbelieving silence. Then someone took up a cry that others followed, ending in a thundering roar: “Nel-son! Nel-son! Nel-son!”
. . . With Mandela playing as an invisible 16th man, Joel Stransky, the one Jewish player in the Springbok team, kicked the winning drop goal in extra time.
Mandela emerged again, still in his green jersey, and, to even louder cries of “Nel-son! Nel-son!,” walked onto the pitch to shake the hand of [Springbok captain] François Pienaar.
As he prepared to hand over the cup to his captain, he said: “François, thank you for what you have done for our country.” Pienaar, with extraordinary presence of mind, replied: “No, Mr President. Thank you for what you have done” (Carlin, 2007. Reprinted with permission).
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. There wasn’t a dry eye in the country. Everybody celebrated: one country at last.
• Are you working from the bottom up? Restructuring is an option primarily for those in a position of authority. Human resource approaches to improvement—such as training, job enrichment, and participation—usually need support from the top to be successful. The political frame, in contrast, is more likely to work for changes initiated from below. Change agents lower in the pecking order rarely can rely on formal clout, so they have to !nd other bases of power, such as symbolic acts, to draw attention to their cause and embarrass opponents. The 9/11 terrorists could have picked from an almost unlimited array of targets, but theWorld Trade Towers and the Pentagon were deliberately selected for their symbolic value.
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The questions in Exhibit 15.2 cannot be followedmechanically. They won’t substitute for judgment and intuition in deciding how to size up or respond to a situation. But they can guide and augment the process of choosing a promising course of action. Finding a workable strategy is a matter of playing probabilities. In some cases, your line of thinking might lead you to a familiar frame. But if the tried-and-true approach seems likely to fall short, reframe again. Youmay discover an exciting and creative new lens for deciphering the situation. Then you can take on the challenge of communicating your breakthrough to others who still champion the old reality.
EFFECTIVE MANAGERS AND ORGANIZATIONS Does the ability to use multiple frames actually help managers decipher events and determine alternative ways to respond? If so, how are the frames embedded and integrated in everyday situations? We examine several strands of research to answer these questions. First, we look at four in”uential guides to organizational excellence: In Search of Excellence (Peters and Waterman, 1982), Built to Last (Collins and Porras, 1994), Good to Great (Collins, 2001), and Great by Choice (Collins and Hansen, 2011). We then review three studies of managerial work: The General Managers (Kotter, 1982), Managing Public Policy (Lynn, 1987), and Real Managers (Luthans, Yodgetts, and Rosenkrantz, 1988). Finally, we look at studies of managers’ frame orientations to see whether current thinking is equal to present-day challenges.
Organizational Excellence Peters and Waterman’s best-seller In Search of Excellence (1982) explored the question, “What do high-performing corporations have in common?” Peters and Waterman studied more than 60 large companies in six major industries: high technology (Digital Equipment and IBM, for example), consumer products (Kodak, Procter & Gamble), manufacturing (3M, Caterpillar), service (McDonald’s, Delta Airlines), project management (Boeing, Bechtel), and natural resources (Exxon, DuPont). The companies were chosen on the basis of both objective performance indicators (such as long-term growth and pro!tability) and the judgment of knowledgeable observers.
Collins and Porras (1994) attempted a similar study of what they termed “visionary” companies but tried to address two methodological limitations in the Peters andWaterman study. Collins and Porras included a comparison group (missing in Peters and Waterman) by matching each of their top performers with another !rm in the same industry with a comparable history. Their pairings included Citibank with Chase Manhattan, General
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Electric withWestinghouse, Sony with Kenwood, Hewlett-Packard with Texas Instruments, and Merck with P!zer. Collins and Porras emphasized long-term results by restricting their study to companies at least 50 years old with evidence of consistent success over many decades.
Built to Lastwas the !rst in a series of works that Jim Collins, alone and with colleagues, has produced that attempt to draw lessons from successful companies. Good to Great (2001) used a comparative approach similar to that of Collins and Porras but focused on a different criterion for success: instead of organizations that had excelled for many years, he identi!ed a group of companies that had made a dramatic breakthrough frommiddling to superlative and compared them with similar companies that had remained ordinary. In Great by Choice, Collins and Hansen focused on seven companies (Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker) that had dramatically outperformed the stock market and their respective industries over a period of two to three decades.
All of these studies identi!ed roughly seven or eight critical characteristics of excellent companies, similar in some respects and distinct in others, as Exhibit 15.3 shows. All suggest that excellent companies manage to embrace paradox. They are loose yet tight, highly disciplined yet entrepreneurial. Peters and Waterman’s “bias for action” and Collins and Porras’s “try a lot, keep what works” both point to risk taking and experimenting as ways to learn and avoid bogging down in analysis paralysis. All four studies emphasize a clear core identity that helps !rms stay on track and be clear about what they will not do.
All of the Collins studies emphasized a non!nding that ran afoul of conventional wisdom: They did not !nd that success was associated with larger-than-life charismatic leaders. All three books highlighted leaders who were typically homegrown and focused on building their organization rather than their own reputation. Collins’s “level 5” leaders were driven but self-effacing, extremely disciplined, and hardworking but consistent in attribut- ing success to their colleagues rather than themselves.
As Exhibit 15.3 shows, all four studies produced three-frame models of excellence. Notice that none of the characteristics of excellence are political. Does an effective organization eliminate politics? Or did the authors miss something? By de!nition, their samples focused on companies with a strong record of growth and pro!tability. In!ghting and backbiting tend to be less visible on a winning team than on a losing one. When resources are relatively abundant, political dynamics are less prominent because it’s easier to use slack assets to keep everyone happy. Recall, too, that a strong culture breeds people who share both values and habits of mind. A unifying culture reduces con”ict and political strife—or at least makes them easier to manage.
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Exhibit 15.3. Characteristics of Excellent or Visionary Companies.
Peters and Collins and Collins and Frame Waterman, 1982 Porras, 1994 Collins, 2001 Hansen, 2011