In our personal lives, tradition prescribes the pathway from loss to healing. Every culture sets forth a sequence for transition rituals following signi!cant loss: always a collective experience allowing pain to be expressed, felt, and often juxtaposed with humor and hope. Think of Irish actorMalachyMcCourt, who, as his mother lay dying, said to her distressed physician, “Don’t worry, Doctor, we come from a long line of dead people” (McCourt, 2012).
In many societies, the sequence of ritual steps involves a wake, a funeral, a period of mourning, and some form of commemoration. From a symbolic perspective, ritual is an essential companion to signi!cant change. A naval change-of-command ceremony, for example, is scripted by tradition: After a wake for the outgoing commander, the mantle of command passes to the new one in a full-dress ceremony attended by friends, relatives, of!cers, and sailors. The climactic moment of transition occurs as the incoming and outgoing skippers face each other at attention. The new commander salutes and says, “I relieve you, sir.” The retiring commander salutes and responds, “I stand relieved.” During the ceremony, sailors post the new commander’s name at the unit’s entrance. After a time, the old commander’s face or name appears in a picture or plaque on a wall honoring previous commanders (personal communication with author, 2006).
Transition rituals initiate a sequence of steps that help people let go of the past, deal with a painful present, and move into a meaningful future. The form of these rites varies widely, but they are essential to the ability to face and transcend loss. Otherwise, people vacillate between clinging to the old and rushing to the future. An effective ritual helps them let go of old ways and embrace a new beginning.
Releasing a Negative Past Many !nd it hard to understand how villains, negative stories, and tragedies can hold a culture together, but downbeat symbols hold sway when people have nothing more positive to bond them together. In such cultural voids, griping can become the predominant ritual. Evil heroes emerge as popular icons.
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In one example, new owners acquired a newspaper mired in a negative past. Letting go of old tyrants and wounds was essential to a new, more positive beginning. The new owners sensed they needed to create something dramatic to help people let go of their historic attachment to pessimism. They invited all employees to an unusual event. Employees arrived to !nd a room !lled with black balloons. Pictures of reviled managers were af!xed to the lid of an open cof!n positioned prominently in the front. The startled employees silently took their places. The new CEO opened the ceremony: “We are assembled today to say farewell to the former owners of this newspaper. But it only seems !tting that we should say a few words about them before they leave us forever.”
On cue, without prompting or rehearsal, individuals rose from their seats, came forward, and, one by one, grabbed a picture. Each then brie”y described life under the sway of “the bastards,” tore up the person’s photograph, and threw it into the cof!n.When all the likenesses were gone, a group ofNewOrleans style jazzmusicians !led in playing amournful dirge. Cof!n bearersmarched the cof!n outside. Employees followed and released the black balloons into the sky. A buffet lunch followed, festooned by balloons with the colors of the new company logo.
The CEO admitted later, “What a risk. I was scared to death. It came off without a hitch and the atmosphere is now completely different. People are talking and laughing together. Circulation has improved. So has morale. Who would have ‘thunk’ it?”
CHANGE STRATEGY The frames offer a checklist of issues for change agents to recognize and respond to. How can they be combined in an integrated model? How does the change process move through time? John Kotter, an in”uential student of leadership and change, has studied both successful and unsuccessful change efforts in organizations around the world. In his book The Heart of Change (2002, written with Dan S. Cohen), he summarizes what he has learned. His basic message is very much like ours. Too many change initiatives fail because they rely too much on “data gathering, analysis, report writing, and presentations” (p. 8) instead of a more creative approach aimed at grabbing the “feelings that motivate useful action” (p. 8). In other words, change agents fail when they rely mostly on reason and structure while neglecting human, political, and symbolic elements.
Kotter describes eight stages that he repeatedly found in successful change initiatives:
1. Creating a sense of urgency
2. Pulling together a guiding team with the needed skills, credibility, connections, and authority to move things along
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3. Creating an uplifting vision and strategy
4. Communicating the vision and strategy through a combination of words, deeds, and symbols
5. Removing obstacles, or empowering people to move ahead
6. Producing visible symbols of progress through short-term victories
7. Sticking with the process and refusing to quit when things get tough
8. Nurturing and shaping a new culture to support the emerging innovative ways
Kotter’s stages depict a dynamic process moving through time, though not necessarily in linear sequence. In practice, stages overlap, and change agents sometimes need to cycle back to earlier phases.
Combining Kotter’s stages with the four frames generates the model presented in Exhibit 18.2. The table lists each of Kotter’s stages and illustrates actions that change agents might take. Not every frame is essential to each stage, but all are critical to overall success.
Consider, for example, Kotter’s !rst stage: developing a sense of urgency. Strategies from the human resource, political, and symbolic strategies all contribute. Symbolically, leaders can construct a persuasive story by painting a picture of the current challenge or crisis and emphasizing why failure to act would be catastrophic. Human resource techniques of skill building, participation, and open meetings can help to get the story out and gauge audience reaction. Behind the scenes, leaders can meet with key players, assess their interests, and negotiate or use power as necessary to get people on board.
As another example, Kotter’s !fth step calls for removing obstacles and empowering people to move forward. Structurally, that means identifying rules, roles, procedures, and patterns that block progress and then working to realign the system. Meanwhile, the human resource frame counsels training, support, and resources to enable people to master new behaviors. Symbolically, a few “public hangings” (for example, !ring, demoting, or exiling prominent opponents) could reinforce the message. Public celebrations could honor successes and herald a new beginning.
Exhibit 18.2 is an illustration, not an exhaustive plan. Every situation and change effort is unique. Creative change agents can use the ideas to stimulate thinking and spur imagination as they develop an approach that !ts local circumstances.
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Exhibit 18.2. Reframing Kotter’s Change Stages.
Kotter’s Stage of Change Structural frame Human resource frame Political frame Symbolic frame
1. Sense of urgency
2. Guiding team
3. Uplifting vision and strategy
4. Communicate vision and strategy through words, deeds, and symbols
5. Remove obstacles and empower people to move forward
6. Early wins
7. Keep going when going gets tough
8. New culture to support new ways
Develop coordination strategy
Build implementation plan
Create structures to support change process
Remove or alter structures and procedures that support the old ways
Plan for short-term victories
Keep people on plan
Align structure to new culture
Involve people throughout organization; solicit input
Do team-building for guiding team
Hold meetings to communicate direction, get feedback
Provide training, resources, support
Create a “culture” team; broad involvement in developing culture
Network with key players; use power base
Stack team with credible, in!uential members
Map political terrain; manage con!ict; develop agenda
Create arenas; build alliances; defuse opposition
Invest resources and power to ensure early wins
Tell a compelling story
Put chief executive and organizational heroes on team
Craft hopeful vision of future rooted in organization’s history
Visible leadership involvement; kickoff ceremonies
Public demotion or discharge of opponents
Communicate and celebrate early signs of progress
Hold revival meetings
Mourn the past; celebrate heroes of the revolution; share stories of the journey
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CONCLUSION Innovation inevitably generates four issues. First, it affects individuals’ ability to feel effective, valued, and in control. Without support, training, and a chance to participate in the process, people become anchored to the past, blocking forward motion. Second, change disrupts existing patterns of roles and relationships, producing confusion and uncertainty. Structural patterns need revamping and realignment to support the new direction. Third, change creates con”ict between winners and losers—those who bene!t from the new direction and those who do not. Con”ict requires creation of arenas where players negotiate the issues and redraw the political map. Finally, change creates loss of meaning for recipients of the change. Transition rituals, mourning the past, and celebrating the future help people let go of old attachments and embrace new ways of doing things. Kotter’s model of successful change includes eight stages. Integrated with the frames, it offers an orchestrated, integrated design for responding to needs for learning, realignment, negotiation, and grieving.
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19 c h a p t e r
Reframing Ethics and Spirit
For what shall it pro!t a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
—Mark 8:36 (King James Version)
Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz asked that question in a memo to his company’s leadership team in 2007, wondering if the stores had lost the
soul of the past. But for many business leaders around the globe, soul has no place in business, and ethics comes down to the slippery concept of “the morals of the marketplace”—meaning “Anything for a buck,” or “If other people do it, it must be okay.”
That was how German electronics giant Siemens approached the question, “Should we pay someone a bribe if that will help us bring in business?” Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it has been illegal since 1977 for U.S. businesses to pay bribes to government of!cials, but in Germany bribes were a legal and deductible business expense until 1999. Like many other German !rms, Siemens routinely paid bribes in foreign countries whenever that seemed to be the local custom. When German law changed in 1999, Siemens changed too—not by stopping bribes, but by !nding creative ways to hide them.
It wasn’t easy to hide more than $1 billion in slush money spread around the globe: $5 million to the prime minister’s son in Bangladesh, $12.7 million to of!cials in Nigeria (government contracts), $14million in China (medical equipment), $16million inVenezuela (urban rail lines), $20 million in Israel (power plants), and $40 million in Argentina (a $1 billion contract to produce national identity cards). The $1.7 million to SaddamHussein and
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, Sixth Edition. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. ! 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by Jossey-Bass. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, Sixth Edition. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. ! 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by Jossey-Bass.
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his cronies was modest by comparison. But Siemens leadership was resourceful in hiding the money trail. They stashed funds in hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts and hired local “consultants”with ties to government of!cials whose job was to put cash into the right hands. To heap camou”age atop the camou”age, Siemens established a toothless monitoring process—which was supposed to ensure that no bribes were being paid—and even ordered Siemens managers who oversaw the bribery to sign pledges attesting that they had not done what they and their bosses knew they had done (Schubert and Miller, 2008).