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Politically, the relationship between the FBI and CIA was born in turf con”ict because of Roosevelt’s decision to give responsibility for foreign intelligence to Donovan instead of to Hoover. The friction persisted over the decades as both agencies vied for turf and funding from Congress and the White House.

Symbolically, different histories and missions led to very distinct cultures. The FBI, which built its image with the dramatic capture or killing of notorious gang leaders, bank robbers, and foreign agents, liked to generate headlines by pouncing on suspects quickly and publicly. The CIA preferred to work in the shadows, believing that patience and secrecy were vital to its task of collecting intelligence and rooting out foreign spies.

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Senior U.S. of!cials have known for years that tension between the FBI and CIA damages U.S. security. But most initiatives to improve the relationship have been partial and ephemeral, falling well short of addressing the full range of issues.

Multiframe Thinking The overview of the four-frame model in Exhibit 1.1 shows that each of the frames has its own image of reality. You may be drawn to some and put off by others. Some perspectives may seem clear and straightforward, while others seem puzzling. But learning to apply all four deepens your appreciation and understanding of organizations. Galileo discovered this when he devised the !rst telescope. Each lens he added contributed to a more accurate image of the heavens. Successful managers take advantage of the same truth. Like physicians, they reframe, consciously or intuitively, until they understand the situation at hand. They use more than one lens to develop a diagnosis of what they are up against and how to move forward.

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Make worse




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Exhibit 1.1. Overview of the Four-Frame Model.


Human Structural Resource Political Symbolic

Metaphor for

Factory or machine

Family Jungle Carnival, temple, theater


Supporting disciplines

Sociology, management science

Psychology Political science

Anthropology, dramaturgy, institutional theory

Central concepts

Roles, goals, strategies, policies, technology, environment

Needs, skills, relationships

Power, con!ict, competition, politics

Culture, myth, meaning, metaphor, ritual, ceremony, stories, heroes

Image of leadership

Social architecture

Empowerment Advocacy and political



Basic leadership challenge

Attune structure to task, technology, environment

Align organizational and human needs

Develop agenda and power base

Create faith, belief, beauty, meaning

This claim about the advantages of multiple perspectives has stimulated a growing body of research. Dunford and Palmer (1995) discovered that management courses teaching multiple frames had signi!cant positive effects over both the short and long term—in fact, 98 percent of their respondents rated reframing as helpful or very helpful, and about 90 percent felt it gave them a competitive advantage. Other studies have shown that the ability to use multiple frames is associated with greater effectiveness for managers and leaders (Bensimon, 1989, 1990; Birnbaum, 1992; Bolman and Deal, 1991, 1992a, 1992b; Heimovics, Herman, and Jurkiewicz Coughlin, 1993, 1995; Wimpelberg, 1987). Similarly, Pitt and Tepper (2012) found that double-majoring helped college students develop both creative and integrative thinking. As one student put it, “I’m never stuck in one frame of mind

20 Reframing Organizations



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because I’m always switching back and forth between the two” (p. 40). Multiframe thinking requires moving beyond narrow, mechanical approaches for understanding organizations. We cannot count the number of times managers have told us that they handled some problem the “only way” it could be done. That was United Airline’s initial defense in April 2017, when video of a bloodied doctor being dragged off a plane went viral. United’s CEO wrote that “our agents were left with no choice” because the 69-year-old physician had refused to give up his seat. After a few days in public-relations hell, United announced that the only choice was a bad one, and they would never do it again. It may be comforting to think that failure was unavoidable and we did all we could. But it can be liberating to realize there is always more than one way to respond to any problem or dilemma. Those who master reframing report a liberating sense of choice and power. Managers are imprisoned only to the extent that their palette of ideas is impoverished.

Akira Kurosawa’s classic !lm Rashomon recounts the same event through the eyes of several witnesses. Each tells a different story. Similarly, organizations are !lled with people who have divergent interpretations of what is and should be happening. Each version contains a glimmer of truth, but each is a product of the prejudices and blind spots of its maker. Each frame tells a different story (Gottschall, 2012), but no single story is comprehensive enough to make an organization fully understandable or manageable. Effective managers need frames to generate multiple stories, the skill to sort through the alternatives, and the wisdom to match the right story to the situation.8

Lack of imagination—Langer (1989) calls it “mindlessness”—is a major cause of the shortfall between the reach and the grasp of so many organizations—the empty chasm between noble aspirations and disappointing results. The gap is painfully acute in a world where organizations dominate somuch of our lives. Taleb (2007) depicts events like the 9/11 attacks as “black swans”—novel events that are unexpected because we have never seen them before. If every swan we’ve observed is white, we expect the same in the future. But fateful, make-or-break events are more likely to be situations we’ve never experienced before. Imagination or mindfulness is our best chance for being ready when a black swan sails into view, and multiframe thinking is a powerful stimulus to the broad, creative mind- set imagination requires.

Engineering and Art Exhibit 1.2 presents two contrasting approaches to management and leadership. One is a rational-technical mind-set emphasizing certainty and control. The other is an expressive, artistic conception encouraging “exibility, creativity, and interpretation. The !rst portrays managers as technicians; the second sees them as artists.

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Exhibit 1.2. Expanding Managerial Thinking.

How Managers Often Think How Managers Might Think

Oversimplify reality (for example, blame problems on individuals’ !aws and errors).

Think holistically about a full range of signi”cant issues: people, power, structure, and symbols.

Regardless of the problems at hand, rely on facts, logic, restructuring.

Use feeling and intuition as well as logic, bargaining as well as training, celebration as well as reorganization.

Cling to certainty, rationality, and control while fearing ambiguity, paradox, and “going with the !ow.”

Develop creativity, risk-taking, and playfulness in response to life’s dilemmas and paradoxes, and focus as much on “nding the right question as the right answer, on “nding meaning and faith amid clutter and confusion.

Rely on the “one right answer” and the “one best way.”

Show passionate, unwavering commitment to principle, combined with !exibility in understanding and responding to events.

Artists interpret experience and express it in forms that can be felt, understood, and appreciated by others. Art embraces emotion, subtlety, ambiguity. An artist reframes the world so others can see new possibilities. Modern organizations often rely too much on engineering and too little on art in searching for quality, commitment, and creativity. Art is not a replacement for engineering but an enhancement. Many engineering schools are currently developing design programs to stimulate creative thinking. Artistic leaders and managers help us look and probe beyond today’s reality to new forms that release u

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