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hot “re of actual practice. You can enhance your chances of success with an artful appreciation of how to use the four lenses to understand and in!uence what’s really going on.

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Notes 1. The Wonder World to Be Created by Electricity, Manufacturer’s Record, September 9, 1915. 2. These examples all show thinking in!uencing reality. A social constructivist perspective goes a

step further to say that our thinking constructs social reality. In this view, an organization exists not “out there” but in the minds and actions of its constituents. This idea is illustrated in an old story about a dispute among three baseball umpires. The “rst says, “Some’s balls, and some’s strikes, and I calls ‘em like they are.” The second counters, “No, you got it wrong. Some’s balls, and some’s strikes, and I calls ‘em the way I sees them.” The third says, “You guys don’t really get it. Some’s balls, and some’s strikes, but they ain’t nothin’ until I call ‘em.” The “rst umpire is a realist who believes that what he sees is exactly what is. The second recognizes that reality is in!uenced by his own perception. The third is the social constructivist—his call makes them what they are. This distinction is particularly important in the symbolic frame, which we return to in Chapter 12.

3. A similar phenomenon occurs in other East Asian cultures. In both China and Vietnam, for example, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and native folk religions (including ancestor worship) live comfortably alongside of one another.

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PART TWO

The Structural Frame

A frame is a coherent set of ideas or beliefs forming a prism or lens that enables you to see and understandmore clearly what’s going on in the world around you. In Part II, we embark on the !rst stage of a tour that will take us to four very different ways of making sense of life at work or elsewhere. Each frame will be presented in three chapters: one that introduces the basic concepts and two that focus on key applications and extensions. We begin with one of the oldest and most popular ways of thinking about organizations: the structural frame.

If someone asked you to describe your organization—your workplace, your school, or even your family—what image would come to mind? A likely possibility is a traditional organization chart: a series of boxes and lines depicting job responsibilities and levels. The chart might be shaped roughly like a pyramid, with a small number of bosses at the top and a much larger number of employees at the bottom. Such a chart is only one of many images that re”ect the structural view. The frame is rooted in traditional rational images but goes much deeper to develop versatile and powerful ways to understand social architecture and its consequences.

We begin Chapter 3 with cases contrasting the structural features of racing crews, Amazon, and rescue efforts in New York City’s 9/11 terrorist attacks. We then highlight the basic assumptions of the structural view, with emphasis on two key dimensions: dividing work and coordinating it thereafter. We emphasize how structural design depends on an

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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organization’s circumstances, including its goals, strategy, technology, and environment. In addition, we show why tightly controlled, top-down forms may work in simple, stable situations but fall short in more “uid and ambiguous ones.

In Chapter 4, we turn to issues of structural change and redesign. We describe basic structural tensions, explore alternatives to consider when new circumstances require revisions, and discuss challenges of the restructuring process. We compare traditional organization charts with “Mintzberg’s Fives,” a more abstract rendering of structural alternatives. We close the chapter with examples of successful structural change.

Finally, in Chapter 5, we apply structural concepts to groups and teams. When teams work poorly, members often blame one another for problems that re”ect design “aws rather than individual failings. We begin with the SEAL Team Six operation to track down Osama bin Laden. We examine structural options in !ve-person teams and then contrast the games of baseball, American football, and basketball to show how optimal structure depends on what a team is trying to do and under what conditions. We close by examining the architectural design of high-performance teams.

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3 c h a p t e r

Getting Organized

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.

—A. A. Milne

Watching an eight-oar racing crew skim along the Charles River is like watching a highly choreographed ballet group perform Swan Lake. To

a coxswain’s cadence, eight oars at exactly 90 degrees enter the water in unison. A collective pull “in swing” propels the shell smoothly forward as eight oars leave the water at a precise perpendicular angle. If any oarsman muffs just one of these strokes or “catches a crab,” the shell is thrown off kilter. Close coordination welds eight rowers into a harmonious crew.

It looks straightforward to an outside observer, an effortless ballet in motion. But structurally it is more complicated. All members of a crew are expected to row smoothly and quickly. But expectations for individuals vary depending on the seat they occupy. Bow seats one, two, and three have the greatest potential to disrupt the boat’s direction, so they must be able to pull a perfect oar one stroke after another. Rowers in seats four, !ve, and six are the boat’s biggest and strongest. They are often referred to as the “engine,” providing the boat’s raw power. Seat seven’s rower provides a conduit between the engine room and the “stroke oar” in seat eight. The “stroke oar” sits directly facing the coxswain and rows at the requested rate of speed and power, setting the pace and intensity for the other rowers.

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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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The coxswain is responsible for steering the shell, but also serves as captain. Coxswains vocally determine both the rate and degree of power of the oar strokes. They know their rowers physically and psychologically and how to inspire their best efforts. They also know opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Before a race, the coxswain develops a strategy but must be ready to alter it as a situation demands. A good coxswain is “a quarterback, a cheerleader, and a coach all in one. He or she is a deep thinker, canny like a fox, inspirational, and in many cases the toughest person in the boat” (Brown, 2014, p. 232).

The individual efforts are also integrated by shared agreement that the team effort transcends the individual. All rowers have to optimize their strokes for the bene!t of the boat. Coordination and cooperation among individuals of different statures and strengths assures the uni!ed and beautiful symphony that a crew in motion becomes. In crew racing competition, structure is vital to top performance.

Structure is equally critical in larger organizations. Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s most admired CEOs, is passionate about structure and process at the company he founded, Internet giant Amazon. He makes the company’s strategy crystal clear. Embracing the familiar credo that the “customer is always right,” Bezos is riveted on !guring out what the customer wants and delivering it with speed and precision. His “culture of metrics” coddles Amazon’s 250 million shoppers, not its quarter million employees.

Amazon tracks its performance against some 500 measurable goals; almost 80 percent relate directly to customer service. Even the smallest delay in loading aWeb page is carefully scrutinized, because Amazon has found that “. . . a .01 second delay in page rendering can translate into a 1 percent drop in customer activity” (Anders, 2012). Supervisors measure and monitor employees’ performance, observing behavior closely to see where steps or movements can be streamlined to improve ef!ciency.

Amazon is a classic example of a highly developed organizational structure—clear strategy, focus on the mission, well-de!ned roles, and top-down coordination. Some employees grumble about the working conditions and the fast pace, but many others !nd the tempo exhilarating. Bezos makes it clear: The customer is number one. Period. Amazon began as an online bookstore, but now it sells almost anything that can be shipped or downloaded. The company lost money for many years after its founding in 1995. But in recent years, it has been consistently pro!table, and its 2015 annual report noted that it had achieved $100 billion in sales faster than any company in history (Amazon, 2015).

The bene!ts of getting structure right are obvious under normal conditions and even more so when organizational architecture meets unexpected crises. Recall the horror of 9/11 and the breakdown in coordination between New York City’s !re and police departments as they confronted the aftermath of terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center. That day saw

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countless inspiring examples of individual heroism and personal sacri!ce. At the risk of their own lives, emergency personnel rescued thousands of people. Many died in the effort. But extraordinary individual efforts were hindered or thwarted by breakdowns in com- munication, command, and control. Police helicopters near the north tower radioed that it was near collapse more than twenty minutes before it fell. Police of!cers got the warning, and most escaped. But there was no link between !re and police radios, and the commanders in the two departments could not communicate because their command posts were three blocks apart. It might not have helped even if they had talked, because the !re department’s radios were notoriously unreliable in high-rise buildings.

The breakdown of communication and coordination magni!ed the death toll— including 121 !re!ghters who died when the north tower collapsed. The absence of a workable structure undermined the heroic efforts of highly dedicated, skilled professionals who gave their all in an unprecedented catastrophe (Dwyer, Flynn, and Fessenden, 2002).

The contrast between Amazon’s operations and the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center highlights a core premise of the structural lens. The right combination of goals, roles, relationships, and coordination is essential to organizational performance. This is true of all organizations: families, clubs, hospitals, military units, businesses, schools, churches, and public agencies. The right structure combats the risk that individuals, however talented, will become confused, ineffective, apathetic, or hostile. The purpose of this chapter and the next two is to identify the basic ideas and inner workings of a perspective that is fundamental to collective human endeavors.

We begin our examination of the structural frame by highlighting its core assumptions, origins, and basic forms. The possibilities for designing an organization’s social architecture are almost limitless, but any option must address two key questions: How do we allocate responsibilities across different units and roles? And, once we’ve done that, how do we integrate diverse efforts in pursuit of common goals? In this chapter, we explain these basic issues, describe the major options, and discuss imperatives to consider when designing a structure to !t the challenges of a unique situation.

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