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teachers, principals in less effective schools talked about standard procedures (how vacancies are posted, how the central of!ce sends a candidate for an interview), whereas more effective principals emphasized “playing the system” to get the teachers they needed.

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Bensimon found that presidents thought they used more frames than their colleagues observed. They were particularly likely to overrate themselves on the human resource and symbolic frames, a !nding also reported by Bolman and Deal (1991). Only half of the presidents who saw themselves as symbolic leaders were perceived that way by others.

Despite the low image of organizational politics in the minds of manymanagers, political savvy appears to be a primary determinant of success in managerial work. Heimovics, Herman, and Jurkiewicz Coughlin (1993, 1995) found this for chief executives of nonpro!t organizations, and Doktor (1993) found the same thing for directors of family service organizations in Kentucky.

CONCLUSION The image of !rm control and crisp precision often attributed to managers has little relevance to the messy world of complexity, con”ict, and uncertainty they actually inhabit. They need multiple frames to survive. They need to understand that any event or process can serve several purposes and that participants are often operating from different views of reality. Managers need a diagnostic map that helps them assess which lenses are likely to be salient and helpful in a given situation. Among the key variables are motivation, technical constraints, uncertainty, scarcity, con”ict, and whether an individual is operating from the top down or from the bottom up.

Several lines of research have found that effective leaders and effective organizations rely on multiple frames. Studies of effective corporations, of individuals in senior management roles, and of public and nonpro!t administrators all point to the need for multiple perspectives in developing a holistic picture of complex systems.

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16 c h a p t e r

Reframing in Action Opportunities and Perils

When you are face to face with a dif!culty, you are up against a discovery.

—William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

Life in organizations is often governed by routine, with undercurrents of suppressed con!icts, jealousies, or unhealed egos from past skirmishes.

Periodically, however, past or present issues come to the surface, and tensions are laid bare. One likely scenario is a transition from one boss to another. How participants frame their circumstances is fateful for the outcomes.

Reach and Grasp

Put yourself in the shoes of Cindy Marshall. You’re headed to the of!ce for your !rst day in a new job. Your company has transferred you to Kansas City to manage a customer service unit. It’s a big promotion, with a substantial increase in pay and responsibility, but you know you face a major challenge. You are inheriting a department with a reputation for slow, substandard service. Senior management places much of the blame on your predecessor, Bill Howard, seen as too authoritarian and rigid. Howard is moving to another job, but the company asked him to stay on for a week to help you get oriented. One potential sticking point: He hired most of your new staff. Many may still feel loyal to him.

(continued )


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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(continued )

When you arrive, you get a frosty hello from Susan Bond, the department secretary. As you walk into your new of!ce, you see Howard behind the desk in a conversation with three other staff members. You say hello, and he responds by saying, “Didn’t the secretary tell you that we’re in a meeting right now? If you’ll wait outside, I’ll be able to see you in about an hour.”

As Cindy Marshall, what would you do? You’re in the glare of the spotlight, and the audience eagerly awaits your response. If you feel threatened or attacked—as most of us would—those feelings will push you toward either !ght or “ight. Escalating the con”ict is risky and could damage everyone. Backing away or “eeing could suggest that you are too emotional or not tough enough.

This is a classic example of a manager’s nightmare: an unexpected situation that threatens to explode in your face. Howard’s greeting tries to throw you off stride and put you in a bind. It carries echoes of historic patterns of male arrogance and condescension in relating to women (similar to those that surfaced in the Anne Barreta case in Chapter 8). Whether or not he intended it that way, Howard’s response appears well designed for disconcerting a younger female colleague. He makes it likely that, as Cindy, you will feel trapped and powerless, or you will do something rash and regrettable. Either way, he wins and you lose.

The frames suggest another set of possibilities. They offer the advantage of multiple angles to size up the situation. What’s really going on here? What options do you have? What script does the situation demand? How might you reinterpret the scene to create a more effective scenario? Reframing is a powerful tool in a tough situation for generating possibilities other than “ght or !ight.

An immediate question facing you, as CindyMarshall, is whether to respond to Howard on the spot or to buy time. If you’re at a loss for what to say or if you fear you will make things worse instead of better, take time to “go to the balcony”—try to get above the confusion of the moment long enough to get a sharper perspective. Better yet, “nd an effective response on the spot.

Each of the frames generates its own possibilities, creatively translated into alternative scenarios. They can also be misapplied or misused. Success depends on the skill and artistry of the person following a given script. In this chapter, we describe setups Marshall might compose, showing that each of the four lenses can produce both effective and ineffective reactions. We conclude with a summary of the power and risks of reframing and highlight its importance for outsiders and newcomers taking on new responsibilities.

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Structural Frame A Structural Scenario

A structural scenario casts managers and leaders in fundamental roles of clarifying goals, attending to the relationship between structure and environment, and developing a clearly de!ned array of roles and relationships appropriate to what needs to be done. Without a workable structure, people become unsure about what they are supposed to be doing. The result is confusion, frustration, and con”ict. In an effective organization, individuals understand their responsibilities and their contribution. Policies, linkages, and lines of authority are straightforward and accepted. With the right structure, the organization can achieve its goals, and individuals can see their role in the big picture.

The main job of a leader is to focus on task, facts, and logic, rather than personality and emotions. Most people problems stem from structural “aws, not personal limitations or liability. The structural leader is not rigidly authoritarian and does not attempt to solve every problem by issuing orders (although that is sometimes appropriate). Instead, the leader tries to design and implement a process or architecture appropriate to the circumstances.

You may wonder what structure has to do with a direct, personal confrontation, but the structural scenario in the box can be scripted to generate a variety of responses.

Here’s one example:

Howard: Didn’t the secretary tell you that we’re in a meeting right now? If you’ll wait outside, I’ll be able to see you in about an hour.

Marshall:Myappointment asmanager of this of!cebeganat nine thismorning. This is nowmyof!ce, and you’re sitting behind my desk. Either you relinquish the desk immediately, or I will call headquarters and report you for insubordination.

Howard: I was asked to stay on the job for onemore week to try to help you learn the ropes. Frankly, I doubt that you’re ready for this job, but you don’t seem to want any help.

Marshall: I repeat, I amnow inchargeof this of!ce. Letmealso remind you thatheadquarters assigned you to stay this week to assist me. I expect you to carry out that order. If you don’t, I will submit a letter for your !le detailing your lack of cooperation. Now, [!rmly] I want my desk.

Howard: Well, we were working on important of!ce business, but since the princess here is more interested in giving orders than in getting work done, let’s move ourmeeting down to your of!ce, Joe. Enjoy your desk!

In this exchange, Marshall places heavy emphasis on her formal authority and the chain of command. By invoking her superiors and her legitimate authority, she takes charge and

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gets Howard to back down, but at a price. She unwittingly colludes with Howard in making the encounter a personal confrontation. She risks long-term tension with her new sub- ordinates, who surely feel awkward during this combative encounter. They may conclude that the new boss is like the old one—autocratic and rigid.

There are other options. Here’s another example of how Marshall might exercise her authority:

Howard: Didn’t the secretary tell you that we’re in a meeting right now? If you’ll wait outside, I’ll be able to see you in about an hour.

Marshall: She didn’t mention it, and I don’t want to interrupt importantwork, butwe also need to set some priorities andwork out an agenda for the day anyway. Bill, have you developed a plan for how you and I can get to work on the transition?

Howard: We can meet later on, after I get through some pressing business.

Marshall:Thepressingbusiness is just thekindof thing I need to learn about as thenewmanager here. What issues are you discussing?

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