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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

Structural Autonomy and entrepreneurship; bias for action; simple form, lean staff

Clock building, not time telling; try a lot, keep what works

Confront the brutal facts; “hedgehog concept” (best in the world,

“20-mile march,” “Speci”c, methodological and consistent,”

economic engine); technology accelerators; “!ywheel,” not “doom loop”

“Fire bullets, then cannon- balls”

Human resource

Close to the customer; productivity through people

Home-grown management

“Level 5 leadership;” “rst who, then what

“Level 5 leadership”


Symbolic Hands-on, value-driven; simultaneously loose and tight; stick to the knitting

Big hairy audacious goals; cult-like cultures; good enough never is; preserve the core, stimulate

Never lose belief or faith; hedgehog concept (deeply passionate); culture of discipline

Fanatic discipline, productive paranoia

progress; more than pro”ts

Even in successful companies, it is likely that power and con”ict are more important than these studies suggest. Ask a few managers, “What makes your organization successful?” They rarely talk about coalitions, con”ict, or jockeying for position. Even if it is a prominent issue, politics is typically kept in the closet—known to insiders but not on public display. But if we change our focus from effective organizations to effective managers, we !nd a different picture.

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The Effective Senior Manager Kotter (1982) conducted an intensive study of 15 corporate general managers (GMs). His sample included “individuals who hold positionswith somemultifunctional responsibility for a business” (p. 2); each managed an organization with at least several hundred employees. Lynn (1987) analyzed !ve subcabinet-level executives in the U.S. government—political appointeeswith responsibility for amajor federal agency. Luthans, Yodgetts, andRosenkrantz (1988) studied a larger but less elite sample of managers. They examined the day-to-day activities of 450 managers at a variety of levels and described how those activities related to success and effectiveness. Exhibit 15.4 shows the characteristics that these studies emphasize as being the keys to effectiveness.

Kotter and Lynn described jobs of enormous complexity and uncertainty, coupled with substantial dependence on networks of people whose support and energy were essential for the executives to do their job. They described leaders who focused on three basic challenges: setting an agenda, building a network, and using the network to get things done. Lynn’s work is consistent with Kotter’s observation: “As a result of these demands, the typical GM faced signi!cant obstacles in both !guring out what to do and in getting things done” (Kotter, 1982, p. 122).

Kotter and Lynn both emphasized the political dimension in senior managers’ jobs. Lynn described the need for a signi!cant dose of political skill and sophistication: “building legislative support, negotiating, and identifying changing positions and interests” (1987, p. 248). Kotter’s model includes elements of all four frames; Lynn’s includes all but the symbolic.

A somewhat different picture emerges from the study by Luthans, Yodgetts, and Rosenkrantz. In their sample, middle- and lower-level managers spent about three-!fths of their time on structural activities (routine communications and traditional management functions like planning and controlling), about one-!fth on “human resource management” (people-related activities like motivating, disciplining, training, staf!ng), and about one- !fth on “networking” (political activities like socializing, politicking, and relating to external constituents). The results suggest that, compared with the senior executives Kotter and Lynn studied, middle managers spend less time grappling with complexity and more time on routine.

Luthans, Yodgetts, and Rosenkrantz distinguished between “effectiveness” and “suc- cess.” The criteria for effectiveness were the quantity and quality of the unit’s performance and the level of subordinates’ satisfaction with their boss. Success was de!ned in terms of promotions per year—how fast people got ahead. Effective managers and successful managers used time differently. The most “effective” managers spent much of their

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Exhibit 15.4. Challenges in Managers’ Jobs.

Luthans, Yodgetts, and Frame Kotter (1982) Lynn (1987) Rosenkrantz (1988)

Structural Keep on top of large, Attain Communication!

complex set of activities intellectual grasp (paperwork, exchange Set goals and policies of policy issues routine information) under conditions of Traditional management uncertainty (planning, goal setting,

controlling) Human Motivate, coordinate, Use own Human resource resource and control large, personality to management! (motivating,

diverse group of best advantage managing con!ict, staf”ng, subordinates and so on)

Political Achieve “delicate Exploit all Networkingy (politics, balance” in allocating opportunities to interacting with outsiders) scarce resources achieve strategic Get support from bosses gains Get support from corporate staff and other constituents

Symbolic Develop credible strategic premises Identify and focus on core activities that give meaning to employees

!Most relevant to managers who were judged “effective” by their subordinates. yMost relevant to managers who were considered “successful” (achieved rapid promotions to higher positions faster than peers).

time on communications and human resource management and relatively little time on networking. But networking was the only activity that was strongly related to getting ahead. “Successful” managers spent almost half their time on networking and only about 10 percent on human resource management.

At !rst glance, this might seem to con!rm the cynical suspicion that getting ahead in a career is more about politics than performance. More likely, though, the results con!rm that performance is in the eye of the beholder. Subordinates rate their boss primarily on criteria

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internal to the unit—effective communications and treating people well. Bosses, on the other hand, focus on how well a manager handles relations to external constituents, including, of course, the bosses themselves. The researchers found that the 10 percent or so of their sample who were high on both success and effectiveness had a balanced approach emphasizing both internal and external issues. A multiframe approach made them both effective and successful.

Comparing all these studies—those focusing on organizations and those focusing on managers—reveals both similarities and differences. All give roughly equal emphasis to structural and human resource considerations. But political issues are invisible in the organizational excellence studies, whereas they are prominent in all the studies of individual managers. Politics was as important for Kotter’s corporate executives as for Lynn’s political appointees and was the key to getting ahead for middle managers. Conversely, symbols and culture were more prominent in the studies of organizational excellence. For various reasons, each study tended to neglect one frame or another. In assessing any prescription for improving organizations, ask whether any frame is omitted. The overlooked perspective could be the one that derails the effort.

MANAGERS’ FRAME PREFERENCES Yet another line of research has yielded additional data on how frame preference in”uences leadership effectiveness. Bolman and Deal (1991, 1992a, 1992b) and Bolman and Granell (1999) studied populations of managers and administrators in both business and education. They found that the ability to use multiple frames was a consistent correlate of effectiveness. Effectiveness as a manager was particularly associated with the structural frame, whereas the symbolic and political frames tended to be the primary determinants of effectiveness as a leader.

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