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the extent to which our preferences are frame-bound rather than reality-bound” (Kahneman, 2011, p. 367).
Caldicott (2014) sees reframing as vital for leadership: “One distinguishing difference between leaders that succeed at driving collaboration and innovation versus those that fail is their ability to grasp Complexity. This skill set involves framing dif!cult concepts quickly, synthesizing data in a way that drives new insight, and building teams that can generate future scenarios different from the world they see today.” A growing body of psychological research shows that reframing can improve performance across a range of tasks. Autin and Croizet (2012) gave students a dif!cult task on which they all struggled. Some students were taught to reframe the struggle as a normal sign of learning. That intervention increased con!dence, working memory, and reading comprehension on subsequent tasks. Jamieson et al. (2010) found that they could improve scores on the Graduate Record Exam by reframing anxiety as an aid to performance. The old song lyric, “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative,” is powerful advice.
Like maps, frames are both windows on a terrain and tools for navigating its contours. Every tool has distinctive strengths and limitations. The right tool makes a job easier; the wrong one gets in the way. Tools thus become useful only when a situation is sized up accurately. Furthermore, one or two tools may suf!ce for simple jobs but not for more complex undertakings. Managers who master the hammer and expect all problems to behave like nails !nd life at work confusing and frustrating. The wise manager, like a skilled carpenter, wants at hand a diverse collection of high-quality implements. Experienced managers also understand the difference between possessing a tool and knowing when and how to use it. Only experience and practice foster the skill and wisdom to take stock of a situation and use suitable tools with con!dence and skill.
The Four Frames Only in the past 100 years or so have social scientists devoted much time or attention to developing ideas about how organizations work, how they should work, or why they often fail. In the social sciences, several major schools of thought have evolved. Each has its own concepts, assumptions, and evidence, espousing a particular view of how to bring social collectives under control. Each tradition claims a scienti!c foundation. But a theory can easily become a theology that preaches a single, parochial scripture. Modern managers must sort through a cacophony of voices and visions for help.
Sifting through competing voices is one of our goals in writing this book. We are not searching for or advocating the one best way. Rather, we consolidate major schools of organizational thought and research into a comprehensive framework encompassing four
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perspectives. Our goal is usable knowledge. We have sought ideas powerful enough to capture the subtlety and complexity of life in organizations yet simple enough to be useful. Our distillation has drawn much from the social sciences—particularly sociology, psychol- ogy, political science, and anthropology. Thousands of managers and scores of organiza- tions have helped us sift through social science research to identify ideas that work in practice. We have sorted insights from both research and practice into four major frames— structural, human resource, political, and symbolic (Bolman and Deal, 1984). Each is used by academics and practitioners alike and can be found, usually independently, on the shelves of libraries and bookstores.
Four Frames: As Near as Your Local Bookstore Imagine a harried executive browsing online or at her local bookseller on a brisk winter day in 2017. She worries about her company’s “agging performance and wonders if her own job might soon disappear. She spots the black cover of How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business. Flipping through the pages, she notes topics like measuring the value of information and the need for better risk analysis. She is drawn to phrases such as “A key step in the process is the calculation of the economic value of information . . . [A] proven formula from the !eld of decision theory allows us to compute a monetary value for a given amount of uncertainty reduction”4 (p. 35). “This stuff may be good,” the executive tells herself, “but it seems a little too stiff and numbers-driven.”
Next, she !nds Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success. Glancing inside, she reads, “Many of our of!cers handwrite several thousand notes each year. Besides being loving, we know this is meaningful to our People because we hear from them if we miss something signi!cant in their lives like the high school graduation of one of their kids. We just believe in accentuating the positive and celebrating People’s successes”5 (p. 7). “Sounds nice,” she mumbles, “but a little too touchy-feely. Let’s look for something more down to earth.”
Continuing her search, she looks at Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t. She reads, “You can compete and triumph in organizations of all types . . . if you understand the principles of power and are willing to use them. Your task is to know how to prevail in the political battles you will face”6 (p. 5). She wonders, “Does it really all come down to politics? It seems so cynical and scheming. How about something more uplifting?”
She spots Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organiza- tion. She ponders its message: “Tribal leaders focus their efforts on building the tribe, or, more precisely, upgrading the tribal culture. If they are successful, the tribe recognizes them
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as leaders, giving them top effort, cult-like loyalty, and a track record of success”7 (p. 4). “Fascinating,” she concludes, “but seems a little too primitive for modern organizations.”
In her book excursion, our worried executive has rediscovered the four perspectives at the heart of this book. Four distinct metaphors capture the essence of each of the books she examined: organizations as factories, families, jungles, and temples or carnivals. But she leaves more confused than ever. Some titles seemed to register with her way of thinking. Others fell outside her zone of comfort. Where should she go next? How can she put it all together?
Factories The !rst book she stumbled across, How to Measure Anything, provides counsel on how to think clearly and make rational decisions, extending a long tradition that treats an organization as a factory. Drawing from sociology, economics, and management science, the structural frame depicts a rational world and emphasizes organizational architecture, including planning, strategy, goals, structure, technology, specialized roles, coordination, formal relationships, metrics, and rubrics. Structures—commonly depicted by organization charts—are designed to !t an organization’s environment and technology. Organizations allocate responsibilities (“division of labor”). They then create rules, policies, procedures, systems, and hierarchies to coordinate diverse activities into a uni!ed effort. Objective indicators measure progress. Problems arise when structure doesn’t line up well with current circumstances or when performance sags. At that point, some form of reorganization or redesign is needed to remedy the mismatch.