Framing Organizations (Bolman and Deal)

Organization and Change


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Framing Organizations (Bolman and Deal)

I would like to know about Framing / Reframing of organizations.
What is the model and what are advantages, disadvantages, and challenges in simple terms.

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

The Four-Frame Model of Bolman and Deal

In a nutshell: Bolman & Deal described 4 distinctive "frames", lenses, filters, view points, from which people view the world and from which organizations can be seen or constructed. Here is a short explanation of each of their 4 frames:
  • THE STRUCTURAL FRAME: sees organizations as structures with responsibilities, rules, prelacies and procedures. Origin: sociology, management science. The main challenge is to make the structure fit to the situation.
  • THE HUMAN RESOURCE FRAME: sees organizations as an extended family. How to tailor organizations to satisfy human needs, improve Human Resource Management, and build positive interpersonal and group dynamics. Origin: psychology. The main challenge is to tailor the organization to people while still get he job done.
  • THE POLITICAL FRAME: sees organizations as arena, contests or jungles. How to cope with power and conflict, build coalitions, hone political skills, and deal with internal and external politics. Origin: political science. The main challenge is to avoid situations where the power is in the wrong hands or too broadly dispersed.
  • THE SYMBOLIC FRAME: sees organizations as tribes theaters or carnivals. How to shape a culture that gives purpose and meaning to work, stage organizational drama for internal and external audiences, and build team spirit through ritual, ceremony, and story. Origin: social and cultural anthropology. The main challenge is avoiding that the actors play their part badly, that symbols, ceremonies and rituals lose their meaning.

Source: Lee G. Bolman, Terrence E. Deal (2008) "Reframing Organisations, Artistry, Choice and Leadership"

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