Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Model
In addition to Bolman and Deal’s (2013) reframing model as a way of making sense of organizations, you may tend to naturally observe an organization through your own intuitive frame. The key, as an effective manager, is to be aware of how you tend to frame what happens within an organization and to utilize additional tools for understanding the organization from various perspectives. When combining insights from additional frames, a more detailed picture of the organization emerges.
For this Discussion, you will take the “Leadership Self-Assessment on Reframing Organizations” questionnaire, through the link provided to you in your resources, to determine what your natural leadership style is—in terms of the four frames.
Note: When you take the assessment, you will immediately be provided a report on your leadership style along with information to interpret what that style means.
Describe your leadership style in respect to reframing and share one strength and one possible limitation of your natural leadership preference. Also, provide two suggestions for developing or applying these frames to your learning.
In addition to Bolman and Deal’s (2013) reframing model as a way of making sense of organizations, you may tend to naturally observe an organization through your own intuitive frame. The key, as an effective manager, is to be aware of how you tend to frame what happens within an organization and to utilize additional tools for understanding the organization from various perspectives. When combining insights from additional frames, a more detailed picture of the organization emerges.
For this Discussion, you will take the “Leadership Self-Assessment on Reframing Organizations” questionnaire, through the link provided to you in your resources, to determine what your natural leadership style is—in terms of the four frames.
Note: When you take the assessment, you will immediately be provided a report on your leadership style along with information to interpret what that style means.
Describe your leadership style in respect to reframing and share one strength and one possible limitation of your natural leadership preference. Also, provide two suggestions for developing or applying these frames to your learning.
Reframing Organizations An updated online Instructor’s Guide with Your Leadership Orientations Self-Assessment is available at www.wiley.com/college/bolman Th e Instructor’s Guide includes: • Chapter-by-chapter notes and teaching suggestions • Sample syllabi and support materials • Case suggestions • Video suggestions • Your Leadership Orientations Self-Assessment Reframing Organizations Artistry, Choice, and Leadership Lee G. Bolman • Terrence E. Deal 5th EDITION Cover design by Adrian Morgan Cover art © Shutterstock (rf) Copyright © 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA 94104-4594—www.josseybass.com No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600, or on the Web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201-748-6011, fax 201-748-6008, or online at www.wiley.com/go/permissions. Page 527 is a continuation of the copyright page. 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Jossey-Bass books and products are available through most bookstores. To contact Jossey-Bass directly call our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 800-956-7739, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3986, or fax 317-572-4002. Wiley publishes in a variety of print and electronic formats and by print-on-demand. Some material included with standard print versions of this book may not be included in e-books or in print-ondemand. If this book refers to media such as a CD or DVD that is not included in the version you purchased, you may download this material at http://booksupport.wiley.com. For more information about Wiley products, visit www.wiley.com. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Bolman, Lee G. Reframing organizations : artistry, choice, and leadership / Lee G. Bolman, Terrence E. Deal. —Fift h edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-118-55738-9 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-118-57333-4 (pbk.); ISBN 978-1-118-57323-5 (pdf); ISBN 978-1-118-57331-0 (epub) 1. Management. 2. Organizational behavior. 3. Leadership. I. Deal, Terrence E. II. Title. HD31.B6135 2013 658.4’063—dc23 2013016244 Printed in the United States of America fifth edition HB Printing 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 PB Printing 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 v CONTENTS Preface vii Acknowledgments xiii PART ONE Making Sense of Organizations 1 1 Introduction: The Power of Reframing 3 2 Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 23 PART TWO The Structural Frame 41 3 Getting Organized 43 4 Structure and Restructuring 69 5 Organizing Groups and Teams 95 PART THREE The Human Resource Frame 113 6 People and Organizations 115 7 Improving Human Resource Management 137 8 Interpersonal and Group Dynamics 161 vi Contents PART FOUR The Political Frame 183 9 Power, Conflict, and Coalition 185 10 The Manager as Politician 205 11 Organizations as Political Arenas and Political Agents 225 PART FIVE The Symbolic Frame 243 12 Organizational Symbols and Culture 245 13 Culture in Action 271 14 Organization as Theater 285 PART SIX Improving Leadership Practice 303 15 Integrating Frames for Effective Practice 305 16 Reframing in Action: Opportunities and Perils 323 17 Reframing Leadership 337 18 Reframing Change in Organizations 371 19 Reframing Ethics and Spirit 393 20 Bringing It All Together: Change and Leadership in Action 407 21 Epilogue: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership 431 Appendix: Th e Best of Organizational Studies 435 Notes 439 Bibliography 441 Th e Authors 483 Name Index 485 Subject Index 497 vii P R E F A C E This is the sixth release of a work that began in 1984 as Modern Approaches to Understanding and Managing Organizations and became Reframing Organizations in 1991 . We ’re grateful to readers around the world who have told us that our books gave them ideas that make a diff erence—at work and elsewhere in their lives. It is again time for an update, and we ’re gratifi ed to be back by popular demand. Like everything else, organizations and their leadership challenges continue to change rapidly, and both scholars and leaders are running hard to keep up. Th is edition tries to capture the current frontiers of both knowledge and art. Th e four-frame model, with its view of organizations as factories, families, jungles, and temples, remains the book ’s conceptual heart. But we have incorporated new research and revised our case examples extensively to keep up with the latest developments. We have updated a feature we inaugurated in the third edition: “greatest hits in organization studies.” Th ese feature pithy summaries of key ideas from the some of the most infl uential works in the scholarly literature (as indicated by a citation analysis, described in the Appendix at the end of the book). As a counterpoint to the scholarly works, we have also included occasional summaries of recent management bestsellers. Scholarly and professional literature oft en run on separate tracks, but the two streams together provide a fuller picture than either alone, and we have tried to capture the best of both in our work. Life in organizations has produced many new examples, and there is new material throughout the book. At the same time, we worked zealously to minimize bloat by tracking down and expunging every redundant sentence, marginal concept, or extraneous example. Th e result is a volume that ’s a bit slimmer than viii Preface its predecessor. We ’ve also tried to keep it fun. Collective life is an endless source of examples as entertaining as they are instructive, and we ’ve sprinkled them throughout the text. We apologize to anyone who fi nds that an old favorite fell to the cutting-room fl oor, but we hope readers will fi nd the book an even clearer and more effi cient read. As always, our primary audience is managers and leaders. We have tried to answer the question, What do we know about organizations and leadership that is genuinely relevant and useful to practitioners as well as scholars? We have worked to present a large, complex body of theory, research, and practice as clearly and simply as possible. We tried to avoid watering it down or presenting simplistic views of how to solve managerial problems. Our goal is to off er not solutions but powerful and provocative ways of thinking about opportunities and pitfalls. We continue to focus on both management and leadership. Leading and managing are diff erent, but they ’re equally important. Th e diff erence is nicely summarized in an aphorism from Bennis and Nanus: “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.” If an organization is overmanaged but underled, it eventually loses any
sense of spirit or purpose. A poorly managed organization with a strong, charismatic leader may soar briefl y—only to crash shortly thereaft er. Malpractice can be as damaging and unethical for managers and leaders as for physicians. Myopic managers or overzealous leaders usually harm more than just themselves. Th e challenges of today ’s organizations require the objective perspective of managers as well as the brilliant fl ashes of creativity that wise leadership provides. We need more people in managerial roles who can fi nd simplicity and order amid organizational confusion and chaos. We need versatile and fl exible leaders who are artists as well as analysts, who can reframe experience to discover new issues and possibilities. We need managers who love their work, their organizations, and the people whose lives they aff ect. We need leaders and managers who appreciate management as a moral and ethical undertaking. We need leaders who combine hard-headed realism with passionate commitment to larger values and purposes. We hope to encourage and nurture such qualities and possibilities. As in the past, we have tried to produce a clear and readable synthesis and integration of the fi eld ’s major theoretical traditions. We concentrate mainly on organization theory ’s implications for practice. We draw on examples from every sector and around the globe. Historically, organization studies have been divided into several intellectual camps, oft en isolated from one another. Works that seek to give a comprehensive overview of organization theory and research oft en drown Preface ix in social science jargon and abstraction and have little to say to practitioners. We try to fi nd a balance between misleading oversimplifi cation and mind-boggling complexity. Th e bulk of work in organization theory has focused on the private or public or nonprofi t sector, but not all three. We think this is a mistake. Managers need to understand similarities and diff erences among all types of organizations. All three sectors increasingly interpenetrate one another. Public administrators who regulate airlines, nuclear power plants, or pharmaceutical companies face the problem of “indirect management” every day. Th ey struggle to infl uence the behavior of organizations over which they have very limited authority. Private fi rms need to manage relationships with multiple levels of government. Th e situation is even more complicated for managers in multinational companies coping with the subtleties of governments with very diff erent systems and traditions. Around the world, voluntary and nongovernment organizations partner with business and government to address major social and economic challenges. Across sectors and cultures, managers oft en harbor narrow, stereotypic conceptions of one another that impede eff ectiveness on all sides. We need common ground and a shared understanding that can help strengthen organizations in every sector. Th e dialogue between public and private, domestic and multinational organizations has become increasingly important. Because of their generic application, the four frames off er an ecumenical language for the exchange. Our work with a variety of organizations around the world has continually reinforced our confi dence that the frames are relevant everywhere. Political and symbolic issues, for example, are universally important, even though the specifi cs vary greatly from one country or culture to another. Th e idea of reframing continues to be a central theme. Th roughout the book, we show how the same situation can be viewed in at least four ways. In Part Six, we include a series of chapters on reframing critical organizational issues such as leadership, change, and ethics. Two chapters are specifi cally devoted to reframing real-life situations. We also continue to emphasize artistry. Overemphasizing the rational and technical side of an organization oft en contributes to its decline or demise. Our counterbalance emphasizes the importance of art in both management and leadership. Artistry is neither exact nor precise; the artist interprets experience, expressing it in forms that can be felt, understood, and appreciated. Art fosters emotion, subtlety, and ambiguity. An artist represents the world to give us a deeper x Preface understanding of what is and what might be. In modern organizations, quality, commitment, and creativity are highly valued but oft en hard to fi nd. Th ey can be developed and encouraged by leaders or managers who embrace the expressive side of their work. OUTLINE OF THE BOOK Th e fi rst part of the book, “Making Sense of Organizations,” tackles a perplexing question about management: Why is it that smart people so oft en do dumb things? Chapter One, “Th e Power of Reframing,” explains why: Managers oft en misread situations. Th ey have not learned how to use multiple lenses to get a better sense of what they ’re up against and what they might do. Chapter Two, “Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations,” uses famous cases (such as 9/11) to show how managers’ everyday thinking and theories can lead to catastrophe. We explain basic factors that make organizational life complicated, ambiguous, and unpredictable; discuss common fallacies in managerial thinking; and spell out criteria for more eff ective approaches to diagnosis and action. Part Two, “Th e Structural Frame,” explores the key role that social architecture plays in the functioning of organizations. Chapter Th ree, “Getting Organized,” describes basic issues that managers must consider in designing structure to fi t an organization ’s goals, tasks, and context. It demonstrates why organizations— from Amazon to McDonald ’s to Harvard University—need diff erent structures in order to be eff ective in their unique environments. Chapter Four, “Structure and Restructuring,” explains major structural pathologies and pitfalls. It presents guidelines for aligning structures to situations, along with cases illustrating successful structural change. Chapter Five, “Organizing Groups and Teams,” shows that structure is a key to high-performing teams. Part Th ree, “Th e Human Resource Frame,” explores the properties of both people and organizations, and what happens when the two intersect. Chapter Six, “People and Organizations,” focuses on the relationship between organizations and human nature. It shows how a manager ’s practices and assumptions about people can lead either to alienation and hostility or to commitment and high motivation. It contrasts two strategies for achieving eff ectiveness: “lean and mean,” or investing in people. Chapter Seven, “Improving Human Resource Management,” is an overview of practices that build a more motivated and committed workforce—including participative management, job enrichment, self-managing Preface xi workgroups, management of diversity, and organization development. Chapter Eight, “Interpersonal and Group Dynamics,” presents an example of interpersonal confl ict to illustrate how managers can enhance or undermine relationships. It also discusses how group members can increase their eff ectiveness by attending to group process, including informal norms and roles, interpersonal confl ict, leadership, and decision making. Part Four, “Th e Political Frame,” views organizations as arenas. Individuals and groups compete to achieve their parochial interests in a world of confl icting viewpoints, scarce resources, and struggles for power. Chapter Nine, “Power, Confl ict, and Coalition,” analyzes the tragic loss of the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger , illustrating the infl uence of political dynamics in decision making. It shows how scarcity and diversity lead to confl ict, bargaining, and games of power; the chapter also distinguishes constructive and destructive political dynamics. Chapter Ten, “Th e Manager as Politician,” uses leadership examples from an NGO in India and a soft ware development eff ort at Microsoft to illustrate basic skills of the constructive politician: diagnosing political realities, setting agendas, buil
ding networks, negotiating, and making choices that are both eff ective and ethical. Chapter Eleven, “Organizations as Political Arenas and Political Agents,” highlights organizations as both arenas for political contests and political actors infl uencing broader social, political, and economic trends. Case examples such as Wal-Mart and Ross Johnson explore political dynamics both inside and outside organizations. Part Five explores the symbolic frame. Chapter Twelve, “Organizational Symbols and Culture,” spells out basic symbolic elements in organizations: myths, heroes, metaphors, stories, humor, play, rituals, and ceremonies. It defi nes organizational culture and shows its central role in shaping performance. Th e power of symbol and culture is illustrated in cases as diverse as the U.S. Congress, Nordstrom department stores, the Air Force, Zappos, and an odd horse race in Italy. Chapter Th irteen, “Culture in Action,” uses the case of a computer development team to show what leaders and group members can do collectively to build a culture that bonds people in pursuit of a shared mission. Initiation rituals, specialized language, group stories, humor and play, and ceremonies all combine to transform diverse individuals into a cohesive team with purpose, spirit, and soul. Chapter Fourteen, “Organization as Th eater,” draws on dramaturgical and institutional theory to reveal how organizational structures, activities, and events serve as secular dramas, expressing our fears and joys, arousing our emotions, kindling xii Preface our spirit, and anchoring our sense of meaning. It also shows how organizational structures and processes—such as planning, evaluation, and decision making— are oft en more important for what they express than for what they accomplish. Part Six, “Improving Leadership Practice,” focuses on the implications of the frames for central issues in managerial practice, including leadership, change, and ethics. Chapter Fift een, “Integrating Frames for Eff ective Practice,” shows how managers can blend the frames to improve their eff ectiveness. It looks at organizations as multiple realities and gives guidelines for aligning frames with situations. Chapter Sixteen, “Reframing in Action,” presents four scenarios, or scripts, derived from the frames. It applies the scenarios to the harrowing experience of a young manager whose fi rst day in a new job turns out to be far more challenging than she expected. Th e discussion illustrates how leaders can expand their options and enhance their eff ectiveness by considering alternative approaches. Chapter Seventeen, “Reframing Leadership,” discusses limitations in traditional views of leadership and proposes a more comprehensive view of how leadership works in organizations. It summarizes and critiques current knowledge on the characteristics of leaders, including the relationship of leadership to culture and gender. It shows how frames generate distinctive images of eff ective leaders as architects, servants, advocates, and prophets. Chapter Eighteen, “Reframing Change in Organizations,” describes four fundamental issues that arise in any change eff ort: individual needs and skills, structural realignment, political confl ict, and existential loss. It uses cases of successful and unsuccessful change to document key strategies, such as training, realigning, creating arenas, and using symbol and ceremony. Chapter Nineteen, “Reframing Ethics and Spirit,” discusses four ethical mandates that emerge from the frames: excellence, caring, justice, and faith. It argues that leaders can build more ethical organizations through gift s of authorship, love, power, and signifi cance. Chapter Twenty, “Bringing It All Together,” is an integrative treatment of the reframing process. It takes a troubled school administrator through a weekend of refl ection on critical diffi culties he faces. Th e chapter shows how reframing can help managers move from feeling confused and stuck to discovering a renewed sense of clarity and confi dence. Th e Epilogue (Chapter Twenty-One) describes strategies and characteristics needed in future leaders. It explains why they will need an artistic combination of conceptual fl exibility and commitment to core values. Eff orts to prepare future leaders have to focus as much on spiritual as on intellectual development. xiii A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S We noted in our fi rst edition, “Book writing oft en feels like a lonely process, even when an odd couple is doing the writing.” Th is odd couple keeps getting older (both over seventy) and, some would say, even odder and grumpier. Yet the process seems less lonely because of our close friendship and our contact with many other colleagues and friends. Th e best thing about teaching is that you learn so much from your students. Students at Harvard, Vanderbilt, the University of Missouri–Kansas City, the University of La Verne, and the University of Southern California have given us invaluable criticism, challenge, and support over the years. We ’re also grateful to the many readers who have responded to our invitation to write and ask questions or share comments. Th ey have helped us write a better book. (Th e invitation is still open—our contact information is in “Th e Authors.”) We wish we could personally thank all of the leaders and managers who helped us learn in seminars, workshops, and consultations. Their knowledge and wisdom are the foundation and touchstone for our work. We would like to thank all the colleagues and readers in the United States and around the world who have off ered valuable comments and suggestions, but the list is very long and our memories keep getting shorter. Bob Marx, of the University of Massachusetts, deserves special mention as a charter member of the frames family. Bob ’s interest in the frames, creativity in developing teaching designs, and xiv Acknowledgments eye for video material have aided our thinking and teaching immensely. Elena Granell de Aldaz of the Institute for Advanced Study of Management in Caracas collaborated with us on developing a Spanish-language adaptation of Reframing Organizations as well as on a more recent project that studied frame orientations among managers in Venezuela. We are proud to consider her a valued colleague and wonderful friend. Captain Gary Deal, USN; Maj. Kevin Reed, USAF; Dr. Peter Minich, a transplant surgeon; and Jan and Ron Haynes of FzioMed all provided valuable case material. Terry Dunn of JE Dunn in Kansas City has been both a friend and an inspiring model of values-based leadership. Th e late Peter Frost of the University of British Columbia continues to inspire our work. Peter Vaill of the Antioch Graduate School; Kent Peterson, University of Wisconsin at Madison; both Sharon Conley and Patrick Faverty, University of California at Santa Barbara; and Roy Williams are continuing sources of ideas and support. A number of individuals, including many friends and colleagues at the Organizational Behavior Teaching Conference, have given us helpful ideas and suggestions. We apologize for any omissions, but we want to thank Anke Arnaud, Carole K. Barnett, Max Elden, Kent Fairfi eld, Ellen Harris, Olivier Hermanus, Jim Hodge, Earlene Holland, Scott Johnson, Mark Kriger, Hyoungbae Lee, Larry Levine, Mark Maier, Magid Mazen, Th omas P. Nydegger, Dave O ’Connell, Lynda St. Clair, Mabel Tinjacá, Susan Twombly, and Pat Villeneuve. We only wish we had succeeded in implementing all the wonderful ideas we received from these and other colleagues. Lee is grateful to all his Bloch School colleagues, and particularly to Nancy Day, Pam Dobies, Dave Donnelly, Dick Heimovics, Bob Herman, Doranne Hudson, Jae Jung, Tusha Kimber, Sandra Kruse-Smith, Rong Ma, Brent Never, Roger Pick, Stephen Pruitt, David Renz, Will Self, Marilyn Taylor, and Bob Waris. Terry’s colleagues Carl Cohn, Stu Gothald, and Gib Hentschke of the University of Southern California have off ered both intellectual stimulation and moral support. Terry ’s recent (2013) team-teaching venture with President Devorah Lieberman an
d Prof. Jack Meek of the University of La Verne showed what ’s possible when conventional boundaries are trespassed in a class of aspiring undergraduate leaders. Th is experience led to the founding of the Terrence E. Deal Leadership Institute. Others to whom our debt is particularly clear are Chris Argyris, Sam Bacharach, Cliff Baden, Margaret Benefi el, Estella Bensimon, Bob Birnbaum, Barbara Bunker, Tom Burks, Ellen Castro, Carlos Cortés, Linton Deck, Dave Fuller, Jim Honan, Tom Johnson, Bob Kegan, James March, Grady McGonagill, Judy McLaughlin, John Meyer, Kevin Nichols, Harrison Owen, Regina Pacheco, Acknowledgments xv Donna Redman, Peggy Redman, Michael Sales, Dick Scott, Joan Vydra, Karl Weick, Roy Williams, and Joe Zolner. Th anks again to Dave Brown, Phil Mirvis, Barry Oshry, Tim Hall, Bill Kahn, and Todd Jick of the Brookline Circle, now in its fourth decade of searching for joy and meaning in lives devoted to the study of organizations. We wrapped up the manuscript in a return visit to the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix. As always, the staff there made us feel more than welcome and exemplifi ed the Ritz-Carlton tradition of superlative service. Th anks to Grant Dipman, Jean Hengst, Sharon Krull, Joshua Leveque, Rosa Melgoza, Marta Ortiz, Jean Wright, and their colleagues. Outside the United States, we are grateful to Poul Erik Mouritzen in Denmark; Rolf Kaelin, Cüno Pumpin, and Peter Weisman in Switzerland; Ilpo Linko in Finland; Tom Case in Brazil; Einar Plyhn and Haakon Gran in Norway; Peter Normark and Dag Bjorkegren in Sweden; Ching-Shiun Chung in Taiwan; Helen Gluzdakova and Anastasia Vitkovskaya in Russia; and H.R.H. Prince Philipp von und zu Lichtenstein. Closer to home, Lee also owes more than he can say to Bruce Kay, whose genial and unfl appable approach to work, coupled with high levels of organization and follow-through, have all had a wonderfully positive impact since he took on the challenge of bringing a modicum of order and sanity to Lee ’s professional functioning. We also continue to be grateful for the long-term support and friendship of Linda Corey, our long-time resident representative at Harvard, and the irrepressible Homa Aminmadani, who now lives in Teheran. Th e couples of the Edna Ranch Vintners Guild—the Pecatores, Donners, Hayneses, and Andersons—link eff orts with Terry in exploring the ups, downs, and mysteries of the art and science of wine making. Two professional wine makers, Romeo “Meo” Zuech of Piedra Creek Winery and Brett Escalera of Consilience and TresAnelli, off er advice that applies to leadership as well as wine making. Meo reminds us, “Never over-manage your grapes,” and Brett prefaces answers to all questions with “It all depends.” We ’re delighted to be well into the fourth decade of our partnership with JosseyBass. We ’re grateful to the many friends who have helped us over the years, including Bill Henry, Steve Piersanti, Lynn Lychow, Bill Hicks, Debra Hunter, Cedric Crocker, Byron Schneider, and many others. In recent years, Kathe Sweeney has been a wonderful editor and even better friend, and we ’re delighted to be working with her again. Kathleen Dolan Davies and Alina Poniewaz have done vital and xvi Acknowledgments much-appreciated work backstage in helping to get all the pieces together and keep the process moving forward. We received many valuable suggestions from a diverse, knowledgeable, and talented team of outside reviewers. We did not succeed in implementing all of their many excellent ideas, and they did not always agree among themselves, but the manuscript benefi ted in many ways from their input. Lee ’s six children—Edward, Shelley, Lori, Scott, Christopher, and Bradley— and three grandchildren (James, Jazmyne, and Foster) all continue to enrich his life and contribute to his growth. Terry ’s daughter Janie, a chef, has a rare talent of almost magically transforming simple ingredients into fi ne cuisine. Special mention also goes to Terry ’s deceased parents, Bob and Dorothy Deal. Both lived long enough to be pleasantly surprised that their oft -wayward son could write a book. We again dedicate the book to our wives, who have more than earned all the credit and appreciation that we can give them. Joan Gallos, Lee ’s spouse and closest colleague, combines intellectual challenge and critique with support and love. She has been an active collaborator in developing our ideas, and her teaching manual for previous editions was a frame-breaking model for the genre. Her contributions have become so integrated into our own thinking that we are no longer able to thank her for all the ways that the book has gained from her wisdom and insights. Sandy Deal ’s psychological training enables her to approach the fi eld of organizations with a distinctive and illuminating slant. Her successful practice produces examples that have helped us make some even stronger connections to the concepts of clinical psychology. She is one of the most gift ed diagnosticians in the fi eld, as well as a delightful partner whose love and support over the long run have made all the diff erence. She is a rare combination of courage and caring, intimacy and independence, responsibility and playfulness. To Joan and Sandy, thanks again. As the years accumulate, we love you even more. May 2013 Lee G. Bolman Brookline, Massachusetts Terrence E. Deal San Luis Obispo, California PART ONE Making Sense of Organizations Sit no longer at your dusty window I urge you to break the gaze from your oh so cherished glass —Gian Torrano Jacobs Journeys Th rough the Windows of Perception 3 1 Introduction The Power of Reframing Steve Jobs had to fail before he could succeed. Fail he did. He was fi red from Apple Computer, the company he founded, and spent eleven years “in the wilderness” (Schlender, 2004). During this time of refl ection he discovered capacities as a leader—and human being— that set the stage for his triumphant second act at Apple. He failed initially for the same reason that countless managers stumble: he was operating on a limited understanding of leadership and organizations. He was always a brilliant and charismatic product visionary. Th at enabled him to take Apple from startup to major computer vendor, but didn ’t equip him to lead Apple to its next phase. Being fi red was painful, but Jobs later concluded that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. “It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. I ’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn ’t been fi red from Apple. It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.” During his period of self-refl ection, he kept busy. He focused on Pixar, a company he bought for $10 million, and on NeXT, a new computer company that he founded. One succeeded and the other didn ’t, but he learned from both. Pixar became so successful it made Jobs a billionaire. NeXT never made money, but it chapter 4 Reframing Organizations developed technology that proved vital when Jobs was recalled from the wilderness to save Apple from a death spiral. His experiences at NeXT and Pixar provided two vital lessons. One was the importance of aligning an organization with its mission. He understood more clearly that he needed a great company to build great products. Lesson two was about people. Jobs had always understood the importance of talent, but now he had a much better appreciation for the importance of relationships and teamwork. Jobs ’s character did not change during his wilderness years. Th e Steve Jobs who returned to Apple in 1997 was much like the human paradox fi red twelve years earlier—demanding and charismatic, charming and infuriating, erratic and focused, opinionated and receptive. Th e diff erence was in how he thought, how he interpreted what was going on around him, and how he led. To his long-time gift s as magician and warrior, he had added newfound capacities as organizational architect and team builder. Shortly aft er his return, he radically simplifi ed Apple ’s product line, built a loyal and talented leadership team, and turned his ol
d company into a hit-making machine as reliable as Pixar. Th e iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad made Jobs the world ’s most admired chief executive, and Apple passed Exxon Mobil to become the world ’s most valuable company. His success in building an organization and a leadership team was validated as Apple ’s business results continued to impress aft er his death in October 2011. Steve Jobs is like many other execs who seem to have it all until they lose it— except that many never get it back. Take the remarkable rise and fall of Rajat Gupta, who immigrated to the United States, graduated from the Harvard Business School, and rose to become head of the global consulting fi rm McKinsey and Company. Aft er he retired from McKinsey, he joined the boards of prestigious companies like Procter & Gamble and Goldman, Sachs. He was one of America ’s most respected businessmen—until 2012, when he was convicted of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking Goldman boardroom secrets to a billionaire hedge fund manager. His former McKinsey associates found it hard to fathom: “McKinsey ’s core business principle is to guard the confi dential and private information of its clients,” said a former McKinsey executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It is mind-blowing that the guy who ran the fi rm for so many years could be going to jail for violating that principle” (Lattman and Ahmed, 2012). Gupta and Jobs were both brilliant men who accomplished extraordinary things. But each descended into a period of cluelessness, becoming so cocooned in his own world view that he couldn ’t see other options. Th at ’s what it means to Introduction: The Power of Reframing 5 be clueless. You don ’t know what ’s going on, but you think you do, and you don ’t see better choices. So you do more of what you know, even though it ’s not working. You hope in vain that if you just try harder, you ’ll succeed. Cluelessness is not restricted to business executives—government provides its share of examples. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Levees failed, and much of the city was underwater. Tens of thousands of people, many poor and black, found themselves stranded for days in desperate circumstances. Government agencies bumbled aimlessly, and help was slow to arrive. As Americans watched television footage of the chaos, they were stunned to hear the nation ’s top disaster offi cial, the secretary of Homeland Security, tell reporters that he “had no reports” of things viewers had seen with their own eyes. It seemed he should have relied on television news rather than his own agency. Americans were even more astounded when, shortly aft er the secretary ’s misspeak, President Bush, touring the destruction, descended from Air Force One, slapped the Homeland Security offi cial in charge at the scene on the back, and told him “You ’re doing a hell of a job, Brownie!” Doesn ’t anyone get it? Steve Jobs, Rajat Gupta, and President Bush represent only a few examples of a chronic challenge: how to know whether you ’re getting the right picture or tuning in to the wrong channel. Managers oft en fail this test. Cluelessness is a fact of life, even for very smart people. Sometimes the information they need is fuzzy or hard to get. Other times they get bad information from advisors or ignore or misinterpret information they receive. Leaders too oft en lock themselves into fl awed ways of making sense of their circumstances. In the discussion that follows, we explore the origins and symptoms of cluelessness. We introduce reframing —the conceptual core of the book and our basic prescription for sizing things up. Reframing requires an ability to think about situations in more than one way, which lets you develop alternative diagnoses and strategies. We introduce four distinct lenses or frames—structural, human resource, political, and symbolic—each logical and powerful in its own right. Together, they help us decipher the full array of signifi cant clues, capturing a more comprehensive picture of what ’s going on and what to do. VIRTUES AND DRAWBACKS OF ORGANIZED ACTIVITY Th ere was little need for professional managers when individuals mostly managed their own aff airs, drawing goods and services from family farms and small local 6 Reframing Organizations businesses. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution some two hundred years ago, explosive technological and social changes have produced a world that is far more interconnected, frantic, and complicated. Humans struggle to avoid drowning in complexity that continually threatens to pull them in over their heads (Kegan, 1998). Forms of management and organization eff ective a few years ago are now obsolete. Sérieyx (1993) calls it the organizational big bang: “Th e information revolution, the globalization of economies, the proliferation of events that undermine all our certainties, the collapse of the grand ideologies, the arrival of the CNN society which transforms us into an immense, planetary village—all these shocks have overturned the rules of the game and suddenly turned yesterday ’s organizations into antiques” (pp. 14–15). Th e proliferation of complex organizations has made most human activities more formalized than they once were. We grow up in families and then start our own. We work for business, government, or non-profi ts. We learn in schools and universities. We worship in synagogues, churches, and mosques. We play sports in teams, franchises, and leagues. We join clubs and associations. Many of us will grow old and die in hospitals or nursing homes. We build these enterprises because of what they can do for us. Th ey off er goods, entertainment, social services, health care, and almost everything else that we use or consume. All too oft en, however, we experience a darker side of these formal enterprises. Organizations can frustrate and exploit people. Too oft en, products are fl awed, families are dysfunctional, students fail to learn, patients get worse, and policies backfi re. Work oft en has so little meaning that jobs off er nothing beyond a paycheck. If we believe mission statements and public pronouncements, every company these days aims to nurture its employees and delight its customers. But many miss the mark. Schools are blamed for social ills, universities are said to close more minds than they open, and government is criticized for corruption, red tape, and rigidity. Th e private sector has its own problems. Automakers reluctantly recall faulty cars. Producers of food and pharmaceuticals make people sick with tainted products. Soft ware companies deliver bugs and “vaporware.” Industrial accidents dump chemicals, oil, toxic gas, and radioactive materials into the air and water. Too oft en, corporate greed, incompetence, and insensitivity create havoc for communities and individuals. Th e bottom line: we seem hard-pressed to manage organizations so that their virtues exceed their vices. Th e big question: Why? Introduction: The Power of Reframing 7 Management ’s Track Record Year aft er year, the best and brightest managers maneuver or meander their way to the apex of enterprises great and small. Th en they do really dumb things. How do bright people turn out so dim? One theory is that they ’re too smart for their own good. Feinberg and Tarrant (1995) label it the “self-destructive intelligence syndrome.” Th ey argue that smart people act stupid because of personality fl aws— things like pride, arrogance, and an unconscious desire to fail. It ’s true that psychological fl aws have been apparent in such brilliant, self-destructive individuals as Adolph Hitler, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. But on the whole, intellectually challenged people have as many psychological problems as the best and brightest. Th e primary source of dimness or cluelessness, as we have labeled it, is not personality or IQ. We ’re at sea whenever our sense-making eff orts fail us. If our image of a situation is wrong, our actions will be wide of the mark as well. But if we don ’t know we ’re seeing the wr
ong picture, we won ’t understand why we ’re not getting the results we want. So we insist we ’re right even when we ’re off track. Vaughan (1995), in trying to unravel the causes of the 1986 disaster that destroyed the Challenger space shuttle and its crew, underscored how hard it is for people to surrender their entrenched conceptions of reality: “Th ey puzzle over contradictory evidence, but usually succeed in pushing it aside—until they come across a piece of evidence too fascinating to ignore, too clear to misperceive, too painful to deny, which makes vivid still other signals they do not want to see, forcing them to alter and surrender the world-view they have so meticulously constructed” (p. 235). Th is was the struggle faced by the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers, who were the suspects in the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon. Both mother and father resisted the abundant evidence that their sons were guilty, and grasped at implausible alternative stories: their sons had been set up, or the bombing was a hoax that didn’t really happen. With one son dead and the other seriously injured, they needed some way to ward off a reality too painful and devastating to accept. As mentioned earlier, when we don ’t know what to do, we do more of what we know. We construct our own psychic prisons and then lock ourselves in. Th is helps explain a number of unsettling reports from the managerial front lines: • Hogan, Curphy, and Hogan (1994) estimate that the skills of one-half to threequarters of American managers are inadequate for the demands of their jobs. But most probably don ’t realize it. Kruger and Dunning (1999) found that 8 Reframing Organizations the less competent people are, the more they overestimate their performance, partly because they don ’t know good performance when they see it. • About half of the high-profi le senior executives that companies hire fail within two years, according to a 2006 study (Burns and Kiley, 2007). • Th e annual value of corporate mergers has grown more than a hundredfold since 1980, yet one study found that “83 percent of mergers were unsuccessful in producing any business benefi t as regards shareholder value” (KPMG, 2000). Mergers typically benefi t shareholders of the acquired fi rm but hurt almost everyone else—customers, employees, and, ironically, the buyers who initiated the deal. Two years aft er a merger, consumers on average feel that they ’re paying more and getting less. Despite this dismal record, the vast majority of the managers who engineered mergers insisted they were successful (KPMG, 2000). • Year aft er year, management miscues cause once highly successful companies to skid into bankruptcy. Examples in 2012 included Malév, the national airline of Hungary, aft er fi ft y-six years in business, and eighty-two-year-old Hostess, unable to stay afl oat despite owning iconic American brands like Twinkies and Wonder Bread. Small wonder that so many organizational veterans nod in assent to Scott Adams ’s admittedly unscientifi c “Dilbert principle”: “the most ineff ective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage— management” (1996, p. 14). Strategies for Improving Organizations: The Track Record We have certainly made an eff ort to improve organizations. Legions of managers report to work each day with that hope in mind. Authors and consultants spin out a fl ood of new answers and promising solutions. Policymakers develop laws and regulations to guide organizations on the right path. Th e most universal improvement strategy is upgrading management. Modern mythology promises that organizations will work splendidly if well managed. Managers are supposed to see the big picture and look out for their organization ’s overall health and productivity. Unfortunately, they have not always been equal to the task, even when armed with computers, information systems, fl owcharts, quality programs, and a panoply of the latest tools and techniques. Th ey go forth with this rational arsenal to try to tame our wild and primitive workplaces. Yet in the end, irrational forces too oft en prevail. Introduction: The Power of Reframing 9 When managers fi nd problems too hard to solve, they hire consultants. Th e number and variety of advice givers keeps growing. Most have a specialty: strategy, technology, quality, fi nance, marketing, mergers, human resource management, executive search, outplacement, coaching, organization development, and many more. For every managerial challenge, there is a consultant willing to off er assistance—at a price. For all their sage advice and remarkable fees, consultants oft en make little dent in problems plaguing organizations—businesses, public agencies, military services, hospitals, and schools. Sometimes the consultants are more hindrance than help, though they oft en lament clients’ failure to implement their profound insights. McKinsey & Co., “the high priest of high-level consulting” (Byrne, 2002a, p. 66), worked so closely with Enron that its managing partner—the same Rajat Gupta who eventually went to jail himself—sent his chief lawyer to Houston aft er Enron ’s collapse to see if his fi rm might be in legal trouble. 1 Th e lawyer reported that McKinsey was safe, and a relieved Gupta insisted bravely, “We stand by all the work we did. Beyond that, we can only empathize with the trouble they are going through. It ’s a sad thing to see” (p. 68). When managers and consultants fail, government frequently responds with legislation, policies, and regulations. In earlier times, the federal government limited its formal infl uence to national concerns such as the Homestead Act and the Post Offi ce. Now constituents badger elected offi cials to “do something” about a variety of ills: pollution, dangerous products, hazardous working conditions, and chaotic schools, to name a few. Governing bodies respond by making “policy.” But policymakers oft en don ’t understand the problem well enough to get the solution right, and a sizable body of research records a continuing saga of perverse ways in which the implementation process undermines even good solutions (Bardach, 1977; Elmore, 1978; Freudenberg and Gramling, 1994; Peters, 1999; Pressman and Wildavsky, 1973). Policymakers, for example, have been trying for decades to reform U.S. public schools. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent. Th e result? About as successful as America ’s switch to the metric system. In the 1950s Congress passed legislation mandating adoption of metric standards and measures. More than six decades later, if you know what a hectare is, or can visualize the size of a threehundred-gram package of crackers, you ’re ahead of most Americans. Legislators did not factor into their solution what it would take to get their decision implemented. In short, the diffi culties surrounding improvement strategies are well documented. Exemplary intentions produce more costs than benefi ts. Problems outlast 10 Reframing Organizations solutions. It is as if tens of thousands of hard-working, highly motivated pioneers keep hacking at a swamp that persistently produces new growth faster than the old can be cleared. To be sure, there are reasons for optimism. Organizations have changed about as much in recent decades as in the preceding century. To survive, they had to. Revolutionary changes in technology, the rise of the global economy, and shortened product life cycles have spawned a fl urry of activity to design faster, more fl exible organizational forms. New organizational models fl ourish in companies such as Pret à Manger (the socially conscious U.K. sandwich shops), Google (the global search giant), and Novo-Nordisk (a Danish pharmaceutical company that includes environmental and social metrics in its bottom line). Th e dispersed collection of enthusiasts and volunteers who provide content for Wikipedia and the far-fl ung network of soft ware engineers who have developed the Linux operating system provide dramatic examples of possibilities in the digital world. But despite such
successes, failures are still too common. Th e nagging question: How can leaders and managers improve the odds for themselves as well for their organizations? FRAMING Goran Carstedt, the talented executive who led the turnaround of Volvo ’s French division in the 1980s, got to the heart of a challenge managers face every day: “Th e world simply can ’t be made sense of, facts can ’t be organized, unless you have a mental model to begin with. Th at theory does not have to be the right one, because you can alter it along the way as information comes in. But you can ’t begin to learn without some concept that gives you expectations or hypotheses” (Hampden-Turner, 1992, p. 167). Such mental models have many labels—maps, mind-sets, schema, paradigms, and cognitive lenses, to name a few. 2 Following the work of Goff man, Dewey, and others, we have chosen the label frames . In describing frames, we deliberately mix metaphors, referring to them as windows, maps, tools, lenses, orientations, prisms, and perspectives, because all these images capture part of the idea we want to convey. A frame is a mental model—a set of ideas and assumptions—that you carry in your head to help you understand and negotiate a particular “territory.” A good frame makes it easier to know what you are up against and, ultimately, what you can do about it. Frames are vital because organizations don ’t come with computerized navigation systems to guide you turn-by-turn to your destination. Instead, managers need to develop and carry accurate maps in their heads. Introduction: The Power of Reframing 11 Such maps make it possible to register and assemble key bits of perceptual data into a coherent pattern—a picture of what ’s happening. When it works fl uidly, the process takes the form of “rapid cognition,” the process that Gladwell (2005) examines in his best-seller Blink . He describes it as a gift that makes it possible to read “deeply into the narrowest slivers of experience. In basketball, the player who can take in and comprehend all that is happening in the moment is said to have ‘court sense’ ” (p. 44). Dane and Pratt (2007) describe four key characteristics of this intuitive “blink” process: • It is nonconscious—you can do it without thinking about it and without knowing how you did it. • It is very fast—the process oft en occurs almost instantly. • It is holistic—you see a coherent, meaningful pattern. • It results in “aff ective judgments”—thought and feeling work together so you feel confi dent that you know what is going on and what needs to be done. Th e essence of this process is matching situational cues with a well-learned mental framework—a “deeply-held, nonconscious category or pattern” (Dane and Pratt, 2007, p. 37). Th is is the key skill that Simon and Chase (1973) found in chess masters—they could instantly recognize more than fi ft y thousand confi gurations of a chessboard. Th is ability enables grand masters to play twenty-fi ve lesser opponents simultaneously, beating all of them while spending only seconds on each move. Th e same process of rapid cognition is at work in the diagnostic categories physicians rely on to evaluate patients’ symptoms. Th e Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” requires physicians to be confi dent that they know what they ’re up against before prescribing a remedy. Th eir skilled judgment draws on a repertoire of categories and clues, honed by training and experience. But sometimes they get it wrong. One source of error is anchoring: doctors, like leaders, sometimes lock on to the fi rst answer that seems right, even if a few messy facts don ’t quite fi t. “Your mind plays tricks on you because you see only the landmarks you expect to see and neglect those that should tell you that in fact you ’re still at sea” (Groopman, 2007, p. 65). Treating individual patents is hard, but managers have an even tougher challenge because organizations are more complex and the diagnostic categories less well defi ned. Th at means that the quality of your judgments depends on the 12 Reframing Organizations information you have at hand, your mental maps, and how well you have learned to use them. Good maps align with the terrain and provide enough detail to keep you on course. If you ’re trying to fi nd your way around Beijing, a map of Chicago won ’t help. In the same way, diff erent circumstances require diff erent approaches. Even with the right map, getting around will be slow and awkward if you have to stop and study at every intersection. Th e ultimate goal is fl uid expertise, the sort of know-how that lets you think on the fl y and navigate organizations as easily as you drive home on a familiar route. You can make decisions quickly and automatically because you know at a glance where you are and what you need to do next. Th ere is no shortcut to developing this kind of expertise. It takes eff ort, time, practice, and feedback. Some of the eff ort has to go into learning frames and the ideas behind them. Equally important is putting the ideas to use. Experience, one oft en hears, is the best teacher, but that is true only if one learns from it. McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison (1988, p. 122) found that a key quality among successful executives was an “extraordinary tenacity in extracting something worthwhile from their experience and in seeking experiences rich in opportunities for growth.” Frame Breaking Framing involves matching mental maps to circumstances. Reframing requires another skill—the ability to break frames Why do that? A news story from the summer of 2007 illustrates. Imagine yourself among a group of friends enjoying dinner on the patio of a Washington, DC, home. An armed, hooded intruder suddenly appears and points a gun at the head of a fourteen-year-old guest. “Give me your money,” he says, “or I ’ll start shooting.” If you ’re at that table, what do you do? You could faint. You could try a heroic frontal attack. You might try to run. Or you could try to redefi ne the situation. Th at ’s exactly what Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan did. “We were just fi nishing dinner,” [she] told the man. “Why don ’t you have a glass of wine with us?” Th e intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, “Damn, that ’s good wine.” Th e girl ’s father . . . told the intruder to take the whole glass, and Rowan off ered him the bottle. Th e robber, with his hood down, took another sip and a bite of Camembert cheese. He put the gun in his sweatpants . . . Introduction: The Power of Reframing 13 “I think I may have come to the wrong house,” the intruder said before apologizing. “Can I get a hug?” Rowan . . . stood up and wrapped her arms around the would-be robber. Th e other guests followed. “Can we have a group hug?” the man asked. Th e fi ve adults complied. Th e man walked away a few moments later with a fi lled crystal wine glass, but nothing was stolen, and no one was hurt. Police were called to the scene and found the empty wine glass unbroken on the ground in an alley behind the house [Associated Press, 2007]. In one stroke, Cha Cha Rowan redefi ned the situation from “we might all be killed” to “let ’s off er our guest some wine.” Like her, artistic managers frame and reframe experience fl uidly, sometimes with extraordinary results. Th e late Marcus Foster, superintendent of Oakland, California, public schools in the 1970s, diffused a crisis situation by changing the frame. A group of administrators rushed into his offi ce shouting, “Dr. Foster, Dr. Foster, there ’s a large group of angry men outside. We are afraid they are a gang of Blank Panthers.” Foster leaned back in his chair and said, “Go outside and treat them as if they are Pink Panthers.” Th e administrators successfully calmed the angry crowd. Frame breaking happens naturally in the art world. A critic once commented to Cézanne, “Th at doesn ’t look anything like a sunset.” Pondering his painting, Cézanne responded, “Th en you don ’t see sunsets the way I do.” Like Cézanne
, Foster, and Rowan, leaders have to fi nd new ways to shift points of view when needed. Th is is not easy, which is why “most of us passively accept decision problems as they are framed, and therefore rarely have an opportunity to discover the extent to which our preferences are frame-bound rather than realitybound ” (Kahneman, 2011, p. 367). Like maps, frames are both windows on a territory and tools for navigation. Every tool has distinctive strengths and limitations. Th e 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 suffi ce for simple jobs but not for more complex undertakings. Managers who master the hammer and expect all problems to behave like nails fi nd life at work confusing and frustrating. Th e wise manager, like a skilled carpenter, wants at hand a diverse collection of high-quality implements. Experienced managers also understand the diff erence between possessing a tool and knowing when and how to use it. Only 14 Reframing Organizations experience and practice foster the skill and wisdom to take stock of a situation and use suitable tools with confi dence and skill. The Four Frames Only in the last hundred 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 oft en fail. In the social sciences, several major schools of thought have evolved. Each has its own concepts and assumptions, espousing a particular view of how to bring social collectives under control. Each tradition claims a scientifi 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. Sift ing through competing voices is one of our goals in writing this book. We are not searching for the one best way. Rather, we consolidate major schools of organizational thought and research into a comprehensive framework encompassing four distinct 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, psychology, political science, and anthropology. Th ousands of managers and scores of organizations 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 2013. She worries about her company ’s fl 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 fi eld of decision theory allows us to compute a monetary value for a given amount of uncertainty reduction.” 3 “Th is stuff may be good,” the executive tells herself, “but it seems a little too stiff and numbers-driven.” Introduction: The Power of Reframing 15 Next, she fi nds Lead with LUV: A Diff erent Way to Create Real Success . Glancing inside, she reads, “Many of our offi 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 signifi 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.” 4 “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.” 5 She wonders, “Does it really all come down to politics? It seems so cynical and scheming. Isn ’t there something more uplift ing?” She spots Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Th riving Organization . She ponders its message: “Tribal leaders focus their eff orts on building the tribe, or, more precisely, upgrading the tribal culture. If they are successful, the tribe recognizes them as leaders, giving them top eff ort, cult-like loyalty, and a track record of success.” 6 “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 Th e fi 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, goals, structure, technology, specialized roles, coordination, formal relationships, and metrics. Structures— commonly depicted by organization charts—are designed to fi t an organization ’s environment and technology. Organizations allocate responsibilities (“division of labor”). Th ey then create rules, policies, procedures, systems, and hierarchies to 16 Reframing Organizations coordinate diverse activities into a unifi ed eff ort. 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. Families Our executive next encountered Lead with LUV: A Diff erent Way to Create Real Success , with its focus on people and relationships. Th e human resource perspective, rooted in psychology, sees an organization as an extended family, made up of individuals with needs, feelings, prejudices, skills, and limitations. From a human resource view, the key challenge is to tailor organizations to individuals—fi nding ways for people to get the job done while feeling good about themselves and their work. When basic needs for security and trust are unfulfi lled, people withdraw from an organization, join unions, go on strike, sabotage, or quit. Psychologically healthy organizations provide adequate wages and benefi ts and make sure employees have the skills and resources to do their jobs. Jungles Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t is a contemporary application of the political frame, rooted in the work of political scientists. Th is view sees organizations as arenas, contests, or jungles. Parochial interests compete for power and scarce resources. Confl ict is rampant because of enduring diff erences in needs, perspectives, and lifestyles among contending individuals and groups. Bargaining, negotiation, coercion, and compromise are a normal part of everyday life. Coalitions form around specifi c interests and change as issues come and go. Problems arise when power is concentrated in the wrong
places or is so broadly dispersed that nothing gets done. Solutions arise from political skill and acumen—as Machiavelli suggested centuries ago in Th e Prince ( 1961). Temples and Carnivals Finally, our executive encountered Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Th riving Organization , with its emphasis on culture, symbols, and spirit as keys to organizational success. Th e symbolic lens, drawing on social and cultural anthropology, treats organizations as temples, tribes, theaters, or carnivals. It abandons the assumptions of rationality prominent in other frames and depicts organizations as cultures, propelled by rituals, ceremonies, stories, heroes, and myths rather than by rules, policies, and managerial authority. Organization is Introduction: The Power of Reframing 17 also theater: actors play their roles in an ongoing drama while audiences form impressions from what they see on stage. Problems arise when actors blow their parts, symbols lose their meaning, or ceremonies and rituals lose their potency. We rekindle the expressive or spiritual side of organizations through the use of symbol, myth, and magic. The FBI and the CIA: A Four-Frame Story A saga of two squabbling agencies illustrates how the four frames provide diff erent views of the same situation. Riebling (2002) documents the long history of head-butting between America ’s two intelligence agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. Both are charged with combating espionage and terrorism, but the FBI ’s authority is valid primarily within the United States, while the CIA ’s mandate covers everywhere else. Structurally, the FBI is housed in the Department of Justice and reports to the attorney general. Th e CIA reported through the director of central intelligence to the president until 2004, when a reorganization put it under a new director of national intelligence. At a number of major junctures in American history (including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks), each agency held pieces of a larger puzzle, but coordination snafus made it hard for anyone to see all the pieces, much less put them together. Aft er 9/11, both agencies came under heavy criticism, and each blamed the other for lapses. Th e FBI complained that the CIA had failed to tell them that two of the terrorists had entered the United States and had been living in California since 2000 (Seper, 2005). But an internal Justice Department investigation also concluded that the FBI didn ’t do very well with the information it did have. Key signals were never “documented by the bureau or placed in any system from which they could be retrieved by agents investigating terrorist threats” (Seper, 2005, p. 1). Structural barriers between the FBI and the CIA were exacerbated by the enmity between the two agencies’ patron saints, J. Edgar Hoover and “Wild Bill” Donovan. When Hoover fi rst became FBI director in the 1920s, he reported to Donovan, who didn ’t trust him and tried to get him fi red. When World War II broke out, Hoover lobbied to get the FBI identifi ed as the nation ’s worldwide intelligence agency. He fumed when President Franklin D. Roosevelt instead created a new agency and made Donovan its director. As oft en happens, cooperation between two units was chronically hampered by a rocky personal relationship between two top dogs who never liked one another. 18 Reframing Organizations Politically, the relationship between the FBI and CIA was born in turf confl ict because of Roosevelt ’s decision to give responsibility for foreign intelligence to Donovan instead of to Hoover. Th e friction persisted over the decades as both agencies vied for turf and funding from Congress and the White House. Symbolically, diff erent histories and missions led to very distinct cultures. Th e FBI, which built its image with the dramatic capture or killing of notorious gang leaders, bank robbers, and foreign agents, liked to generate headlines by pouncing on suspects quickly and publicly. Th e CIA preferred to work in the shadows, believing that patience and secrecy were vital to its task of collecting intelligence and rooting out foreign spies. Senior U.S. offi cials have known for years that tension between the FBI and CIA damages U.S. security. But most initiatives to improve the relationship have been partial and ephemeral, falling well short of addressing the full range of issues. Multiframe Thinking Th e overview of the four-frame model in Exhibit 1.1 shows that each of the frames has its own image of reality. You may be drawn to some and put off by others. Some perspectives may seem clear and straightforward, while others seem puzzling. But learning to apply all four deepens your appreciation and understanding of organizations. Galileo discovered this when he devised the fi rst telescope. Each lens he added contributed to a more accurate image of the heavens. Successful managers take advantage of the same truth. Like physicians, they reframe, consciously or intuitively, until they understand the situation at hand. Th ey use more than one lens to develop a diagnosis of what they are up against and how to move forward. Th is claim about the advantages of multiple perspectives has stimulated a growing body of research. Dunford and Palmer (1995) found that management courses teaching multiple frames had signifi cant positive eff ects over both the short and long term—in fact, 98 percent of their respondents rated reframing as helpful or very helpful, and about 90 percent felt it gave them a competitive advantage. Other studies have shown that the ability to use multiple frames is associated with greater eff ectiveness for managers and leaders (Bensimon, 1989, 1990; Birnbaum, 1992; Bolman and Deal, 1991, 1992a, 1992b; Heimovics, Herman, and Jurkiewicz Coughlin, 1993, 1995; Wimpelberg, 1987). Multiframe thinking requires moving beyond narrow, mechanical approaches for understanding organizations. We cannot count the number of times managers have told us that they handled some problem the “only way” it could be done. Introduction: The Power of Reframing 19 Such statements betray a failure of both imagination and courage and reveal a paralyzing fear of uncertainty. It may be comforting to think that failure was unavoidable and we did all we could. But it can be liberating to realize there is always more than one way to respond to any problem or dilemma. Th ose who master reframing report a sense of choice and power. Managers are imprisoned only to the extent that their palette of ideas is impoverished. Akira Kurosawa ’s classic fi lm Rashomon recounts the same event through the eyes of several witnesses. Each tells a diff erent story. Similarly, organizations are fi lled with people who have divergent interpretations of what is and should be happening. Each version contains a glimmer of truth, but each is a product of the prejudices and blind spots of its maker. Each frame tells a diff erent story (Gottschall, 2012), but no single story is comprehensive enough to make an organization fully Frame Structural Human Resource Political Symbolic Metaphor for organization Factory or machine Family Jungle Carnival, temple, theater Central concepts Roles, goals, policies, technology, environment Needs, skills, relationships Power, confl ict, competition, politics Culture, meaning, metaphor, ritual, ceremony, stories, heroes Image of leadership Social architecture Empowerment Advocacy and political savvy Inspiration Basic leadership challenge Attune structure to task, technology, environment Align organizational and human needs Develop agenda and power base Create faith, beauty, meaning Exhibit 1.1. Overview of the Four-Frame Model. 20 Reframing Organizations understandable or manageable. Eff ective managers need frames to generate multiple stories, the skill to sort through the alternatives, and the wisdom to match the right story to the situation. 7 Lack of imagination—Langer (1989) calls it “mindlessness”—is a major cause of the shortfall between the reach a
nd the grasp of so many organizations—the empty chasm between noble aspirations and disappointing results. Th e gap is painfully acute in a world where organizations dominate so much of our lives. Taleb (2007) depicts events like the 9/11 attacks as “black swans”—novel events that are unexpected because we have never seen them before. If every swan we ’ve observed is white, we expect the same in the future. But fateful, makeor-break events are more likely to be situations we ’ve never experienced before. Imagination is our best chance for being ready when a black swan sails into view, and multiframe thinking is a powerful stimulus to the broad, creative mind-set imagination requires. Engineering and Art Exhibit 1.2 presents two contrasting approaches to management and leadership. One is a rational-technical mind-set emphasizing certainty and control. Th e other is an expressive, artistic conception encouraging fl exibility, creativity, and interpretation. Th e fi rst portrays managers as technicians; the second sees them as artists. Artists interpret experience and express it in forms that can be felt, understood, and appreciated by others. Art embraces emotion, subtlety, ambiguity. An artist reframes the world so others can see new possibilities. Modern organizations oft en rely too much on engineering and too little on art in searching for quality, commitment, and creativity. Art is not a replacement for engineering but an enhancement. Artistic leaders and managers help us look beyond today ’s reality to new forms that release untapped individual energies and improve collective performance. Th e leader as artist relies on images as well as memos, poetry as well as policy, refl ection as well as command, and reframing as well as refi tting. CONCLUSION As organizations have become pervasive and dominant, they have also become harder to understand and manage. Th e result is that managers are oft en nearly as clueless as their subordinates—the Dilberts of the world—think they are. Th e consequences of myopic management and leadership show up every day, sometimes Introduction: The Power of Reframing 21 in small and subtle ways, sometimes in catastrophes. Our basic premise is that a primary cause of managerial failure is faulty thinking rooted in inadequate ideas. Managers and those who try to help them too oft en rely on narrow models that capture only part of organizational life. Learning multiple perspectives, or frames, is a defense against thrashing around without a clue about what you are doing or why. Frames serve multiple functions. Th ey are fi lters for sorting essence from trivia, maps that aid navigation, and tools for solving problems and getting things done. Th is book is organized around four frames rooted in both managerial wisdom and social science knowledge. Th e structural approach focuses on the architecture of organization—the design of units and subunits, rules and roles, goals and policies. Th e human resource lens emphasizes understanding people—their strengths and foibles, reason and emotion, desires and fears. Th e political view sees organizations as competitive arenas Exhibit 1.2. Expanding Managerial Thinking. How Managers Think How Managers Might Think They often have a limited view of organizations (for example, attributing almost all problems to individuals’ fl aws and errors). They need a holistic framework that encourages inquiry into a range of signifi cant issues: people, power, structure, and symbols. Regardless of a problem ’s source, managers often choose rational and structural solutions: facts, logic, restructuring. They need a palette that offers an array of options: bargaining as well as training, celebration as well as reorganization. Managers often value certainty, rationality, and control while fearing ambiguity, paradox, and “going with the fl ow.” They need to develop creativity, risk taking, and playfulness in response to life ’s dilemmas and paradoxes, focusing as much on fi nding the right question as the right answer, on fi nding meaning and faith amid clutter and confusion. Leaders often rely on the “one right answer” and the “one best way”; they are stunned at the turmoil and resistance they generate. Leaders need passionate, unwavering commitment to principle, combined with fl exibility in understanding and responding to events. 22 Reframing Organizations of scarce resources, competing interests, and struggles for power and advantage. Finally, the symbolic frame focuses on issues of meaning and faith. It puts ritual, ceremony, story, play, and culture at the heart of organizational life. Each of the frames is powerful and coherent. Collectively, they make it possible to reframe, looking at the same thing from multiple lenses or points of view. When the world seems hopelessly confusing and nothing is working, reframing is a powerful tool for gaining clarity, regaining balance, generating new options, and fi nding strategies that make a diff erence. 23 chapter 2 Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations America ’s East Coast welcomed a crisp, sunny late-summer morning on September 11, 2001. For airline passengers in the Boston-Washington corridor, the perfect weather off ered prospects of on-time departures, smooth fl ights, and safe arrivals. Th e promise would fail for four fl ights bound for California. Th e aircraft were commandeered by terrorists willing to give their lives for a cause. Two of the hijacked aircraft attacked and destroyed the Twin Towers of New York ’s World Trade Center. Another slammed into the Pentagon. The fourth was deterred from its mission by the heroic eff orts of passengers. It crashed in a vacant fi eld, killing all aboard. Like Pearl Harbor, decades earlier, 9/11 was a day that will live in infamy, a tragedy that changed America ’s sense of itself and the world. Why did no one foresee such a catastrophe? In fact, some had. As far back as 1993, security experts had envisioned an attempt to destroy the World Trade Center using airplanes as weapons. Such fears were reinforced when a suicidal pilot crashed a small private plane onto the White House lawn in 1994. But the mind-set of principals in the national security network was riveted on prior hijacks, which had almost always ended in negotiations. Th e idea of a suicide mission, using commercial aircraft as missiles, was never incorporated into homeland defense procedures. 24 Reframing Organizations In the end, nineteen highly motivated young men armed with box-cutters were able to outwit thousands of America ’s best minds and dozens of organizations that compose the country ’s complex homeland defense system. We can explain their success in part by pointing to their fanatical determination, meticulous planning, and painstaking preparation. Looking deeper, we can see a dramatic version of an old story: human error leading to tragedy. Look deeper still, and we fi nd that even the human-error explanation is too simple. In organizational life, there are almost always systemic causes upstream of human failures, and the events of 9/11 are no exception. Th e nation had a web of procedures and agencies aimed at detecting and monitoring potential terrorists. Th ose systems failed, as did procedures designed to respond to aviation crises. Similar failures have marked other well-publicized disasters: nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Th ree Mile Island, and the botched response to Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast in 2005. If we look at the business world, the fall of Enron, the collapse of the banking world and the Great Recession of 2009, and the trading scandals of 2012, the pattern continues to play out. We seem unable, despite our best eff orts, to do anything to stop it. Each event illustrates a chain of misjudgment, error, miscommunication, and misguided actions. Events like 9/11 and Katrina make headlines, but similar errors and failures happen every day. Th ey rarely make front-page news, but they are familiar to people who work in organizations. Th e problem is that organizations are complicated, and communication among them adds another tangled layer. Reading
messy situations accurately is not easy. In the remainder of this chapter, we explain why. We discuss how fallacies of human thinking can obscure what ’s really going on and lead us astray. Th en we describe some of the peculiarities of organizations that make them so diffi cult to fi gure out and manage. Finally, we explore how our deeply held and well-guarded mental models ensure our failure—and how to avoid the trap. COMMON FALLACIES IN EXPLAINING ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS Albert Einstein once said that a thing should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. When we ask students and managers to analyze cases like 9/11 or the banking meltdown, they oft en make things simpler than they really are. Th ey do this by relying on one of three misleading, oversimplifi ed, one-size-fi ts-all concepts. Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 25 Th e fi rst and most common is blaming people . Th is approach casts everything in terms of individual blunders. Problems result from ego, bad attitudes, abrasive personalities, neurotic tendencies, stupidity, or incompetence. It ’s an easy way to explain anything that goes wrong. Once Enron went bankrupt, the hunt was on for someone to blame, and the top executives became the target of reporters, prosecutors, and talk-show comedians. One CEO said, “We want the bad guys exposed and the bad guys punished” (Toffl er and Reingold, 2004, p. 229). As children, we learned it was important to assign blame for every broken toy, stained carpet, or wounded sibling. Pinpointing the culprit is comforting. Assigning blame resolves ambiguity, explains mystery, and makes clear what to do next: punish the guilty. Enron had its share of culpable individuals, some of whom eventually went to jail. But there is a larger story about the organizational and social context that set the stage for individual malfeasance. Targeting individuals, while ignoring larger system failures, oversimplifi es the problem and does little to prevent its recurrence. Greatest Hits from Organization Studies Hit Number 8: James G. March and Herbert A. Simon, Organizations (New York: Wiley, 1958). March and Simon ’s pioneering 1958 book Organizations sought to defi ne a new fi eld by offering a structure and language for studying organizations. It was part of the body of work that helped to earn Simon the 1978 Nobel Prize for economics. March and Simon offered a cognitive, social-psychological view of organizational behavior, with an emphasis on thinking, information processing, and decision making. The book begins with a model of behavior that presents humans as continually seeking to satisfy motives based on their aspirations. Aspirations at any given time are a function of both individuals’ history and their environment. When aspirations are unsatisfi ed, people search until they fi nd better, more satisfying options. Organizations infl uence individuals primarily by managing the information and options, or “decision premises,” that they consider. March and Simon followed Simon ’s earlier work (1947) in critiquing the economic view of “rational man,” who maximizes utility by considering all available options and choosing the best. Instead, they argue that both individuals and organizations have limited information and restricted ability to process what is available. They never know all the options. Instead, they gradually alter their aspirations as they (Continued ) 26 Reframing Organizations When it is hard to identify a guilty individual, a second popular option is blaming the bureaucracy . Th ings go haywire because organizations are stifl ed by rules and red tape—or because a lack of clear goals and roles creates chaos. One explanation or the other usually applies. When things aren ’t working, then the system needs either clearer or blurrier rules and procedures, as well as tighter or looser job descriptions. By this reasoning, the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have been thwarted if agencies had had better protocols for such a terrorist attack. Tighter fi nancial controls could have prevented Enron ’s free fall. Th e problem is that piling on rules and regulations typically leads to bureaucratic rigidity. Rules inhibit freedom and fl exibility, stifl e search for alternatives. Home buyers often start with a dream house in mind, but gradually adapt to the realities of what ’s available and what they can afford. Instead of looking for the best option—“maximizing”—individuals and organizations instead “satisfi ce,” choosing the fi rst option that is good enough. Organizational decision making is additionally complicated because the environment is complex. Resources (time, attention, money, and so on) are scarce, and confl ict among individuals and groups is constant. Organizational design happens through piecemeal bargaining that holds no guarantee of optimal rationality. Organizations simplify the environment to reduce the pressure on limited information-processing and decision-making capacities. They simplify by developing “programs”—standardized routines for performing repetitive tasks. Once a program is in place, the incentive is to stay with it as long as the results are marginally satisfactory. Otherwise, the organization is forced to expend time and energy to innovate. Routine tends to drive out innovation, because individuals fi nd it easier and less taxing to devote limited time and energy to programmed tasks (which are automatic, well practiced, and more certain of success). Thus, a student facing a term-paper deadline may fi nd it easier to “fritter”—make tea, straighten the desk, check e-mail, and browse the Web—than to fi gure out how to write a good opening paragraph. A manager may sacrifi ce quality to avoid changing a wellestablished routine. March and Simon ’s book falls primarily within the structural and human resource views. But their discussions of scarce resources, power, confl ict, and bargaining recognize the reality of organizational politics. Although they do not use the term framing , March and Simon affi rm its logic as an essential component of choice. Decision making, they argue, is always based on a simplifi ed model of the world. Organizations develop unique vocabulary and classifi cation schemes, which determine what people are likely to see and respond to. Things that don ’t fi t an organization ’s mind-set are likely to be ignored or reframed into terms the organization can understand. Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 27 initiative, and generate reams of red tape. Th e Commission probing the causes of 9/11 concluded: “Imagination is not a gift associated with bureaucracy.” Could Enron have achieved its image as America ’s most innovative company if it had played by the old rules? When things become too tight, the solution is to “free up” the system so red tape and rigid rules don ’t stifl e creativity and bog things down. But many organizations vacillate endlessly between being too loose and too tight. A third fallacy attributes problems to thirsting for power . In the case of Enron, key executives were more interested in getting rich and expanding their turf than in advancing the company ’s best interests. Th e various agencies dealing with 9/11 all struggled for their share of scarce federal resources prior to the disaster. Th is view sees organizations as jungles teeming with predators and prey. Victory goes to the more adroit, or the more treacherous. Political games and turf wars cause most organizational problems. You need to play the game better than your opponents—and watch your back. Each of these three perspectives contains a kernel of truth but oversimplifi es a knottier reality. Blaming people points to the perennial importance of individual responsibility. Some problems are caused by personal characteristics: rigid bosses, slothful subordinates, bumbling bureaucrats, greedy union members, or insensitive elites. Much of the time, though, condemning individuals blocks us from seeing system weaknesses and off ers few workable options. If, for example, the problem is someone ’s abrasive or pathological personality,
what do we do? Even psychiatrists fi nd it hard to alter character disorders, and fi ring everyone with a less-than-ideal personality is rarely a viable option. Training can go only so far in preparing people to carry out their responsibilities perfectly every time. Th e blame-the-bureaucracy perspective starts from a reasonable premise: organizations exist to achieve specifi c goals. Th ey are most eff ective when goals and policies are clear (but not excessive), jobs are well defi ned (but not constricting), control systems are in place (but not oppressive), and employees behave prudently (but not callously). If organizations always behaved that way, they would presumably work a lot better than most do. In practice, this perspective is better at explaining how organizations should work than why they oft en don ’t. Managers who cling to facts and logic become discouraged and frustrated when confronted by intractable irrational forces. Year aft er year, we witness the introduction of new control systems, hear of new ways to reorganize, and are dazzled by emerging management methods and gurus. Yet old problems persist, seemingly immune to every rational cure we devise. As March and Simon point out, rationality has limits. 28 Reframing Organizations Th e thirst-for-power view highlights enduring, below-the-surface features of organizations. Its dog-eat-dog logic off ers a plausible analysis of almost anything that goes wrong. People both seek and despise power but fi nd it a convenient way to explain problems. Within hours of the 9/11 terror attacks, a senior FBI offi cial called Richard Clarke, America ’s counterterrorism czar, to tell him that many of the terrorists were known members of Al Quaeda. “How the f__k did they get on board then?” Clarke exploded. “Hey, don ’t shoot the messenger. CIA forgot to tell us about them.” In the context of the long-running battle between the FBI and CIA, the underlying message of blame was clear: the CIA ’s self-interested concern with its own power caused this catastrophe. Th e tendency to blame what goes wrong on people, the bureaucracy, or the thirst for power is part of our mental wiring. But there ’s much more to understanding a complex situation than assigning blame. Certain universal peculiarities of organizations make them especially diffi cult to understand or decipher. PECULIARITIES OF ORGANIZATIONS Human organizations can be exciting and challenging places. At least, that ’s how they are oft en depicted in management texts, corporate annual reports, and fanciful managerial thinking. But in reality they can be deceptive, confusing, and demoralizing. It is a mistake to assume that organizations are either snake pits or rose gardens (Schwartz, 1986). Managers need to recognize characteristics of life at work that create opportunities for the wise as well as traps for the unwary. A case from the public sector provides a typical example: When Bosses Rush In Helen Demarco arrived in her offi ce to discover a clipping from the local paper. The headline read, “Osborne Announces Plan.” Paul Osborne had arrived two months earlier as Amtran ’s new chief executive. His mandate was to “revitalize, cut costs, and improve effi ciency.” After twenty years, Demarco had achieved a senior management position at the agency. She had little contact with Osborne, but her boss reported to him. Along with long-term colleagues, Demarco had been waiting apprehensively to learn what the new chief had in mind. She was startled as she read the Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 29 newspaper account. Osborne ’s plan made technical assumptions directly related to her area of expertise. “He might be a change agent,” she thought, “but he doesn ’t know much about our technology.” She immediately saw the new plan ’s fatal fl aws. “If he tries to implement this, it ’ll be the worst management mistake since the Edsel.” Two days later, Demarco and her colleagues received a memo instructing them to form a committee to work on the revitalization plan. When the group convened, everyone agreed the plan was crazy. “What do we do?” someone asked. “Why don ’t we just tell him it won ’t work?” said one hopeful soul. “He ’s already gone public! You want to tell him his baby is ugly?” “Not me. Besides, he already thinks a lot of us are deadwood. If we tell him it ’s no good, he ’ll just think we ’re defensive.” “Well, we can ’t just go ahead with it. We ’d be throwing away money and it ’ll never work!” “That ’s true,” said Demarco thoughtfully. “But what if we tell him we ’re conducting a study of how to implement the plan?” Her suggestion was approved overwhelmingly. The group informed Osborne that a study was under way. They even got a substantial budget to support their “research.” No one mentioned the study ’s real purpose: buy time and fi nd a way to minimize the damage without alienating the boss. Over time, the group developed a strategy. Members assembled a lengthy technical report, fi lled with graphs, tables, and impenetrable jargon. The report offered Osborne two options. Option A, his original plan, was presented as technically feasible but expensive—well beyond anything Amtran could afford. Option B, billed as a “modest downscaling” of the original plan, was projected as a more cost-effective alternative. When Osborne pressed the group on the huge cost disparity between the two proposals, he received a barrage of technical language and complicated cost-benefi t projections. No one mentioned that even Option B offered few benefi ts at a very high cost. Osborne argued and pressed for more information. But given the apparent facts, he agreed to proceed with Option B. The plan required several years to implement, and Osborne had moved on before it became operational. Even so, the “Osborne plan” was widely heralded as another instance of Paul Osborne ’s talent for revitalizing ailing organizations. Helen Demarco came away with deep feelings of frustration and failure. The Osborne plan, in her view, was a wasteful mistake, and she had knowingly participated in a charade. But, she rationalized to herself, I really didn ’t have much choice. Osborne was determined to go ahead. It would have been career suicide to try to stop him. 30 Reframing Organizations Helen Demarco had other options at Amtran, but she couldn ’t see them. She and Paul Osborne both thought they were on track. Th ey were tripped up in part by human fallibility, but also—and even more important—by how hard it can be to understand organizations. Th e fi rst step in managerial wisdom and artistry is to recognize key characteristics of organizations. Otherwise, managers are persistently surprised and caught off guard. First, organizations are complex . People, whose behavior is notoriously hard to predict, populate them. Large organizations in particular include a bewildering array of people, departments, technologies, and goals. Moreover, organizations are open systems dealing with a changing, challenging, and erratic environment. Th ings can get even more knotty across multiple organizations. Th e 9/11 disaster resulted from a chain of events that involved several separate systems. Almost anything can aff ect everything else in collective activity, generating causal knots that are hard to untangle. For example, aft er an exhaustive investigation, our picture of 9/11 is woven from sundry evidence, confl icting testimony, and conjecture. Second, organizations are surprising . What you expect is oft en not what you get. Paul Osborne saw his plan as a bold leap forward; Helen and her group considered it an expensive albatross. In their view, Osborne was going to make matters worse by trying to improve them. He might have achieved better results by spending more time with his family and leaving things at work alone. And imagine the shock of Enron ’s executives when things fell apart. Until shortly before the bottom fell out, the company ’s leadership team appeared confi dent they were building a pioneering model of corporate success. Many ana
lysts and management professors shared their optimism. Th e solution to yesterday ’s problems oft en creates future obstacles. A friend of ours was president of a retail chain. In the fi rm ’s early years, he had a problem with two sisters who worked in the same store. To prevent this from recurring, he established a nepotism policy prohibiting members of the same family from working for the company. Years later, two key employees met at work, fell in love, and began to live together. Th e president was stunned when they asked if they could get married without being fi red. Taking action in a cooperative venture is like shooting a wobbly cue ball into a scattered array of self-directed billiard balls. Balls careen in so many directions that it is impossible to know how things will eventually sort out. Th ird, organizations are deceptive . Th ey camoufl age mistakes and surprises. Aft er 9/11, America ’s homeland defense organizations tried to conceal their lack of preparedness and confusion for fear of revealing strategic weaknesses. Enron Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 31 raised fi nancial camoufl age to an art form with a series of sophisticated partnerships (carrying Star Wars names like Chewco, Jedi, and Kenobe). Helen Demarco and her colleagues disguised obfuscation as technical analysis, in hopes of fooling the boss. It is tempting to blame deceit on individual character fl aws. Yet Helen Demarco disliked fraud and regretted cheating—she simply believed she had no other alternative. Sophisticated managers know that what happened to Paul Osborne happens all the time. When a quality initiative fails or a promising product tanks, subordinates oft en clam up or cover up. Th ey fear that the boss will not listen or will punish them for delivering bad news. Th us early warnings that terrorists might commandeer commercial airliners went unvoiced or unheeded. Internal naysayers at Enron were silenced until dissenters “blew the whistle” publicly. A friend in a senior position in a large government agency put it simply: “Communications in organizations are rarely candid, open, or timely.” Fourth, organizations are ambiguous . Complexity, unpredictability, and deception generate rampant ambiguity, a dense fog that shrouds what happens from day to day. Figuring out what is really going on in businesses, hospitals, schools, or public agencies is not easy. It is hard to get the facts and, if you pin them down, even harder to know what they mean or what to do about them. Helen Demarco never knew how Paul Osborne really felt, how receptive he was to other points of view, or how open he was to compromise. She and her peers piled on more mystery by conspiring to keep him in the dark. As the 9/11 case illustrates, when you incorporate additional organizations into the human equation, uncertainty mushrooms. Ambiguity has many sources. Sometimes available information is incomplete or vague. Diff erent people may interpret the same information in a variety of ways, depending on mind-sets and organizational doctrines. At other times, ambiguity is intentionally manufactured as a smoke screen to conceal problems or avoid confl ict. Much of the time, events and processes are so intricate, scattered, and uncoordinated that no one can fully understand—let alone control—the reality. Exhibit 2.1 lists some of the most important sources of organizational uncertainty. ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING How can lessons be extracted from surroundings that are complex, surprising, deceptive, and ambiguous? It isn ’t easy. Decades ago, scholars debated whether the idea of organizational learning made sense: Could organizations actually 32 Reframing Organizations learn, or was learning inherently individual? Th at debate lapsed as experience verifi ed instances in which individuals learned and organizations didn ’t, or vice versa. Complex fi rms such as Microsoft , Zappos, and Southwest Airlines have “learned” capabilities far beyond individual knowledge. Lessons are enshrined in acknowledged protocols and shared cultural codes and traditions. At the same time, individuals oft en learn even when systems cannot. From the late 1980s onward, senior offi cials in China recognized that the nation was heading in two contradictory directions, promoting capitalism economically while defending communism politically. Behind the scenes, party members began an urgent search for a way to bridge the gap between rival ideologies. Publicly, though, the party tamped down dissent and argued that capitalism was one more sign of socialist progress (Kahn, 2002). Most knew the party was on the road to perdition, but the system obscured that reality. Several perspectives on organizational learning are exemplifi ed in the work of Peter Senge (1990), Barry Oshry (1995), and Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (1978, 1996). Senge sees a core learning dilemma: “We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our decisions” (p. 23). Learning is relatively easy when the link between cause and eff ect is clear. But complex systems oft en sever that connection: causes remote from eff ects, solutions detached from problems, and feedback delayed or misleading Exhibit 2.1. Sources of Ambiguity. Source: Adapted from McCaskey (1982). • We are not sure what the problem is. • We are not sure what is really happening. • We are not sure what we want. • We do not have the resources we need. • We are not sure who is supposed to do what. • We are not sure how to get what we want. • We are not sure how to determine if we have succeeded. Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 33 (Cyert and March, 1963; Senge, 1990). At home, you fl ip a switch and the light goes on. In an organization, you fl ip the switch and nothing happens, or a toilet may fl ush in a distant building. You are still in the dark, and the user of the toilet is unpleasantly surprised. To understand what is going on, you need to master the system ’s circular causality. Senge emphasizes the value of “system maps” that clarify how a system works. Consider the system created by Robert Nardelli at Home Depot. Nardelli had expected to win the three-way competition to succeed management legend Jack Welch as CEO of General Electric. He was stunned when he learned he didn ’t get the job. But within a week, he received a dandy second prize. He hired on as Home Depot ’s new CEO. He was a big change from the company ’s free-spirited founders, who had built the wildly successful retailer on the foundation of an uninhibited, entrepreneurial “orange” culture. Managers ran their stores using “tribal knowledge,” and customers counted on friendly, knowledgeable staff for helpful advice. Nardelli revamped Home Depot with a heavy dose of command-and-control, discipline, and metrics. Almost all the top executives and many of the frontline managers were replaced, oft en by ex-military hires. At fi rst, it seemed to work— profi ts improved, and management experts hailed Nardelli ’s success. But employee morale and customer service went steadily downhill. Whereas the founders had successfully promoted a “make love to the customers” ethic, Nardelli ’s toe-the-line stance pummeled Home Depot to last place in its industry for consumer satisfaction. A website appeared: HomeDepot Sucks.com . Customers now had a place to vent their rage. As criticism grew, Nardelli tried to keep naysayers at bay. His eff orts didn ’t placate customers, shareholders, or his board. Nardelli abruptly left Home Depot at the beginning of 2007. Th is is one of many examples of actions that look good until long-term costs become apparent. A corresponding systems model might look like Exhibit 2.2. Th e strategy might be cutting training to improve short-term profi tability, drinking martinis to relieve stress, off ering rebates to entice customers, or borrowing from a loan shark to cover gambling debts. In each case, what seems to work in the moment creates long-term costs down the line. Oshry (1995) agrees that system blindness is widespread but highlights causes rooted in troubled rel
ationships between groups that have little grasp of what ’s above or below their level. Top managers feel overwhelmed by complexity, responsibility, and overwork. Th ey are chronically dissatisfi ed with subordinates’ lack of initiative and creativity. Middle managers, meanwhile, feel trapped 34 Reframing Organizations between contradictory signals and pressures. Th e top tells them to take risks but then punishes mistakes. Th eir subordinates expect them to shape up the boss and improve working conditions. Top and bottom tug in opposite directions, causing those in between to feel pulled apart, confused, and weak. At the bottom, workers feel helpless, unacknowledged, and demoralized. “Th ey give us lousy jobs and pay, and order us around—never telling us what ’s really going on. Th en they wonder why we don ’t love our work.” If you cannot step back and see how system dynamics create these patterns, you muddle along blindly, unaware of better options. Both Oshry and Senge argue that our failure to read system dynamics traps us in a cycle of blaming and self-defense. Someone else always causes problems. Unlike Senge, who sees gaps between cause and eff ect as primary barriers to learning, Argyris and Schön (1978, 1996) emphasize individuals’ fears and defenses. As a result, “the actions we take to promote productive organizational learning actually inhibit deeper learning” (1996, p. 281). According to Argyris and Schön, our behavior obstructs learning because we avoid undiscussable issues and tiptoe around organizational taboos. Our actions oft en seem to work in the short run because we avoid confl ict and discomfort, Exhibit 2.2. Systems Model with Delay. Short-term strategy Short-term gains Long-term costs Delay Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 35 but we create a double bind. We can ’t solve problems without dealing with problems we have tried to hide, but tackling them would expose our cover-up. Facing that double bind, Helen Demarco and her colleagues chose to disguise their scheme. Th e result is escalating games of sham and deception. Th is is what happened at Enron and in the banking meltdown, in which desperate maneuvers to obscure the truth made the day of reckoning more catastrophic. COPING WITH AMBIGUITY AND COMPLEXITY Organizations deal with a complicated and uncertain environment by trying to make it simpler. One approach to simplifi cation is to develop better systems and technology to collect and process information. Another is to break complex issues into smaller chunks and assign slices to specialized individuals or units. Still another approach is to hire or develop professionals with sophisticated expertise in handling thorny problems. Th ese and other methods are helpful but not always suffi cient. Despite the best eff orts, as we have seen, surprising—and sometimes appalling—events still happen. We need better ways to anticipate problems and wrestle with them once they arrive. Making Sense of What ’s Going On Some events are so clear and unambiguous that it is easy for people to agree on what is going on. Determining whether a train is on schedule, or a plane landed safely, or a clock is keeping accurate time is a straightforward task. But most of the important issues confronting leaders are not so clear-cut. Will reorganization work? Was a meeting successful? Why did a consensual decision backfi re? In trying to make sense of complicated and ambiguous situations, we depend greatly on our personal theories or mind-sets to give us a full reading of what we are up against. Snap judgments or calculated decisions work only if we have adequately sized up the situation. As one high-placed female executive reported to us, “I thought I ’d covered all the bases, but then I suddenly realized that the rest of my team were playing football.” Because our interpretations depend so much on our cognitive repertoires, expectations, beliefs, and values, our internal world is as important as what is outside—sometimes more so. Th e fuzziness of everyday life makes it easy for people to shape the world to conform to their favored internal schemata. As noted by DeBecker, “Many experts lose the creativity and imagination of the less informed. Th ey are so intimately familiar with known patterns that they may fail to recognize 36 Reframing Organizations or respect the importance of a new wrinkle” (1997, p. 30). In such cases, snap judgments work against, rather than for, the person who is trying to fi gure things out. Managers regularly face an unending barrage of puzzles or “messes.” To act without creating more trouble, they must fi rst grasp an accurate picture of what is happening. Th en they must move to a deeper level, asking, “What is really going on here?” When this step is omitted, managers too oft en form superfi cial analyses and pounce on the solutions nearest at hand or most in vogue. Market share declining? Try strategic planning. Customer complaints? Put in a quality program. Profi ts down? Time to reengineer or downsize. A better alternative is to think, to probe more deeply into what is really going on, and to develop an accurate diagnosis. Th e process is more intuitive than analytic: “[It] is in fact a cognitive process, faster than we recognize and far diff erent from the step-by-step thinking we rely on so willingly. We think conscious thought is somehow better, when in fact, intuition is soaring fl ight compared to the plodding of logic” (DeBecker, 1997, p. 28). Th e ability to size up a situation quickly is at the heart of leadership. Admiral Carlisle Trost, former chief of naval operations, once remarked, “Th e fi rst responsibility of a leader is to fi gure out what is going on. . . . Th at is never easy to do because situations are rarely black or white, they are a pale shade of gray . . . they are seldom neatly packaged.” It all adds up to a simple truth that is easy to overlook. Th e world we perceive is, for the most part, constructed internally. Th e ideas or theories we hold determine whether a given situation is foggy or clear, mildly interesting or momentous, a paralyzing disaster or a genuine learning experience. Personal theories are essential because of a basic fact about human perception: in any situation, there is simply too much happening for us to attend to everything. To help us understand what is going on and what to do next, well-grounded, deeply ingrained personal theories off er two advantages: they tell us what is important and what is safely ignored, and they group scattered bits of information into manageable patterns. Mental Models Research in neuroscience has called into question the old adage, “seeing is believing.” It has been challenged by its converse: “Believing is seeing.” Th e brain constructs its own images of reality and then projects them onto the external world (Eagleman, 2011). “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very oft en, we Simple Ideas, Complex Organizations 37 are not consciously aware of our mental models or the eff ects they have on our behavior” (Senge, 1990, p. 8). Reality is therefore what each of us believes it to be. In Th e Believing Brain (2012), Michael Shermer argues that “beliefs come fi rst, explanations for beliefs follow.” Once beliefs are formed, we search for logical ways to explain what we believe. Today ’s experience becomes tomorrow ’s fortifi ed theology. Th en we search for facts and other ways of confi rming what we believe to be true. On April 14, 1994, three years aft er the fi rst Gulf War ended, two U.S. F-15C fi ghter jets took off from a base in Turkey to patrol the no-fl y zone in northern Iraq. Th eir mission was to “clear the area of any hostile aircraft ” (Snook, 2000, p. 4). Th e zone had not been violated in more than two years, but Iraqi antiaircraft fi re was a continuing risk, and the media speculated that Saddam Hussein might be moving a large force north. At 10:22 a.m. , the fi ghter pilots reported to the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWAC
S) controllers that they had made radar contact with two slow, low-fl ying aircraft . Unable to identify the aircraft electronically, the pilots descended for visual identifi cation. Th e lead pilot, Tiger 01, spotted two “Hinds”—Soviet-made helicopters used by the Iraqis. He reported his sighting, and an AWACS controller responded, “Copy, 2 Hinds” (p. 6). Th e fi ghters circled back to begin a fi ring run. Th ey informed AWACS they were “engaged” and, at 10:30 a.m. , shot down the two helicopters. Destroying enemy aircraft is the fi ghter pilots’ grail. Only later did the two learn that they had destroyed two American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, killing all twenty-six U.N. relief workers aboard. How could experienced, highly trained pilots make such an error? Snook (2000) off ers a compelling explanation. Th e two types of aircraft have diff erent paint colors—Hinds tan, Black Hawks forest green—and the Black Hawks had American fl ags painted on the fuselage. But the Black Hawks’ camoufl age made them diffi cult to see against the terrain, particularly for fi ghters fl ying very fast at high altitudes. Visual identifi cation required fl ying at a dangerously low altitude in a mountain-walled valley. Th e fi ghter pilots were eager to get above the mountains as quickly as possible. An extensive postmortem confi rmed that the Black Hawks would have been diffi cult to identify. Th e pilots did the normal human thing in the face of ambiguous perceptual data: they fi lled in gaps based on what they knew, what they expected, and what they wanted to see. “By the time Tiger 01 saw the helicopters, he already believed that they were enemy. All that remained was for him to selectively match up incoming scraps of visual data with a reasonable cognitive scheme of an enemy silhouette” (p. 80).
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