BOLMAN AND DEAL'S FOUR-FRAME ANALYSIS : CASE STUDY
by Dr. P. McCabe, January 2003
There are volumes written on leadership theory in nearly every discipline. Bolman and Deal sifted through the complex theories and literature and combined with their own analyses, theories and experience devised a four-frame model as a way of understanding organizations and leadership within organizations. Frames are described as being the lens through which anyone sees the world and places that world in order (University of Melbourne). Frames help individuals to filter out the things in the world they do not want to see, thus, frames are inherently inaccurate and skewed in terms of reality (University of Melbourne). But, people need frames in order to make sense of the world and any experience in it; frames help people determine and guide their actions (University of Melbourne). Bolman and Deal suggest that every individual has personal and preferred frames that they use to gather information, make judgments, determine behavior and explain behavior (University of Melbourne). Each frame provides one version of organizational life and each frame also provides a specific albeit narrow range of ideas, techniques, processes that may be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization (University of Melbourne). The four frameworks proposed by Bolman and Deal are the Structural, the Human Resource, the Political and the Symbolic. Each is described in the following illustration. It is important to note that leaders may use any framework and may even use a combination at the same time in their daily work (1991). 1. The Structural Framework
The "structural" manager tries to design and implement a process or structure that will be appropriate to the problem and the circumstances. Steps would include: • Clarifying organizational goals
• Managing the external environment
• Developing a clear structure appropriate to task, and environment • Clarifying lines of authority
• Focusing on task, facts, and logic, rather than on personality and emotions. 2. The Human Resource Framework
The human resource manager views people as the heart of any organization and attempts to be responsive to needs and goals to gain commitment and loyalty. The emphasis is on support and empowerment. The HR manager listens well and communicates personal warmth and openness. This leader empowers people through participation and attempts to gain the resources people need to do a job well. HR managers confront when appropriate but try to do so in a supportive climate. 3. The Political Framework
The political leader understands the political reality of organizations and can deal with it. He or she understands how important interest groups are and that each has a separate agenda. This leader understands conflict and limited resources. This leader recognizes major constituencies and develops ties to their leadership. Conflict is managed as this leader builds power bases and uses power carefully. The leader creates arenas for negotiating differences and coming up with reasonable compromises. This leader also works at articulating what different groups have in common and helps to identify external "enemies" for groups to fight together. 4. The Symbolic Framework
This leader views vision and inspiration as critical; people need something to believe in. People will give loyalty to an organization that has a unique identity and makes them feel that what they do is really important. Symbolism is important as is ceremony and ritual to communicate a sense of organizational mission. These leaders tend to be very visible and energetic and manage by walking around. These leaders often rely heavily on organizational traditions and values as a base for building a common vision and culture that provides cohesiveness and meaning. (Bolman and Deal 1991).
• The Structural Framework: "focuses on the how to find some arrangement - a...
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