Leaders Who Use Old Power Models For New Power Values Framing Leadership Challenges

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Framing Leadership Challenges

Tired of facing the same old cultural barriers to innovation in your organization? Wouldn’t it be nice to see through them the light on the other side?

If you want that kind of relief, you’ll appreciate it Reformulation of organizations, a great book by Bolman and Deal that I recently used to teach an Organizational Behavior course at Portland State University. From a comprehensive review of organizational behavior studies and theories, these people have discovered four themes, or frameworks, from which organizational behaviors and challenges can be better understood. Each framework offers a different perspective and each leads to different insights about possible causes and possibilities.

The four frameworks are:

  • structural – Organization as a factory
  • political – Organization like a jungle
  • Human resource – Organization as a family
  • symbolic – Organization as a theater

There is a whole book full of wisdom that goes with frames. But you can see just from this little thing that applying metaphors to what’s going on in your team, department or company makes you think in new ways.

It’s likely that the dominant culture of your organization supports thinking and acting from only one box, and that’s the box you’re in. and influencing strategies for the situation at hand. This kind of balance is rare in organizations, but it can be developed.

Bolman and Deal’s frameworks do not have an implicit sequence, but they resonate with the four sequential activities that make up The reciprocal model, a creative process model that I use in my leadership development work. The sequence adds value because it shows the way out of the box. Here are the four activities of the creative process, in order, that go with Bolman and Deal’s frameworks:

  1. Structural framework – Challenges activity (is developed qUALITY)
  2. Political framework – Produce activity (is developed CAPACITy)
  3. Human Resources Framework – rate activity (is developed engagement)
  4. Symbolic frame – Explore activity (is developed curiosity)

If you can identify what your organization’s current default framework is, then the path to a more adaptive culture can begin by using the next framework in the sequence to inform your analysis and guide your planning. And you can start along that path by engaging in the creative process activity associated with that other framework.

So, for example, if you determine that your organization has defaulted to the symbolic framework – the organization as a theater – then the solution would be the Structural Framework – the organization as a factory – and the activity you would engage in would be the Challenge activity (holding up the options possible to review with a view to selecting one to execute).

Many organizations eventually come to realize that the default framework they are working from has outlived its usefulness. Unfortunately, their approach at that point is usually to restructure to another default framework and stay there until it stops working for them. So every few years there is a restructuring that uses a lot of organizational energy and wastes a lot of valuable organizational memory. With that strategy, the underlying problem – the lack of balance – is never addressed.

I don’t think this is the best use of an organization’s resources. It would be more effective for an organization to develop the ability to move through the four frameworks more fluidly as each situation requires. The creative process provides a practical guide to doing this. I encourage you to check out the white paper to understand how this might apply to your work situation. And then, of course, I encourage you to try it. If you do, let me know how it goes.

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