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Different ways we see organisations

What are frames?

An Overview of the Four-Frame Model

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Characteristics of the Structural Frame

Characteristics of the Human Resource Frame

Characteristics of the Political Frame

Characteristics of the Symbolic Frame

Case Study Symbolic and Cultural Dimensions of the Leadership Role of Secondary Principals

Group Activity Assessing your Leadership Style and Behaviour using the Four Frames

Effective Leadership

Leadership Characteristics of the Four Frames

Integrating Frames For Effective Practice

Group Activity Applying the Four Frames Case Study - Robert F. Kennedy High School



Key reference

Bolman, L and Deal, T. (17) Reframing Organisations (Second Edition) San Francisco Jossey Bass


This session examines organisations form a multi frame perspective. The underlying theme is that we each see the world differently depending on our cultural and economic background, social conditioning, education and training, work experience and personality. These aspects shape our perspective and determine our behaviour. This session uses the framework developed by Bolman and Deal that argues we see the world through a lens or frame. They offer four frames from which we can view organisations structural, human resource, political and symbolic. They argue that many of us use only one or two frames and that this limits our ability to act as effectively. They suggest leaders need to use all four frames. Leaders must develop the ability to `reframe situations in order to make sense of what is happening and to create alternative solutions and strategies. The most effective leaders integrate the frames into their thought patterns and behaviour

Different ways we see organisations

The exercise conducted in sessions 1 and 7 in which participants in the course were asked to draw or map their organisation shows how very differently we see the world. Some participants drew diagrams that resemble the typical organisational chart as symbolised by the pyramid with the board or council at the top. Yet others reversed the pyramid so that students became the focus. The enormous range of the diagrams and illustrations demonstrates the wide variety of students perceptions and views of the organisation.

The exercise illustrates vividly the range of perceptions we have of organisations as we attempt to make sense of the world around us. Our own perceptions are real to us although t hey may not always make sense to others. In the past management theory attempted to provide a common language and common view of organisations. Today, writers on organisation theory acknowledge that we will have different views of the world depending on our frame of reference. It is common practice to encourage managers to explore alternative ways of looking at organisations and of managing. As you have discovered in the previous session, Gareth Morgan (16) identifies a number of metaphors to describe organisations - the organisation as a machine, bureaucracy, a system, a brain, a psychic prison etc. Mintzberg (17) provides five structural configurations simple structure, machine bureaucracy, professional bureaucracy, divisionalised form, and adhocracy. Other models or theories of organisations include social systems theory (Hoy and Miskel 11;Owens 14; Getzels, Lipham and Campbell 168); organised anarchies and garbage can model (Cohen, March and Olsen 17); loosely coupled systems (Weick 18).

By seeing and analysing the organisation from different points of view the manager can gain new insights and see old problems in a new light. Today, more than ever, managers need imagination and creativity to deal with complex and sometimes overwhelming problems and issues facing organisations.

This course draws on the approach developed by Lee Bolman and Terry Deal, mentioned briefly in session 7. Bolman and Deal use four frames or lens to perceive, explain and diagnose organisations. Each frame has its own image of reality. Bolman and Deal suggest that to be an effective leader, the manager should be flexible and adaptable enough to use all four frames and become a `multi framing thinker, rather than relying on only one or two frames for looking at the world. Their book is titled `Reframing because it suggests that managers need to take a fresh look at situations and apply a different lens or frames to interpret events and discover meaning.

What are frames?

Frames are the `lens by which we see and order the world. They illuminate slices of life, and they filter out things we dont want to see. To this extent frames represent incomplete maps. However, we need frames to help us make sense of the world - they help order experience and guide action, and they are tools for action.

According to Bolman and Deal we all have personal and preferred frames which we use to

gather information

make judgements, guide behaviour

explain behaviour

Each frame gives one version of organisational life and each frame provides a particular and narrow range of ideas and techniques to improve organisational effectiveness and efficiency.

An Overview of the Four-Frame Model

Characteristics of the Structural Frame

Main Reference

Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (11). Reframing Organisations Artistry, Choice and Leadership. San Francisco Jossey Bass.

Note all quotes are from Bolman and Deal (11) unless otherwise indicated.


The structural frame, drawing mainly on the discipline of sociology, emphasises the importance of formal roles and relationships. Structures - commonly depicted by means of organisation charts - are created to fit an organisations environment and technology. Organisations allocate responsibilities to participants (division of labour) and create rules, policies, and management hierarchies to coordinate diverse activities. Problems arise when the structure does not fit the situation. At that point, some form of reorganisation is needed to remedy the mismatch. (p. 15)

Different organisations may display distinct patterns of human architecture yet at the same time-share a number of characteristics. All organisations have goals, boundaries, levels of authority, communication systems, coordinating mechanisms, and distinctive procedures...How to structure itself is one of the central issues facing any organisation. A structure is more than boxes and lines arranged hierarchically on an official organisational chart. It is an outline of the desired patterns of activities, expectations, and exchanges among executives, managers, employees, and customers or clients. The shape of the formal structure very definitely enhances or constrains what an organisation is able to accomplish. (p. 46-47)

Bolman and Deal (11 chapter ) - Organisational Structure

This chapter takes a structural approach with certain assumptions (cf. pp. 48)

1. Existence related to accomplishing established goals.

. Structural forms established to fit circumstances.

. Effectiveness enhanced in rational environments.

4. Specialisation enhances performance.

5. Coordination and control essential to effectiveness.

6. Organisational problems can be resolved through restructuring.

The structural approach focuses on the how to find some arrangement - a pattern of formal roles and relationships - that will accommodate organisational needs as well as individual differences. (Bolman and Deal, 11 50). The competing issues of differentiation (of labour) and coordination (of differentiated roles) are central to the basic design of organisational structure.

Refer to the McDonalds and Harvard examples on pages 4 and 50.

Determinants of organisational structure

1. Size - example of Raku pots.

. Core technology - example of surgery needing a more elaborate hospital structure.

. Environment - example of school changing as community changed.

4. Strategy and goals - example of Harvards loosely coupled structure in response to diffuse goals.

5. Information technology - what are the implications for increased information on school performance?

6. Nature of the workforce - example of the administrative and collegial structures in hospitals.

Mintzbergs Structural Framework applied to schools

Mintzbergs work on organisational structure is used by Bolman and Deal. What follows is a brief summary of Bolman and Deals discussion.

Structure is defined as the ways in which an organisation divides its labour into tasks and then achieves coordination among them.

Methods of coordination

1. Mutual adjustment.

. Direct supervision.

. Standardisation of work processes.

4. Standardisation of outputs.

5. Standardisation of skills.

Core components of organisational structure

1. Operating core - those that provide or produce what the organisation offers customers or clients e.g. teachers and teaching and learning.

. Strategic apex - relate mainly to the external environment, create the mission and provide strategic direction e.g. School council, principal.

. Middle line - those managers who supervise, control, and provide resources for the operating core e.g. Senior staff such as assistant principals, level coordinators.

4. Technostructure - consists mainly of analysts whose role is to standardise the work of others by inspecting outputs and processes e.g. Curriculum coordinators, counsellors, special education teachers.

5. Support staff - who perform tasks that indirectly facilitate the work of the operating core e.g. office and maintenance staff, teacher aides.

From this framework Mintzberg developed a range of structures that typify many organisations. Refer to Bolman and Deal (11 85-) for diagrams and Hoy and Miskel (11 18) for the definitions of the five structures defined by Mintzberg

1. Simple structure - mum-and-dad operations.

. Machine bureaucracy - McDonalds

. Professional bureaucracy - Harvard

4. Divisionalised form - Multi-campus University.

5. Adhocracy - Digital Equipment Corporation.

Additional references

Hoy, W.K. & Miskel, C.G. (187). Educational Administration Theory, Research and Practice. (rd Ed.) N.Y. Random House.

Hoy, W.K. & Miskel, C.G. (11). Educational Administration Theory, Research and Practice. (4th Ed.) N.Y. Random House.

Characteristics of the Human Resource Frame


Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (11). Reframing Organisations Artistry, Choice and Leadership. San Francisco Jossey Bass.

Owens, R.G. (15). Organisational Behaviour in Education. (5th Ed.). London Allyn and Bacon.

Robbins, S.P, Waters-Marsh, T., Caccioppe, R. & Millett, B. (14). Organisational Behaviour Concepts, Controversies and Applications. Sydney Prentice Hall.


The human resources frame, based particularly on the ideas of organisational social psychologists, starts with the fundamental premise that organisations are inhabited by individuals who have needs, feelings, and prejudices. They have both skills and limitations. They have a capacity to learn, as well as a sometimes greater capacity to defend old attitudes and beliefs. From a human resource perspective, the key to effectiveness is to tailor organisations to people - to find an organisational form that enables people to get a job done while feeling good about what they are doing. (p. 15)

It is assumed that

1. Organisations exist to serve human needs

. Organisations and people need each other

. When the fit between the individual and the organisation is poor, one or both will suffer

4. When the fit between the individual and the organisation is good, both benefit

Improving Human Resource Management

1. Participative Management

Giving workers more opportunities to influence decisions e.g. quality circles

. Job Enrichment

Increasing the breadth, and decreasing the degree of fragmentation and restriction in work (also see Herzbergs view of workplace motivation)

. Self-Managing Work Teams

A team is given responsibility for a whole product or a complete service, with enough autonomy and resources so that they can be held accountable for the output measures.

4. Organisational Democracy

Giving employees real say in decision making. It can be viewed as an extension of increasing worker participation.

5. Training and Development

Increasing training and development in personal skills.

6. Organisational Development

Organisational development should be planned, long-range, involving a change agent(s), focused on organisation processes, tasks and structures, addressing the development of individuals as well as the organisation, and using behavioural science techniques to generate valid data for both individual and organisational decisions.

7. Theory Z

Adoption of a more holistic approach to employees, treating them as an important part of the organisation, generating feelings of loyalty, etc. This is a blend of Japanese and American approaches to management that has been developed by Ouchi. The strong emphasis on close, harmonious working relations means that these organisations are very clan like and not amenable to having people that think differently.

Case Study NUMMI

Refer to Bolman and Deal (11 174-177). This case study demonstrates the impact of the use of a human resource framework. It shows element that are both positive (worker security, worker morale, productivity, quality) and negative (stress).

Related topics and areas

Human Needs and Motivations - session

Personality and Organisations - session

Dynamics of Group Behaviour - session 4

Case Study Western Electric Studies - session

Characteristics of the Political Frame


Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (11). Reframing Organisations Artistry, Choice and Leadership. San Francisco Jossey Bass.


The political frame, invented and developed primarily by political scientists, views organisations as arenas in which different interest groups compete for power and scarce resources. Conflict is everywhere because of the differences in needs, perspectives and lifestyles among various individuals and groups. Bargaining, negotiation, coercion, and compromise are all part of everyday organisational life. Coalitions form around specific interests and change as issues come and go. Problems arise because power is concentrated in the wrong places or because it is so broadly dispersed that nothing gets done. Solutions are developed through political skill and acumen - as Machiavelli suggested they should be centuries ago in The Prince. (p. 15)

In this definition it is clear that

1. Organisations are viewed as coalitions composed of varied individuals and interest groups

. There are enduring differences among individuals and groups

. Allocation of scarce resources is central

4. Conflict is central to organisational dynamics and power is the most important resource

5. Organisational goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiation, and jockeying for position among members of different coalitions. (these points adapted from page 186)

Case Study The Challenger Disaster (also see session 4)

Refer to pages 18 to 185.

What are the features presented in this case study that make this best viewed through the political frame?

Could you have been part of this case study? Why or why not?

Bolman and Deal (11 187) analyse this case using the five points mentioned above

1. The coalition that influenced decision making in the shuttle program consisted of the president, the press, the public (especially through the use of an ordinary citizen as part of the team for this flight), Congress, the contractors, and NASA.

. The enduring differences included NASAs need for funding versus lower taxation for the public, astronaut safety versus pressure on NASA and contractors to maintain flight schedules.

. The scarce resources centred on funding for NASA and for the contractors

4. Conflict arose between the engineers (who were concerned with technical issues that were associated with shuttle safety) and the managers (who were concerned with the political ramifications of delaying the flight)

5. The final decision to launch was the result of much bargaining, negotiation and positioning of coalition members.

The importance to current school education

The propositions of the political frame do not attribute politics to individual selfishness, myopia, or incompetence. They assert that interdependence, difference, scarcity and power relations will inevitably produce political forces, regardless of the players. It is naive and romantic to hope that politics can be eliminated in organisations. Managers can, however, learn to understand and manage political processes. (p. 10)

There is no guarantee that those who gain power will use it wisely or justly. But is it not inevitable that power and politics are always demeaning and destructive. Constructive politics is a possibility, and a necessary possibility if we are to create institutions and societies that are both just and efficient. (pp., 04)

Given the current climate, which is characterized by rapid and continuous change in a time of scarce resources, the political frame may have increasing importance. What are your views and what observations arise from your experience with service organisations such as schools?

Criticisms of the Political Frame

The political perspective is so thoroughly focused on politics that it underestimates the significance of both rational and collaborative processes.

The frame is normatively cynical and pessimistic. It overstates the inevitability of conflict and understates the potential for effective collaboration. (p. 8)

Characteristics of the Symbolic Frame


Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (11). Reframing Organisations Artistry, Choice and Leadership. San Francisco Jossey Bass.


The symbolic frame, drawing on social and cultural anthropology, abandons the assumptions of rationality that appear in the other frames. It treats organisations as tribes, theatre, or carnivals. In this view, organisations are cultures that are propelled more by rituals, ceremonies, stories, heroes, and myths than by rules, policies, and managerial authority. Organisation is theatre various actors play out the drama inside the organisation, while outside audiences form impressions based on what they see occurring onstage. Problems arise when actors play their parts badly, when symbols lose their meaning, when ceremonies and rituals lose their potency. Improvements in rebuilding the expressive or spiritual side of organisations come through the use of symbol, myth, and magic. (p. 15-16).


1. What is most important about any event is not what happened, but what is means.

. Events and meanings are loosely coupled the same events can have very different meanings for different people because of differences in the schema that they use to interpret their experience.

. Many of the most significant events and processes in organisations are ambiguous or uncertain - it is often difficult or impossible to know what happened, why it happened, or what will happen next.

4. The greater the ambiguity and uncertainty, the harder it is to use rational approaches to analysis, problem solving, and decision making.

5. Faced with uncertainty and ambiguity, human beings create symbols to resolve confusion, increase predictability, and provide direction. (Events themselves may remain illogical, random, fluid, and meaningless. but human symbols make them seem otherwise).

6. Many organisational events and processes are important more for what they express than for what they produce they are secular myths, rituals, ceremonies, and sagas that help people find meaning and order in their experience. (p. 44)

Symbolic phenomena are particularly visible in organisations with unclear goals and uncertain technologies - e.g. public agencies, educational organisations, religious orders, health care organisations.

The symbolic frame sees the rush of organisational life as more fluid than linear. Organisations function like complex, constantly changing, organic pinball machines. Decisions, actors, plans, and issues continuously carom through an elastic and ever changing labyrinth of cushions, barriers, and traps. (p. 45)

The symbolic element is seen in

1. The initiation of new organisational members

. The culture and rituals of an organisation

. The myths, stories and fairy tales, rituals and ceremonies, and metaphors, humour and play.

Refer to chapters 1 and 14 of Bolman and Deal (11) for illustrations of these symbolic elements.

Self Reflection

Reflect upon your time in educational settings.

List five aspects of the educational setting that illustrate the importance of symbols.

Case Study Symbolic and Cultural Dimensions of the Leadership Role of Secondary Principals


Gurr, D. (16). The Leadership Role of Principals in Selected Secondary Schools Principal and Teacher Perspectives. Doctoral Thesis, The University of Melbourne.

The following is an extract from the above thesis. It describes two of the 17 aspects of principal leadership identified in this research.


This theme emerged in the interviews of both principal and teachers of four schools and in teacher interviews only in one school.

There were three aspects to this theme staff, community and school culture.

Staff culture

The staff culture was viewed as being a strong determinant of the leadership style that will be accepted by staff. The principals leadership style in one school was modified to suit the perceived staff culture i.e. being less up-front and directive in a school that had experienced multiple short-term principal placements; and, not pushing open communication when resisted by the staff culture. Changing the leadership style may include having to change the staff culture; e.g. for the principal of one school to be able to delegate tasks more effectively, the staff had to accept more responsibility for making their own decisions.

Community culture

Awareness of the local community culture was considered important if schools were going to be successful in attracting students. Principals had to ensure that school and community cultures were closely aligned so that the community would be more accepting of what the school did, and so there was more effective and informed involvement of community members. Staff did not always believe that their principal had good understanding of the community culture.

School culture

Understanding of school culture was used by principals. For example, at one school that had a long and proud academic tradition the principal was viewed as supportive of this culture and the principal used it to promote the school.


This theme was principal-driven as it occurred in principal interviews in five schools, but only in the teacher interviews of two schools. This may reflect the hidden nature of many symbolic acts, and the importance principals place on them.

The actions of the principal and the school were seen to give either constructive or destructive symbolic messages. Constructive symbolic acts included those that reinforced school values. Some examples included

Principals used the school communication channels to applaud what the school was doing well, to indicate what must be done and to indicate what did not work; e.g. principal awards were used to reinforce pursuit of excellence amongst students, and student successes were celebrated in newsletters and newspapers.

Principals retained traditional aspects of schooling to reinforce the conservative nature expected by the local community; e.g. retaining school uniform, having strong welfare and discipline and the type of curriculum offered.

If there were positive myths about the school present in the community, these were encouraged, rather than discouraged; e.g. the community of one school believed that the school was wealthy and the school encouraged this view.

In assessing school performance in implementing the charter, principals were aware that the choice of areas measured also indicated those areas that were valued most by the school.

Other symbolic acts described included having all the principal class personnel teaching to emphasise the school focus on teaching and learning and to indicate that these people were still in touch with the classroom; enrolling of the principals children at the school; the principal being available to teachers and others; concern for the physical appearance of the school and the organisation of school open days.

The symbolic messages in what the principal does can also reinforce the wrong values and act destructively. A number of examples were given that centred on the actions of the principal devaluing the work of members of a section of the school. These examples included

If the principal could not spend time in classrooms it suggested to staff that the classroom was not important.

If the principal was too available, it indicated that the principals job was not important, but if the principal was not available it indicated that the work of others was not important.

To cope with falling enrolments teaching allotments could be increased to maintain student subject choice, but with the consequent devaluing of teachers. Alternatively, if allotments remained stable this indicated the value placed on teachers, but then subject choice would have to be reduced with the potential for enrolments to decline further as students and parents choose schools that offer a broader curriculum.

If the principal was away from school often, this suggested that school was not important.

The appointment of staff to higher duties could result in some teachers feeling devalued.

Being negative about the perceived school image and the schools future.

In the following activities and study notes, you will be helped to integrate the four frames into your own workplace behaviour.

Group Activity Assessing your leadership style and behaviour using the four frames

The following items describe aspects of leadership behaviour. Circle the number which best describe the way you are likely to act at work. When you have finished complete the scoring key.

5 = always, 4 = frequently, = occasionally, = seldom, 1 = never

1. I emphasise goals, roles and technology at work 5 4 1

. I emphasise the interdependence of people in my organisation 5 4 1

. I stress being ahead of competing groups. 5 4

4. I have a vision for the organisation which I communicate with others. 5 4 1

5. I build strong relationships around shared attitudes, values and beliefs. 5 4 1

6. I build strong networks to get what I want. 5 4 1

7. I take care to match peoples skills, values and needs to the job. 5 4 1

8. I like work to be tightly structured. 5 4 1

. I enjoy participating in conflict situations. 5 4 1

10. I try to interpret experiences in which Im involved. 5 4 1

11. When change or conflict occur, I work with staff to identify needs, problems and solutions. 5 4 1

1. I would promote restructure as a way of dealing with change and conflict. 5 4 1

1. I like to relate stories about things that happen at work. 5 4 1


5 = always, 4 = frequently, = occasionally, = seldom, 1 = never

14. I do my homework carefully before meetings. 5 4 1

15. I trust group members to exercise good judgement. 5 4 1

16. I refuse to explain my actions to staff. 5 4 1

17. The meaning of events is important to me. 5 4 1

18. I urge members of my group to beat previous records. 5 4 1

1. I am careful to share information with staff. 5 4 1

0. I experiment with new structures and technologies. 5 4 1

1. I evaluate the achievements of co-workers regularly. 5 4 1

. When faced with conflict or serious problems, I try to change the culture of the organisation. 5 4 1

. I encourage staff to do their work in the way they think best. 5 4 1

4. When faced with conflict, I try to win. 5 4 1

5. I expect people to do what they are asked even if they are not happy about it. 5 4 1

6. I believe staff should be involved in decision making. 5 4 1

7. I try out my ideas in groups. 5 4 1

8. I develop action plans and implementation strategies. 5 4 1




questions Your

Score Symbolic


questions Your

Score Structural


questions Your

Score Human



questions Your


___ 4 ___ 1 ___ ___

6 ___ 5 ___ 8 ___ 7 ___

___ 10 ___ 1 ___ 11 ___

16 ___ 1 ___ 14 ___ 15 ___

18 ___ 17 ___ 0 ___ 1 ___

4 ___ ___ 1 ___ ___

5 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 6 ___


Individually reflect upon the meaning and relevance of the results of this exercise.

When other members of your group have finished share your results and discuss the following questions

1. What are the implications of the Bolman and Deal framework for an organisation?

. Has this exercise given personal insights that can be used in the workplace?

Effective Leadership

The problem for many organisations is that many administrators -

operate according to one frame which gives a limited view of organisational life

cant see old problems in new ways

use old ways to deal with new problems

value certainty, rationality and control

bring too few ideas to the problem they face

often choose rational/structural solutions

attack old problems by doing what they know

Effective administrators -

use a holistic approach which includes multiple frames

develop skills to provide flexibility and creativity

acquire wisdom to know when to use the appropriate skills and frames

understand their own frames and their limitations

understand the strengths of each frame and work to expand them

build teams that together provide leadership in all four frames

The four frames are a key to handling complexity -

integrate the frames

match frames with different times and situations

understand that others use different frames to explain the same situation

use different frames as guides to managing, reading, reflecting and learning


Frame Leader Leadership Process Leader Leadership Process

Structural Analyst architect Analysis, design Petty tyrant Management by detail and fiat

Human resource Catalyst, servant Support, empowerment Weakling, pushover Abdication

Political Advocate, negotiator Advocacy, coalition Con artist, thug Manipulation, fraud

Symbolic Prophet, poet Inspiration, framing experience Fanatic fool Mirage, smoke and mirrors

Leadership Characteristics of the Four Frames




attune structure to task, technology, environment

do homework

develop new structures

experiment and evaluate

focus on implementation




align organisational and human needs

believe in people

communicate beliefs

be visible accessible

empower others

increase participation

share information




develop agenda and power base

clarify what they want and can get

assess power distribution








create faith, beauty, meaning

understand culture

use symbols

interpret experience

communicate vision

tell stories

Integrating Frames For Effective Practice

Four Interpretations of Organisational Processes

Process Structural Frame Human Resource Frame Political Frame Symbolic Frame



Strategies to set objectives and coordinate resources Gatherings to promote participation Arenas to air conflicts and realign power Ritual to signal responsibility, produce symbols, negotiate meanings



Rational sequence to produce right decision Open process to produce commitment Opportunity to gain or exercise power Ritual to provide comfort and support until decision happens

Reorganising Realign roles and responsibilities to fit tasks and environment Maintain a balance between human needs and formal roles Redistribute power and form new coalitions Maintain an image of accountability and responsiveness; negotiate new social order

Evaluating Way to distribute rewards or penalties and control performance Process for helping individuals grow and improve Opportunity to exercise power Occasion to play roles in shared ritual

Approaching conflict Maintain organisational goals by having authorities resolve conflict Develop relationships by having individual confront conflict Develop power by bargaining, forcing, or manipulating others to win Develop shared values and use conflict to negotiate meaning

Goal setting Keep organisation headed in the right direction Keep people involved and communication open Provide opportunity for individuals and groups to make interests known Develop symbols and shared values

Communication Transmit facts and information Exchange information, needs, and feelings Vehicles for influencing or manipulating others Telling stories

Meetings Formal occasions for making decisions Informal occasions for involvement, sharing feelings Competitive occasions to win points Sacred occasions to celebrate and transform the culture

Motivation Economic incentives Growth and self-actualisation Coercion, manipulation, and seduction Symbols and celebrations

Choosing A Frame

Question Frame If Answer is Yes Frame If Answer is No

Are individual commitment and motivation essential for success? Human resource, symbolic Structural, political

Is the technical quality of the decision important? Structural Human resource, political, symbolic

Are there high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty ? Political, symbolic Structural, human resource

Are conflict and scare resources significant? Political, symbolic Structural, human resource

Are you working from the bottom up? Political Structural, human resource, symbolic

Applying the Four Frames Case Study- Robert F. Kennedy High School

Source Bolman and Deal (17 pp.6-55)

Robert Kennedy High School

On July 15, David King became principal of Robert F Kennedy High School the newest of six high schools in Great Ridge, Illinois. The school had opened two years earlier amid national acclaim as one of the first schools in the country designed and built on the house system concept. Kennedy High was organized into four houses, each with three hundred students, eighteen faculty and a housemaster. Each house was in a separate building connected to the core facilities--cafeteria, nurses room, guidance offices, boys and girls gyms, offices, shops. and auditorium--and other houses by an enclosed outside passageway! Each had its own entrance, classrooms, toilets, conference rooms, and housemaster s office.

Hailed as a major innovation in inner-city education, Kennedy High was featured during its first year in a documentary on a Chicago television station. The school opened with a carefully selected staff of teachers, many chosen from other Great Ridge schools. At least a dozen were specially recruited from out of state. King knew that his faculty included graduates from several elite East Coast and East Coast schools, such as Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, as well as several of the very best Midwestern schools. Even the racial mix of students had been carefully balanced so that blacks, whites, and Latinos each comprised a third of the student body (although King also knew perhaps better than its planners that Kennedy s students were drawn from the toughest and poorest areas of the city. The building itself was also widely admired for its beauty and functionality and had won several national architectural awards.

Despite careful and elaborate preparations, Kennedy High School was in serious trouble by the time King arrived. It had been racked by violence the preceding year--closed twice by student disturbances and once by a teacher walkout. It was also widely reported (although King did not know for sure) that achievement scores of its ninth- and tenth-grade students had declined during the last two years, and no significant improvement could be seen in the scores of the eleventh and twelfth graders tests. So far, Kennedy High School had fallen far short of its planners hopes and expectations.

David King

David King was born and raised in Great Ridge, Illinois. His father was one of the citys first black principals. King knew the city and its school system well. After two years of military service, King followed in his fathers footsteps by going to Great Ridge State Teachers College, where he received B.Ed. and M.Ed. degrees. King taught English and coached in a predominantly black middle school for several years until he was asked to become the schools assistant principal. He remained in that post for five years, when he was asked to take over a large middle school of nine hundred pupils--believed at the time to be the most difficult middle school in the city While there, King gained a city-wide reputation as a gifted and popular administrator. He was credited with changing the worst middle school in the system into one of the best. He had been very effective in building community support, recruiting new faculty, and raising academic standards. He was also credited with turning out basketball and baseball teams that had won state and county championships.

The superintendent made it clear that King had been selected for the Kennedy job over several more senior candidates because of his ability to handle tough situations. The superintendent had also told him that he would need every bit of skill and luck he could muster. King knew of the formidable credentials of Jack Weis, his predecessor at Kennedy High. Weis, a white man, had been the superintendent of a small, local township school system before becoming Kennedys first principal. He had written one book on the house system concept and another on inner-city education. Weis held a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a divinity degree from Harvard. Yet despite his impressive background and ability, Weis had resigned in disillusionment. He was described by many as a broken man. King remembered seeing the physical change in Weis over that two-year period. Weiss appearance had become progressively more fatigued and strained until he developed what appeared to be permanent dark rings under his eyes and a perpetual stoop. King remembered how he had pitied the man and wondered how Weis could find the job worth the obvious personal toll it was taking on him.

History of the School

The First Year

The schools troubles began to manifest themselves in its first year. Rumors of conflicts between the housemasters and the six subject-area department heads spread throughout the system by the middle of the year. The conflicts stemmed from differences in interpretations of curriculum policy on required reaming and course content. In response, Weis had instituted a free market policy subject-area department heads were supposed to convince housemasters why they should offer certain courses, and housemasters were supposed to convince department heads which teachers they wanted assigned to their houses. Many felt that this policy exacerbated the conflicts.

To add to the tension, a teacher was assaulted in her classroom in February. The beating frightened many of the staff, particularly older teachers. A week later, eight teachers asked Weis to hire security guards. This request precipitated a debate in the faculty about the desirability of guards in the school. One group felt that the guards would instill a sense of safety and promote a better reaming climate. The other faction felt that the presence of guards in the school would be repressive and would destroy the sense of community and trust that was developing. Weis refused the request for security guards because he believed they would symbolize everything the school was trying to change. In April, a second teacher was robbed and beaten in her classroom after school hours, and the debate was rekindled. This time, a group of Latino parents threatened to boycott the school unless better security measures were implemented. Again, Weis refused the request for security guards.

The Second Year

The school s second year was even more troubled than the first. Financial cutbacks ordered during the summer prevented Weis from replacing eight teachers who resigned. Since it was no longer possible for each house to staff all of its courses with its own faculty, Weis instituted a flexible staffing policy. Some teachers were asked to teach a course outside their assigned house, and students in the eleventh and twelfth grades were able to take elective and required courses in other houses. Chauncey Carver, one of the housemasters, publicly attacked the new policy as a step toward destroying the house system. In a letter to the Great Ridge Times, he accused the board of education of trying to subvert the house concept by cutting back funds.

The debate over the flexible staffing policy was heightened when two of the other housemasters joined a group of faculty and department heads in opposing Carvers criticisms. This group argued that inter-house cross registration should be encouraged because the fifteen to eighteen teachers in each house could never offer the variety of courses that the schoolwide faculty of sixty-five to sevens could.

Further expansion of the flexible staffing policy was halted, however, because of difficulties in scheduling fall classes. Errors cropped up in the master schedule developed during the preceding summer. Scheduling problems persisted until November, when the vice-principal responsible for developing the schedule resigned. Burtram Perkins, a Kennedy housemaster who had formerly planned the schedule at Central High, assumed the function on top of his duties as housemaster. Scheduling took most of Perkinss time until February.

Security, again became an issue when three sophomores were assaulted because they refused to give up their lunch money during a shakedown. The assailants were believed to be outsiders. Several teachers approached Weis and asked him to request security guards from the board of education. Again, Weis declined, but he asked Bill Smith, a vice-principal at the school, to secure all doors except for the entrances to each of the four houses, the main entrance to the school, and the cafeteria. This move seemed to reduce the number of outsiders roaming through the school.

In May of the second year, a fight in the cafeteria spread and resulted in considerable damage, including broken classroom windows and desks. The disturbance was severe enough for Weis to close the school. A number of teachers and students reported that outsiders were involved in the fight and in damaging the classrooms. Several students were taken to the hospital for minor injuries, but all were released. A similar disturbance occurred two weeks later, and again the school was closed. The board of education ordered a temporary detail of municipal police to the school against Weiss advice. In protest to the assignment of police, thirty of Kennedys sixty-eight teachers staged a walkout, joined by over half the student body. The police detail was removed, and an agreement was worked out by an ad hoc subcommittee composed of board members and informal representatives of teachers who were for and against a police detail. The compromise called for the temporary stationing of a police cruiser near the school.

Kings First Week at Kennedy High

King arrived at Kennedy High on Monday, July 15, and spent most of his first week individually interviewing key administrators (see Exhibit 0.1). On Friday, he held a meeting with all administrators and department heads. Kings purpose in these meetings was to familiarise himself with the school, its problems, and its key people.

His first interview was with Bill Smith, a vice-principal. Smith was black and had worked as a counsellor and then vice principal of a middle school before coming to Kennedy. King knew Smiths reputation as a tough disciplinarian who was very much disliked by many of the younger faculty and students. King had also heard from several teachers whose judgment he respected that Smith had been instrumental in keeping the school from blowing apart the preceding year. It became clear early in the interview that Smith felt that more stringent steps were needed to keep outsiders from wandering into the buildings. Smith urged King to consider locking all the schools thirty doors except for the front entrance so that everyone would enter and leave through one set of doors. Smith also told him that many of the teachers and pupils were scared and that no learning will ever begin to take place until we make it so people dont have to be afraid anymore. At the end of the interview, Smith said he had been approached by a nearby school system to become its director of counselling but that he had not yet made up his mind. He said he v. as committed enough to Kennedy High that he did not want to leave, but his decision depended on how hopeful he felt about the schools future.

Exhibit 0.1. Administrative Organization of Robert F. Kennedy High School.

Principal David King, 4 (black)

B.Ed., M.Ed., Great Ridge State Teachers College

Vice principal William Smith, 44 (black)

B.Ed., Breakwater State College

M.Ed., Great Ridge State Teachers College

Vice principal Vacant

Housemaster, A House Burtram Perkins, 47 (black)

B.S., M.Ed., University of Illinois

Housemaster, B House Frank Czepak, 6 (white)

B.S., University of Illinois;

M.Ed., Great Kidge State Teachers College

Housemaster, C House Chauncey Carver, (black)

A.B., Wesleyan University;

B.F.A., Pratt Institute; M.A.T., Yale University

Housemaster, D House John Bonavota, 6 (white)

B.Ed., Great Ridge State Teachers College;

M.Ed., Ohio State University

Assistant to the principal Vacant

Assistant to the principal for community affairs Vacant

As King talked with others, he discovered that the door question was highly controversial within the faculty and that feelings ran high on both sides of the issue. Two housemasters in particular, Chauncey Carver, who was black, and Frank Czepak, who was white, were strongly against closing the house entrances. The two men felt such an action would symbolically reduce house autonomy and the feeling of distinctness that was a central aspect of the house concept.

Carver, master of House C, was particularly vehement on this issue and on his opposition to allowing students in one house to take classes in another house. Carver contended that the flexible staffing program had nearly destroyed the house concept. He threatened to resign if King intended to expand cross-house enrolment. Carver also complained about what he described as interference from department heads that undermined his teachers autonomy

Carver appeared to be an outstanding housemaster from everything King had heard about him--even from his many enemies. Carver had an abrasive personality but seemed to have the best-operating house in the school and was well liked by most of his teachers and pupils. His program appeared to be the most innovative, but it was also the one most frequently attacked by department heads for lacking substance and ignoring requirements in the systems curriculum guide. Even with these criticisms, King imagined how much easier it would be if he had four housemasters like Chauncey Carver

During his interviews with the other three housemasters, King discovered that they all felt infringed upon by the department heads, but only Carver and Czepak were strongly against locking the doors. The other two housemasters actively favoured cross-house course enrolments. Kings fourth interview was with Burtram Perkins, also a housemaster. Perkins, mentioned earlier, was a black man in his late forties who had served as assistant to the principal of Central High before coming to Kennedy. Perkins spent most of the interview discussing how schedule pressures could be relieved. Perkins was currently developing the schedule for the coming school year until a vice principal could be appointed to perform that job (Kennedy High had allocations for two vice principals and two assistants in addition to the housemasters).

Two bits of information concerning Perkins came to King during his first week at the school. The first was that several teachers were circulating a letter requesting Perkinss removal as a housemaster. They felt that he could not control the house or direct the faculty. This surprised King because he had heard that Perkins was widely respected within the faculty and had earned a reputation for supporting high academic standards and for working tirelessly with new teachers. As King inquired further, he discovered that Perkins v as genuinely liked but was also widely acknowledged as a poor housemaster. The second piece of information concerned how Perkinss house compared with the others. Although students had been randomly assigned to each house, Perkinss house had the highest absence rate and the greatest number of disciplinary problems. Smith had told him that Perkinss dropout rate the previous year was three times that of the next highest house.

While King was in the process of interviewing his staff, he was called on by David Crimmins, chairman of the history department. Crimmins was a native of Great Ridge, white, and in his late forties. Though scheduled for an appointment the following week, he had asked King if he could see him immediately. Crimmins had heard about the letter asking for Perkinss removal and wanted to present the other side. He became very emotional, saying that Perkins was viev;ed by many of the teachers and department chairmen as the only housemaster trying to maintain high academic standards, his transfer would be seen as a blow to those concerned with quality education. Crimmins also described in detail Perkinss devotion and commitment to the school. He emphasized that Perkins was the only administrator with the ability to straighten out the schedule, which he had done in addition to all his other duties. Crimmins departed by threatening, if Perkins were transferred, to write a letter to the regional accreditation council decrying the extent to which standards had sunk at Kennedy. King assured Crimmins that such a drastic measure was unnecessary and offered assurance that a cooperative resolution would be found. King knew that Kennedy High faced an accreditation review the following April and did not wish to complicate the process unnecessarily.

Within twenty minutes of Crimminss departure, King was visited by Tim Shea, a young white teacher. He said he had heard that Crimmins had come in to see King. Shea identified himself as one of the teachers who had organized the movement to get rid of Perkins. He said that he liked and admired Perkins because of the mans devotion to the school but that Perkinss house was so disorganized and that discipline there was so bad that it was nearly impossible to do any good teaching. Shea added, Its a shame to lock the school up when stronger leadership is all thats needed.

Kings impressions of his administrators generally matched what he had heard before arriving at the school. Carver seemed to be a very bright, innovative and charismatic leader whose mere presence generated excitement. Czepak came across as a highly competent though not very imaginative administrator who had earned the respect of his faculty and students. Bonavota, at twenty-six. seemed smart and earnest but unseasoned and unsure of himself. King felt that with a little guidance and training, Bonavota might have the greatest promise of all; at the moment, however, the young housemaster seemed confused and somewhat overwhelmed. Perkins impressed King as a sincere and devoted person with a good mind for administrative details but an incapacity for leadership.

King knew that he had the opportunity to make several administrative appointments because of the three vacancies that existed. Indeed should Smith resign as vice principal, King could fill both vice principal positions. He also knew that his recommendations for these positions would carry a great deal of weight with the central office. The only constraint King felt was the need to achieve some kind of racial balance among the Kennedy administrative group. With his own appointment as principal, the number of black administrators exceeded the number of white administrators by a ratio of two to one, and Kennedy did not have a single Latino administrator, even though a third of its pupils were Latino.

Friday Afternoon Meeting

In contrast to the individual interviews, King was surprised to find how quiet and conflict-free these same people seemed in the staff meeting he called on Friday. He was amazed at how slow, polite, and friendly the conversation was among people who had so vehemently expressed negative opinions of each other in private. After about forty-five minutes of discussion about the upcoming accreditation review, King broached the subject of housemasterdepartment head relations. There was silence until Czepak made a joke about the uselessness of discussing the topic. King probed further by asking if everyone was happy with the current practices. Crimmins suggested that the topic might be better discussed in a smaller group. Everyone seemed to agree-- except for Betsy Dula, a white woman in her late twenties who chaired the English department. She said that one of the problems with the school was that no one was willing to tackle tough issues until they exploded. She added that relations between housemasters and department heads were terrible, and that made her job yen; difficult. She then attacked Chauncey Carver for impeding her evaluation of a non-tenured teacher in Carvers house. The two argued for several minutes about the teacher and the quality of an experimental sophomore English course the teacher was offering. Finally, Carver, by now quite angry, coldly warned Dula that he would break her neck if she stepped into his house again. King intervened in an attempt to cool both their tempers, and the meeting ended shortly thereafter.

The following morning, Dula called King at home and told him that unless Carver publicly apologized for his threat, she would file a grievance with the teachers union and take it to court if necessary. King assured Dula that he would talk with Carver on Monday. King then called Eleanor Debbs, a Kennedy High math teacher whom he had known well for many years and u hose judgment he respected. Debbs was a close friend of both Carver and Dula and was also vice president of the citys teachers union. Debbs said that the two were longtime adversaries but both were excellent professionals.

She also reported that Dula would be a formidable opponent and could muster considerable support among the faculty. Debbs, who was black, feared that a confrontation between Dula and Carver might create racial tensions in the school even though both Dula and Carver were generally popular with students of all races. Debbs strongly urged King not to let the matter drop. She also told him that she had overheard Bill Smith, the vice principal, say at a party the night before that he felt King didnt have the stomach or the forcefulness to survive at Kennedy. Smith said that the only reason he was staying was that he did not expect King to last the year, in which case Smith would be in a good position to be appointed principal.

David King inherited a job that had broken his predecessor and could easily destroy him as well. His new staff greeted him with a jumble of problems, demands, manoeuvres, and threats. His first staff meeting began with an undercurrent of tension and ended in outright hostility. Sooner or later, almost every manager will encounter situations this bad--or worse. The results are often devastating, leaving the manager feeling confused, overwhelmed, and helpless. Nothing makes any sense, and nothing seems to work. Can King escape such a dismal fate?

There is one potential bright spot. As the case ends, King is talking to Eleanor Debbs on a Saturday morning. He has a supportive colleague. He also has some slack--the rest of the weekend to re-group. Where should he begin? We suggest that he start by active reflection and reframing. A straightforward way to do that is to examine the situation one frame at a time and ask two simple questions From this perspective, whats going on? And what options does this viewpoint suggest? This reflective process deserves time and careful thought. It requires going to the balcony (Heifetz, 14) to get a fuller perspective on the scene below. Ideally, King would include one or more other people--a valued mentor, principals in other schools, close friends, his spouse--for alternative perspectives in the diagnostic process.


Outline the situation from Kings point of view using each of the four frames (Strengths, Weaknesses, Possible Solutions for each frame) References

Mintzberg, H., (17) The Structuring of Organisations Upper Saddle River. N.J. Prentice Hall.

Morgan, G., (16) Images of Organisations Thousand Oaks (second edition), Calif. Sage

Hoy, w. k., and Miskel, C. G. (11) Educational Administration Theory, Research and Practice (third edition) New York Random House

Owens, R., 14 Organisational Behaviour in Schools, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey Prentice Hall

Getzels J.W., Lipham, J., and Campbell, R. F., (168) Educational Administration as a Social Process New York Harper and Row

Cohen, March and Olsen (17) `A Garbage Can Model of Organisational Choice in Administrative Science Quarterly 17 No. 1

Weick, K., (18) `Administrating education in loosely coupled systems Phi Delta Kappan, pp. 67 -6

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