Frame! (kind of a book report)

The brilliant folks at Manager Tools–specifically, Mark–have recommended this book highly for years.  I read much of it a while ago, and recently picked it up to re-read it.

In 300 words, here’s why it’s worthy of attention; read at least chapters 1, 2, 16, and 20. (Those chapters recommended by Luther College professor Schweizer — it’s the “condensed” version of taking in the whole book, and will take you less than an hour.)

The authors propose that many organizational misunderstandings occur because most leaders are only looking at situations through only one “frame,” rather than all four. What are the four? Here’s the skinny:

  1. Structural – deals with org charts, policies, procedures, etc.
  2. Human Resource – meeting individual needs, building teams, handling “people problems;” in other words, much of the stuff in this blog.
  3. Political – power, conflict, coalitions, etc.
  4. Symbolic – culture, ritual, traditions, stories, etc.

Many troubles result from looking through only one. For example;

An office worker might use “best practices” in people skills to try to get the accounting department to share space and resources with sales. If there is long-term tension between the two managers that results from an old power struggle, the worker is ignoring “political” to focus solely on “human resource.”

An inspirational CEO throws an annual “family picnic,” where success stories are shared, but is discouraged that some front line workers aren’t there. Well, they work 2nd shift, and can’t make it. The CEO has focused on “symbolic” rather than “structural.”

When offering some thoughts to a friend who was struggling in a situation, he said in frustration “Not everything can be solved by group dynamics, Alan!” Though I got defensive, he was right. It was a Political situation, and I was applying Human Resource framing.

Wish I had read the book first.  Check out Chapter One.

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