The Concept of Reframing

“A manager’s frame of reference is his/her most enabling asset” Macquarie Study Dictionary defines “frame of reference” as follows: A set or system of facts, ideas, etc. to which a thing relates and which gives the background information which allows it to be discussed or judged. Bolman & Deal indicate that we have the tendency to use individual frames to gather information, make judgments and guide behaviour. In other words, people use their own frame of reference to view and understand the world as a lens or window by which they select what they want from life and filter out those they do not.

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Every individual has his own theories, perceptions and mind sets, and this in turn determines his/her attitude, behaviour and decision making. Each individual has his own frame of reference, and this makes the individual who he is and influences the way he functions. Each frame can lead the person to resolve the issues from a different perspective; the key is which frame is valid or are all the frames valid and equally real. (Bolman & Deal 1997) However, a particular frame of reference could contain wrong ideas subjectively and lead the users to a wrong track or wrong decision making.

There are four main frames of reference, as already mentioned before, and these four frames of reference help a Manager to bring the organisation and the problems in focus. The Structural Frame helps the managers to understand scenarios better irrespective of what kind of an organisation it is. The Human Resource Frame helps the Managers deal with issues where commitment and motivation are essential for people to succeed. The Political Frame helps the Managers to survive in a company wherein there exists a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty.

The Symbolic (Cultural) Frame helps the Managers in taking decisions from a spiritual perspective and where the technical quality is not important. (Bolman & Deal, 1997) Managers should use all the four frames to make decisions. Mostly managers are used to operate according to one frame, and that is the main problem. The above qualities along with the ability to be able to think and use all the four frames to make decisions is what will be every Managers most enabling asset. Dunford & Palmer (1993) says that managers who are able to reframe will enhance their skills in many ways.

Managers would not be able to make sense of half the problems they face without viewing it from different dimensions. The world is changing with variety, complexity, paradox, ambiguity and turbulence. In the recent times, classical management styles, which draw inspiration from clarity and routine as a measure of achieving success has become archaic. And on the contrary, the ability to master change has become the vital issue in enhancing and sustaining corporate success (Schreyogg, Georg; Noss, Christian 2000). For E. g. The tax division of Arthur Anderson & Co.launched a major change initiative.

The division had accumulated years of success by adhering to the professional’s traditional, conservative mind-set. Clients called with questions. A typical answer was either “Yes, you can do that” or “No, you can’t”. The new initiative called for a different approach: probing to learn what was behind a client’s question. It was a win-win situation: savings for the client and more billing for Anderson (Bolman ; Deal, 1997: 323)

In the above example, because the management of Arthur Anderson ; Co.broadened their horizon of thinking and made the change, it was possible to make these profits. Managers with the ability to reframe will enhance their managerial skills in a number of ways. Managers who are exposed to the reframing technique should be of great value, and by advocating the reframing approach they will also claim the following benefits: Manageability, which is the ability to shift from one conceptual lens to another (Bolman ; Deal, 1991: 37) Effectiveness, which states that less effective managers interpret most things from a fixed standpoint (Morgan, 1986: 12)

Empowerment, suggests that a multi-frame approach provides managers with “a liberating sense of choice and power” (Bolman ; Deal, 1991: 17) Perception, provides managers with the ability to “become better attuned to and more able to learn from the people around them” (Bolman ; Deal, 1991: 18) Creativity, where situations and problems can be framed/reframed in different ways allowing new kinds of solutions to emerge (Morgan, 1986: 337) Freedom and Prosperity, which states the importance of reframing for the sake of personal freedom and organisational prosperity (Bolman ; Deal, 1991: xviii)