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Scenario Building for Successful Organizational Change. MPA 8002 The Structure and Theory of Human Organization Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D. For Bolman & Deal (1997). managing and leading organizations is a matter of utilizing four frames to diagnose organizational functioning.

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Scenario Building for Successful Organizational Change

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Scenario Building for Successful Organizational Change

MPA 8002

The Structure and Theory of Human Organization

Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D.

For Bolman & Deal (1997)...

  • managing and leading organizations is a matter of utilizing four frames to diagnose organizational functioning

Structurally, managers and leaders...

1. set goals and policies under conditions of uncertainty

2. achieve a “delicate balance” in allocating scarce resources across organizational entities

3. motivate, coordinate, and control large, diverse group of subordinates

From a human resources view, managers and leaders...

1. help individuals and groups develop a shared sense of direction and purpose

2. balance task and process goals

3. endeavor to make group work both satisfying and efficient

Politically, managers and leaders...

1. confront workplace politics

2. apply ethics in the decision-making process

3. wield power effectively

4. act with authority

Using symbols, managers and leaders...

1. attend carefully to socializing new members into the organization

2. emphasize diversity in ideas and approaches to problem solving

3. manage and lead by example

4. develop and use code language to communicate organizational purpose

For Bolman & Deal, the goal is...

  • for managers and leaders to give appropriate emphasis to the positives associated with each frame…

Strengths of the structural frame...

…is rational and objective, data driven

…uses logic to shape policies, procedures, division of labor, and span of control

…is action oriented

…provides for accountability

Strengths of the human resources frame...



…addresses fundamental human needs and interests

Strengths of the political frame...



…addresses the reality of mixed motives, conflict, and power struggles present in the workplace

…highlights the need for principled reflection and ethical action

Strengths of the symbolic frame...


…illuminates the importance of creating and sustaining belief and meaning

…inspiring, meaningful, motivational

…focuses on the bonds uniting individuals into cohesive groups that pursue a shared purpose

While simultaneously...

  • managers and leaders to avoid each frame’s limitations…

Structural frame limitations...

…impersonal and bureaucratic: views workers as functionaries

…overly simplistic

…pessimistic about human nature

…inflexible and rigid for decision making

…overestimates the power of authority

…neglects fundamental human, political, and cultural variables

Human resources frame limitations...

…naïve in its assessment of human nature

…overly optimistic about integrating people, process, and technology

…not realistic for a fast-changing environment

…neglects the power of structure

…neglects the realities of conflict and scarce resources

Political frame limitations ...

…impersonal in dealing with people

…cynical view of human nature

…assumes conflict and power struggles

…reinforces conflict and mistrust

…sacrifices opportunities for rational discourse, collaboration toward shared goals, and hope in a positive future

Symbolic frame limitations...

…an overly abstract, vague, and elusive concept

…impractical for use in the workplace

…can easily be manipulated

Using frame analysis positively...

  • effective managers and leaders engage in activities…

…focused by their primary concerns

Using the structural frame...


effective managers and leaders are


…social architects

…good data

…honest analysis

whose primary concerns are

…creative designs

…the best process

Using human resources theory...

…personable and warm

…thoughtful and kind

effective managers and leaders are


…catalysts for growth

…challenging growth

…providing support

whose primary concerns are

…expanding roles

…engendering and sustaining good will

Using political theory...

…savvy and smart


effective managers and leaders are




…negotiating gray areas

whose primary concerns are

…upholding the common good

Using symbolic theory...


effective managers and leaders are




…framing experience

whose primary concerns are


…pointing a way

Using frame analysis negatively...

  • ineffective managers and leaders engage in activities…

…focused by their primary concerns

Abusing the structural frame...

…petty tyrants

ineffective managers and leaders are




whose primary concerns are


…fault finding

…ruling by fiat

…issuing memos

Abusing human resources frame...


ineffective managers and leaders are



…how people feel

…avoiding conflict

whose primary concerns are

…letting others decide

…allowing events to take their course

Abusing the political frame...


ineffective managers and leaders are




…plausible alibis

whose primary concerns are

…masking fraud


Abusing the symbolic frame...


ineffective managers and leaders are


…full of “b.s.”



whose primary concerns are



The strength of “reframing”...

…is its focus upon the multiple uses of organizational processes

 strategic planning

 goal setting

 decision making

 communicating

 reorganizing

 meetings

 motivating

 evaluating


  • these frames, as well as the interpretations they offer, imply that...

…control is a fact...

when it is an illusion

…sensemaking is prospective…

when it is retrospective

…understanding is predictable…

not confusion (Weick, 1995)

The managerial/leadership reality...

  • the facts associated with life in human organizations...

…run contrary to common perceptions and opinion...

• First:

turbulence, not stability, characterizes organizational life.

• Second:

people in organizations possess pluralistic, not unitary, views about organizations.

• Third:

intuition, not rationality, proves to be of greater value in the decision-making process.

• Fourth:

managers/leaders make few, not many, decisions.

  • the consequence of this organizational reality is that managing and leading human organizations is more like...

…“white-water rafting” (Sergiovanni, 1992)

…“muddling through” mazes of messes (Lindblom, 1979)

…“garbage can decision making” (Cohen, March, & Olsen, 1992)


“ should be considered that nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders. For the introducer has all those who benefit from the old orders as enemies, and he has lukewarm defenders in all those who might benefit from the new orders.”

Machiavelli, The Prince, 1985, p. 23

The question, then, is...

What does successful




involve and require?

A lesson to remember...

  • successful managers and leaders...

don't seek to make people happy

by doing things right

  • successful managers and leaders...

earn respect by

doing right things

For managers and leaders...

  • the challenge is not so much “reframing” the problems impacting organizational functioning (Bolman & Deal, 1997)...

…and actingbased on calculations and contingencieswhether to manage/lead through participation, delegation, selling, or telling (Hersey & Blanchard, 1977)

  • instead, managing/leading human organizations is a matter of the human intellect and creative spirit…

…a process of “scenario building”

…in an overall effort directed at improving organizational functioning

Scenario building...

  • a methodology to assess organizational functioning... developing unitary solutions (i.e., “scenarios”) designed from an accurate diagnosis of the situation (i.e., “framing”)

  • then…

...evaluating the strengths and weaknesses associated with each scenario

...envisioning probable outcomes associated with each scenario

  • forging a pathway…

...maximizing the positive outcomes

…and minimizing the negative limitations associated with each scenario

  • that is... formulate a principled plan of action to guide organizational decision making

…and acting courageously to implement the plan in the face of many obstacles (McWhinney, 1992)





…women and men who:

 understand the organizational context

exhibit an abiding concern for people and task

 are ethical and virtuous in word and act

  • who possess attributes and competencies:

task competence

inspire trust


take risks


are flexible







  • these innate and learned attributes and competencies enable managers and leaders... engage in a process of self change

…enabling them to influence others by setting an example

With the desired outcome...

  • that people in organizations learn and feel free to act...

 professionally

 purposefully

 cooperatively

 ethically using their personal authority and power to enact the organization’s purpose through their individual projects.

Successful scenarios...

  • evidence structural thinking, as managers and leaders...

1) do their homework

2) incessantly reconsider the relationship of structure, strategy, and environment

3) focus on implementation

4) experiment, evaluate, and adapt to achieve best practice (Weber, 1911)

  • evidence managers considering people and their needs...

1) believe in people and communicate this belief

2) are visible and accessible

3) experience delight when others act purposefully, that is, with authority and power

  • reflect astute politics as managers and leaders...

1) clarify what they want and what they can get

2) assess the distribution of power and interests

3) build linkages and relationships with key stakeholders

  • all, the while...

…seeking to persuade, first;

…engaging in negotiations, second;

…using coercion, only if necessary.

  • demonstrate culture building, as managers and leaders use symbols...

1) to attract the attention of others

2) to frame experience so others can interpret it

3) to communicate a compelling vision

4) to tell meaningful stories that motivate

  • thereby producing...

…a synergy of cooperative effort (Barnard, 1938) through normative compliance (Etzioni, 1975)

  • in the service of...

…organizational purpose (Barnard, 1938)

…and the ethics of both the leader and the led (Aristotle, 1958; Barnard, 1938; Chaleff, 1995; DuPree, 1992, Kelley, 1988)

This module has focused on...

scenario building

…and how managers and leaders use their minds and spirit to foster successful organizational change efforts.

The next module will focus on...

improving leadership practice

...and how successful managers and leaders integrate reflective practice, conceptual pluralism, and ethical decision making in practice episodes.


  • Aristotle. (1958). The Nicomachean ethics (W. D. Ross, Trans.). In J. D. Kaplan (Ed.), The pocket Aristotle (pp. 158-274). New York: Simon & Schuster.

  • Barnard, C. I. (1938/1968). The functions of the executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1997). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership (2nd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • Chaleff, I. (1995). The courageous follower: Standing up to and for our leaders. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

  • Cohen, M. D., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1992). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1), 1-25.

  • Etzioni, A. (1975). A comparative analysis of complex organizations. New York: Free Press.

  • DePree, M. (1992). Leadership jazz. New York: Currency Doubleday.

  • Hersey, P., & Blanchard, K. (1977). Management of organization behavior: Utilizing human resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

  • Kelley, R. E. (1988, Nov-Dec). In praise of followers. Harvard Business Review,66, 142-148.

  • Lindblom, C. E. (1979). Still muddling, not yet through. Public Administration Review, 39, 517-526.

  • Machiavelli, N. (1985). The prince (H. C. Mansfield, Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • McWhinney, W. (1992). Paths of change: Strategic choices for organizations and society. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

  • Sergiovanni, T. J. (1992). Reflections on administrative theory and practice in schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 28(3), 304-313.

  • Taylor, F. W. (1911/1967). The principles of scientific management. New York: W. W. Norton.

  • Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

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