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The Four-Frame Model By Bolman & Deal. Reframing Organizations. Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal. Frames. Lenses –focus, filter some things and allow others to pass through, help us order experience. Frames.

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The Four-Frame Model


Bolman & Deal


Reframing Organizations

Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal



Lenses –focus, filter some things and allow others to pass through, help us order experience.



Tools –strengths and limitations. Wrong tool gets in the way; right tool makes the job easier.

Possess a tool—but know how to use it well.


Structural Frame

  • From sociology and management science.
  • Emphasizes goals, specialized roles, and formal relationships.
  • Structures (Organization charts) fit organization’s environment and technology.
  • Responsibilities, rules, policies, procedures.

Structural Frame

Problems arise when the structure does not fit the situation.


Human Resource Frame

  • From psychology.
  • Organization as an extended family.
  • Individuals with needs, feelings, prejudices, skills, and limitations.
  • Capacity to learn—and capacity to defend old attitudes and belief.

Human Resource Frame

Challenge is to tailor organizations to people—find a way for individuals to get the job done while feeling good about what they are doing.


Political Frame

  • Rooted in political science.
  • Organizations as arenas, contests, or jungles.
  • Different interests competing for power and resources.
  • Rampant conflict—differences in needs, perspectives, and lifestyles.
  • Bargaining, negotiation, coercion, compromise, coalitions.

Political Resource Frame

Problems arise when power is concentrated in the wrong places or is too broadly dispersed. Solutions: political skill.


Symbolic Frame

  • Draws from social and cultural anthropology.
  • Organizations as tribes, theaters, or carnivals.
  • Culture—rituals, ceremonies, stories, heroes, and myths.
  • Organization is theater—actors play role while audiences form impressions.

Symbolic Frame

Problems arise when actors play their parts badly, when symbols lose their meaning, when ceremonies and rituals lose their potency.

Rebuild the expressive or spiritual side of organization through the use of symbol, myth, and magic.


Overview of the Four-Frame Model

Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 15 & p. 344


Choosing a Frame

Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 271


Reframing Leadership

Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 303


Reframing Change

Source: Bolman & Deal (1997), p. 321