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Theories of Practice: The Symbolic Frame. MPA 8002 The Structure and Theory of Human Organization Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D.

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theories of practice the symbolic frame

Theories of Practice:The Symbolic Frame

MPA 8002

The Structure and Theory of Human Organization

Richard M. Jacobs, OSA, Ph.D.

slide2
For the greater part of the 20th century, the objectivity associated with the assumptions and concepts of scientific management have guided most inquiry into human organizations.
slide3
While the human resources and political theories of practice provided a corrective to this emphasis by attending to the subjective elements of human organization...
slide4
…all three theories of practice have failed to provide a comprehensive analysis identifying the specifically subjective elements of human organizations, influencing not only organizational functioning but also the people who populate organizations.
slide5

A SYMBOLIC SCENARIO

Symbolic managers and leaders are sensitive to an organization’s history and culture. They seek to use the best in their organization’s traditions and values as a base for building a culture that provides cohesiveness and meaning. They articulate a vision that communicates the organization’s unique capabilities and mission.

slide6

MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP

IN A SYMBOLIC SCENARIO

Symbolic managers and leaders believe that the most important part of their job is inspiration—giving people something that they can believe in. People will give their loyalty to an organization that has a unique identity and makes them feel that what they do is really important. Effective symbolic managers and leaders are passionate about making their organizations the best of their kind and communicate that passion to others. They use dramatic, visible symbols that give people a sense of the organizational mission. They are visible and energetic. They create slogans, tell stories, hold rallies, give awards, appear where they are least expected, and manage by wandering around.

Bolman & Deal (1991, p. 364)

the intuitive and subjective side of human organizations
The intuitive and subjective side of human organizations...

The symbolic frame asserts that organizations are judged primarily on and by appearances...

…by giving appropriate emphasis to the beliefs, meanings, and faith communicated symbolically through the attempts that people in organizations make to reconcile the dilemmas and paradoxes which they experience.

the concept
The concept...
  • organizational culture:

the “way we do things around here” (Bower, 1966)

the “glue” holding the organizational pieces together (Schein, 1984)

slide10

...the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that have worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems (Schein, 1984, p. 3)

slide11
Organizational culture may be likened to a medieval tapestry...

…composed of many different strands

…each strand giving unique color, hue, and texture to the composite

…with one strand unifying the entire view.

slide12
…the tapestry metaphor provides two views of organization...
  • the front view:

unified

rich

holistic

complex

  • revealed by the structural, human resources, and political theories of practice
slide13

the back view:

distorted

messy

dull

lacking character

  • revealed by the symbolic theories of practice
by means of contrast
By means of contrast...
  • the structural frame stresses...

…organizational rationality

…the objective dimensions of human organizations

The symbolic frame asserts that facts and logic can tyrannize human beings because organizations are more fluid and dynamic than the structural frame assumes.

slide15
the human resources frame stresses...

…what people experience

…the subjective dimensions of human organizations

The symbolic frame pushes beyond human needs theory, asserting that organizations are populated by people who strive for self-actualization through cooperative efforts.

slide16
the political frame stresses...

…how people act covertly and overtly

…the subjective and objective dimensions of human organizations

The symbolic frame asserts that human organizations provide a forum through which people discover meaning and purpose.

slide17
the symbolic frame stresses that...

…organizations are not characterized by rational, linear processes

slide18

…but by intuitive, creative responses to environments where:

  • technology is underdeveloped
  • the linkage of means to ends is poorly understood
  • effectiveness is difficult to ascertain objectively
slide19
Organizational culture explores how similar organizations...

…can differ in substantive ways (Carlson, 1996)...

…which can explain why some organizations survive and thrive in their environments while others do not (Schein, 1990).

the concept of organizational culture
The concept of organizational “culture”...
  • adopted by organizational theorists in the 1980s from the social sciences, in particular, cultural anthropology...

...integrating anthropological, sociological, and psychological theories theories of practice

...into a complex analysis of organizational functioning

slide21
organizational culture is a qualitative, multi-factor variable...

…resistant to direct observation

…that can only be inferred by examining the culture itself (Schein, 1992)

slide22
organizational culture represents...

…the self-expression of a community of diverse people

assumptions

values

norms

slide23

For Schein (1984), people oftentimes discover that they work in an organization without knowing its culture, without understanding how the organization came to be what it is, or how the organization could be changed were its survival threatened.

slide24

Were managers and leaders to decipher their organization’s culture, Shein argues, it could then be reified and related to other important organizational variables, for example, setting strategy, aligning structure with purpose, and ultimately, promoting excellence.

the management and leadership challenge
The management and leadership challenge...
  • to define the organization’s culture...

…by studying its history and traditions

…by identifying its patterns of beliefs, norms, language, and behavior

…by explicating its guiding myths and rituals

slide26

…as these phenomena become explicit in the “way we do things around here” each and every day.

slide27

Requires leaders and managers who...

1. decipher organizational culture

slide28
involves…
  • digging below the organization’s surface
  • identifying the elements of the culture
  • interpreting the elements by assessing how each element contributes to organizational functioning/dysfunction
elements of organizational culture
Elements of organizational culture...
  • organizational history
  • shared values and beliefs
  • norms and standards
  • patterns of behavior
slide30
history:

1. How does the organization’s past live on in the present?

2. What traditions are carried on?

3. What stories are told and retold as folklore?

4. What events in organizational history are overlooked or forgotten?

slide31

5. Do heroes and heroines exist among the organization’s membership whose idiosyncrasies and exploits are remembered for the core values their personal qualities represent?

slide32

6. In what ways are the organization’s traditions and historical incidents modified through reinterpretation over the years? Can you recall, for example, an historical event that has evolved from fact into myth?

slide33

7. Are there storytellers, whisperers, spies, and rumor-mongers in the organization? How do they serve to keep the culture alive and intact or act as a barrier to change?

slide34
shared values and beliefs:

1. What are the assumptions and understandings shared by the membership, although these assumptions and understandings may not be stated explicitly?

slide35

2. What does the organization’s philosophy, mission statement, or creed suggest about the organization and it purposes?

3. Are there slogans which reveal core beliefs that have evolved from experience and sort what works from what does not?

slide36

4. Does the organization have symbols that serve to narrow the its mission and provide guidelines for behaviors and decision-making processes?

5. What are the things that the organization prizes and rewards?

slide37

6. When members talk about the organization, what are the major and recurring themes underlying what they say? How do these statements reveal values?

slide38
norms and standards:

1. What are the oughts, shoulds, do’s, and don’ts that govern the behavior of the organization?

2. Who determines who gets rewarded and for what?

3. Who gets rewarded and for what?

slide39

4. Who gets punished and for what?

5. What is it that informal communication networks condemn as wrong and bless as being right?

slide40
patterns of behavior:

1. Are there rituals which reinforce core cultural values and permit subcultures to communicate effectively with one another

…for example: work routines, gossip networks, task organization, annual rituals associated with entrance to and exit from the organization

slide41

2. Does the organization sponsor dramatic ceremonies which allow its culture to be experienced, celebrated and transformed from an idea into a reality?

3. Are there special rituals and ceremonies which regenerate commitment to organizational ideals?

slide42

4. What are the accepted and recurring ways of doing things?

5. What are the generally accepted patterns of behavior?

6. What are the habits and rituals that prevail in the organizations?

slide43

7. Who stands opposed to the prevailing organizational culture for a variety of reasons but views themselves (either individually or collectively) as upholding the “true” organization (i.e., the [loyal] opposition?

slide44
The organization’s history, shared values and beliefs, its norms and standards, as well as its shared patterns of behavior symbolize the organization’s culture...

…and provide a listing of the rich variety of concrete factors influencing “what is.”

slide45
once unearthed, identified, and interpreted, managers and leaders can…
  • understand and appreciate the organization’s idiosyncratic culture
  • provide cultural leadership by...

...enhancing (or changing) those intangible factors that exercise a powerful influence upon the positive (or negative) behaviors of people associated with the organization

slide46
but, managers and leaders first need...

...to search for evidence of the presence (or absence) of these and other factors

...by looking for how these are manifested with the organization’s culture

slide48

to infer from the “hard” data what the artifacts, perspectives, values, and assumptions mean

…by maintaining objectivity

…by endeavoring to understand how the data interact to influence organizational culture

slide49

in order to gain “understanding”...

…conceptually “to stand under,” that is, to conceive the fragmentary bits and pieces of data from within a larger context

…without imposing a theory of practice upon the data(“Model I” behavior, Argyris & Schön, 1974)

organizational culture
Organizational culture...
  • does not come into existence over night...

…rather, organizational culture emerges through human interactions

…and, over the years and decades, becomes a “tradition”

slide51

…narrowing the diverse expectations people may have by directing their individual interests toward the core values, beliefs, and faith in what has made for success in that particular organization

slide52

…this “tradition” then shapes and gives purpose to the interactions between people in organizations across generations

a strong organizational culture
A strong organizational culture...
  • enables people to identify themselves and their aspirations with the organization’s transcendent purpose
  • can heighten people’s faith and confidence in the organization in the midst of environmental turbulence and adversity
a weak organizational culture
A weak organizational culture...
  • people form attachments to symbols and symbolic activity

…what Winnicott call’s “teddy bears” (1964)

slide55
when the attachments are severed…

…this change creates a loss of meaning and purpose

...these people experience great difficulty in letting go

These existential wounds require symbolic healing.

slide56

Requires leaders and managers who...

3. relate the culture to other organizational variables

managing and leading organizations involves
Managing and leading organizations involves...
  • conveyingwhat the organization stands for and how people can embody what the organization values and cherishes
  • by connecting people in the present with what was valued and cherished in the past
managing and leading organizations requires
Managing and leading organizations requires...
  • creating, managing, and sustaining what gives meaning people today by…

...embodying organizational values

...telling and retelling the sagas which concretize the organization’s purpose

...enabling people to achieve cherished organizational objectives

some implications of the symbolic frame for
Some implications of the symbolic frame for...

1. meetings...

2. planning...

3. evaluating...

4. bargaining...

5. power...

cultural tasks for managers and leaders
Cultural tasks for managers and leaders...

1. to attend to socializing new members into the organization

2. to emphasize diversity

3. to manage and lead by example

4. to use and develop code language

slide61

5. to tell stories

...to keep sacred traditions alive

...to provide exemplars to guide behavior

slide62

6. to incorporate humor and play into organizational life

...to reduce tension

...to encourage creativity

slide63

7. to punctuate organizational purposes, values, and mission with rituals and ceremonies

8. to remain aware that informal cultural players make disproportionate contributions both positively and negatively

slide64

9. to remember that “soul is the secret of success”

…managing and leading people is not so much a matter of conducting an orchestra...

…as it is playing in a jazz band (DuPree, 1992)

managers and leaders do not change organizational culture
Managers and leaders do not “change” organizational culture...
  • they “contend” with it...

…by designing a pathway that enables people to learn new values, to adopt and adapt them to the current situation, and to form a new synthesis, one melding “what is” with “what can be”

the pathway to organizational effectiveness
The pathway to organizational effectiveness...
  • is to be discovered within the organization (Deal, 1985) as managers and leaders...

…capture the imagination of the people in organizations

…revitalize the demoralized

…generate enthusiasm for cooperative efforts to achieve shared goals

using symbolic theory
Using symbolic theory...

…prophets

effective managers and leaders are

…poets

…inspiring others

whose primary concerns are

…framing experience

abusing symbolic theory
Abusing symbolic theory...

…fanatics

ineffective managers and leaders are

…fools

…smoke and mirrors

whose primary concerns are

…mirages

strengths of the symbolic theory of practice
Strengths of the symbolic theory of practice...

…personal

…meaningful

…inspiring

…motivational

limitations of the symbolic theory of practice
Limitations of the symbolic theory of practice...

…impractical

…abstract

…overly complex

integrating reflective practice conceptual pluralism and organizational analysis
Integrating reflective practice, conceptual pluralism, and organizational analysis...

Reflecting upon organizational behavior through four frames inculcates the conceptual pluralism managers and leaders need to diagnose the issues underlying the problems manifesting themselves in human organizations.

the structural frame

a more “complicated” conceptual view of organizational functioning

the human resources frame

the political frame

the symbolic frame

this module has focused on
This module has focused on...

The culturaltheories that managers and leaders can utilize in practice episodes...

slide73

...as these theories of practice provide managers a frame of reference to inform decision making...

the symbolic frame

...offers managers and leaders guidance about the strengths and limits of cultural theory

slide74

A SYMBOLIC SCENARIO

Symbolic managers and leaders are sensitive to an organization’s history and culture. They seek to use the best in their organization’s traditions and values as a base for building a culture that provides cohesiveness and meaning. They articulate a vision that communicates the organization’s unique capabilities and mission.

slide75

MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP

IN A SYMBOLIC SCENARIO

Symbolic managers and leaders believe that the most important part of their job is inspiration—giving people something that they can believe in. People will give their loyalty to an organization that has a unique identity and makes them feel that what they do is really important. Effective symbolic managers and leaders are passionate about making their organizations the best of their kind and communicate that passion to others. They use dramatic, visible symbols that give people a sense of the organizational mission. They are visible and energetic. They create slogans, tell stories, hold rallies, give awards, appear where they are least expected, and manage by wandering around.

Bolman & Deal (1991, p. 364)

the next module will focus on
The next module will focus on...

ETHICS

…to conceptualize how managers and leaders might integrate virtue into the decision-making process

references
References
  • Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1974). Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Bower, M. (1966). The will to manage: Corporate success through programmed management. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Carlson, R. V. (1996). Reframing and reform: Perspectives on organization, leadership, and school change. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers.
  • Deal, T. E. (1985). The symbolism of effective schools. The Elementary School Journal, 85(5), 601-620.
slide79
DePree, M. (1989). Leadership is an art. New York: Dell Publishing.
  • DePree, M. (1992). Leadership jazz. New York: Currency Doubleday.
  • Duke, D. L. (1986). The aesthetics of leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 22(1), 7-27.
  • Greenfield, T. B. (1973). Organizations as social inventions: Rethinking assumptions about change. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 9(5), 551-574.
  • McWhinney, W. (1992). Paths of change: Strategic choices for organizations and society. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
slide80
Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(3), 340-363.
  • Pettigrew, A. M. (1979). On studying organizational cultures. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 570-581.
  • Roberts, N. C. (1985). Transforming leadership: A process of collective action. Human Relations, 38(11), 1023-1046.
  • Schall, M. S. (1983). A communication-rules approach to organizational culture. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28, 557-581.
slide81
Schein, E. H. (1984, Winter). Coming to a new awareness of organizational culture. Sloan Management Review, 25(2), 3-15.
  • Schein, E. H. (1990). Organizational culture. American Psychologist, 45(2), 109-119.
  • Schein, E. H. (1991). What is culture? In P. J. Frost, L. F. Moore, M. R. Louis, C. C., Lundberg, & J. Martin (Eds.), Reframing organizational culture (pp. 243‑253). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
slide82
Winnicott, D. W. (1964). The child, the family, and the outside world. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Press.