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Reframing Organizations

Artistry, Choice, and Leadership

By Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal
15-minute read
Audio available
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal

Reframing Organizations (2017) looks at how to structure organizations in order to simplify tasks and decision-making. It shows that there is no foolproof way to arrive at the right answer when facing complex challenges. However, certain structures exist that increase the chances of company success.

  • Managers
  • Employees
  • Organizational psychologists

Lee G. Bolman is a professor at the Bloch School of Business in Missouri where he specializes in leadership and organization. He is also a popular speaker and workshop leader for companies, governmental bodies and universities in the US and abroad. Terrence E. Deal is a retired professor of education at the University of Southern California. He has worked at many of the most prestigious US universities, focusing on organizations and the methods they deploy to deal with symbolism and disruption.

© Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal: Reframing Organizations copyright 2017, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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Reframing Organizations

Artistry, Choice, and Leadership

By Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal
Synopsis

Reframing Organizations (2017) looks at how to structure organizations in order to simplify tasks and decision-making. It shows that there is no foolproof way to arrive at the right answer when facing complex challenges. However, certain structures exist that increase the chances of company success.

Key idea 1 of 9

Mistakes are made when complexity is simplified. The trick is to question your prejudices.

There’s no escaping problem-solving. At some point, we’ll all have to use this skill. There are occasions when it can be relatively straightforward, like working out what planes and trains to take to make it home for Christmas. But it’s an entirely different kettle of fish when we’re facing more complex questions. A common error is to simplify complexity, but this just leads to mistakes. And if you’re a leader of any sort, that’s the last thing you want to do.

This oversimplification tends to take two forms. The first and most obvious is when the sheer volume of information is too large to be processed easily. In these circumstances, leaders are inclined to focus only on what they deem critical. Thus, they close themselves off from information that might be useful. Secondly, when leaders are faced with complex and intricate situations, they revert to prejudice rather than actually looking at the matter at hand. After all, simplification is so much easier.

The authors see President Donald Trump’s actions as a good example of simplified prejudice. In March 2017, he tweeted repeatedly that Barack Obama had tapped his phones during the lead-up to the 2016 election. Trump had received this faulty information from the far-right news outlet Breitbart. He clung doggedly to this erroneous first impression, even after an investigation confirmed that Obama had ordered nothing of the sort. But this case is hardly unique.

In 2011, neuroscientist David Eagleman conducted a study that showed we all tend to disregard information that challenges our established worldview. In other words, we see what we already believe, rather than believe what we see. This can be dangerous for both individuals and companies dealing with complex challenges. A more successful approach to problem-solving would be to question the existing beliefs you hold.

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