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A Review of Bolman and Deals’ Multi-framing Approach Report


The effects of globalization on Today’s business continue increasing with time. All business entities, whether private, public or non-governmental, call for the management to establish and posses an edge that distinguishes them uniquely from their related opponents (Tanzi 4).

According to DiLuzio, the selection of best management frameworks have called for top managers to carry out both intensive and extensive research to determine their unique needs and challenges manifest in their organizations (93).

Bolman and Deal followed on the above by presenting facts that supported the notion that in the current competitive environment, the task of management has become overwhelming and immense to nearly all managers.

In their reputable research work, these two scholars held the view that the replacement of ancient, small and simple social organizations with the modern-day large-scale organizations had been characterized by the emergence of shocks that overturned the previous easy rules of managing the organizations into antiques (Bolman & Deal 5).

To add, Uva held the same view by articulating that the modern day business markets exhibit extreme volatilities that make it difficult for business leaders to rely on their “traditional” and conventional wisdom and past experiences when trying to effect best management strategies (1).

It is from the above perspectives that the author decided to make a follow up on this important topic. As such, the paper’s purpose revolved around a review and a provision of an argumentative report on the theories of multi-framing as they were propagated by Bolman and Deal.

Other objectives that formed the scope of this study included the identification and assessment of the risks related to reliance on limited knowledge of the 4 frames, the evaluation of the multi-framing approach as a judgement tool and the explanation of why some real-life case studies have implemented more effective changes than their related rivals.

Presentation and Analysis of the findings

Theories of multi-framing

Bolman and Deal defined multi-framing as requiring “an ability to understand and use multiple perspectives, to think about the same thing in more than one way” (4-5).

The two friendly scholars therefore went ahead to suggest 4 frames upon which current organizations can be described from. These were structural, human resource, symbolic and political frames. Each of the named frames is coherent, distinct and powerful in its own way (Lowman 377).

Figure 1 showing the overview of the 4 frames above

The overview of the 4 frames above

(Source: Bolman and Deal 15, 344).

The structural theory was built on the framework that organizations were stable environments as is practically reflected in current organizational design and social architecture. This means that their efficiencies can be increased through implementation of division of labour and specialization aspects.

According to Bolman and Deal, the proponents or the believers of this theory hold that observing the right formal arrangements can lead to minimization of problems and maximization of performance. As such, there is need to apply the use of data, logic and facts for this frame.

To expound, the author established that this theory stresses on the need to dwell on the guidelines already existing within organizations to aid in the process of decision making.

On the other hand, the human resource theory emphasized the important role played by the human resource function-the people. A summary of this theory revealed that a good leader tops up as a facilitator, who motivates, coaches, empowers and encourages participation of all employees in the activities of the organization.

The symbolic theory stressed on the role of leaders providing vision and inspiration through acting in the same manner as Biblical ‘prophets’. This theory goes ahead to point out that a good leader will do the best to foster and excite commitment through actions. In a nutshell, the theory is majorly concerned with providing meaning and hope for the workforce.

The last theory-the political theory– holds that organizational life is characterized by stiff competition for it resources in addition to being laden with conflicts.

As such, good managers must establish coalitions and networks within the staff thus acquiring power that aids in the acquisition of demanded resources. This theory went ahead to stress that a good leader is one who finds himself or herself comfortable with conflict by negotiation for its solution.

Identification and assessment of risks

Bolman and Deal set the stage in chapter one by warning that a number of fatal business risks sat in waiting for the so called “brightest” managers who failed to develop a multi-framework understanding of the situations that emerged as challenges to their businesses.

To start with, the inability of leaders to appropriately position people and implement proposed structures constituted a negative risk on the abilities to achieve successful changes. This is so because as Abrahamson noted, “this can potentially impede the change process as individuals within the system become embroiled in defining structures and positions thus the efficiency by which goals are met is diminished” (98).

To add, managers who possess insufficient knowledge of the 4 frames are likely to be led into trouble. This is so because they risk sticking and masking their little knowledge for ineffective decision making; a scenario that Bolman and Deal referred to as sticking “with erroneous ideas if they’re all you have… and masking their flaws at the same time” (6).

Furthermore, Arsham held the view that relying on limited understanding of the 4 frames has the risk of making managements to assume things by feeling overconfident that everything is going in the right direction when it is not. If such managements come to discover that their assumptions were headed in the wrong direction, then they will be quick to dissociate themselves from the blame.

Tellingly, while drawing inferences from the research works of Vaughan (1995), Bolman and Deal also identified another risk relating limited understanding of the 4 models. As such, the two scholars postulated that managers who possessed limited knowledge of the 4 models had common tendencies of not surrendering their previously adopted mental themes.

Whenever a new theme or model was to be derived in any of the 4 frameworks, such managers had the character of using their contradictory evidences to push it aside. However, the two scholars concluded by asserting that this kind of risk came to an end at times when the new facts clearly distinguished themselves from the meticulously constructed ‘fictions’.

Nonetheless, several researchers pointed out that the tendency to see no shortcomings or failure to view organizations based on the 4 frames had a common risk of creating organizational disasters (Davidson 12). This can be evidenced by referring to the scenario below. In the year 2000, the US economy maintained its leadership economic role.

Yet in the same year, the country did provide a new record for its failed corporate firms. This was so because 176 of its public companies-with an estimated asset value of $95 billion-had been declared bankrupt thus constituting a historic organizational disaster in the world.

Evaluation of the multi-framing approach

Though Bolman and Deal’s multi-framing approach has been applauded in most research works as being effective, the author took an own initiative to judge the quality and the importance of the approach.

To start with the positives, the author devised that multi-framing as a change diagnostic tool was very valuable since it was being widely used at the planning stages of change initiatives (Flood 178). This was so because it helped to diagnose the specific needs of organizations as well as in the identification of institutional contexts and challenges.

In return, the above helped to devise relevant corrective actions. To demonstrate this important value, the author presents the following statement as a case example originating from the above, ‘For this kind of initiative, we need to properly address all the political aspects’.

On their shortcomings, previous literature devalued the quality of the frames as follows:

Most educators had come to the conclusion that the structural aspects of the frames tended to be emphasised on strong basis (Henrikson 114). This led to a concurrent neglect to the other three. For instance, you’ll always hear managers talk more about ‘we will develop new programs’ or we will reorganize ourselves’ as opposed to ‘we will motivate employees to achieve results’.

To add on the shortcomings, the report established that though multi-framing had dwelt more on the need to combine several of its approaches when conceptualizing different approaches to change issues to achieve success, a contradiction occurred when the same multi-framing approach proposed to change agents that depending on the circumstance at hand, a single approach may be most appropriate for application than the others.

To end the evaluation, the report found out that for organizations that did not need to address all the aspects of the frames, the application of the approach became apathetic, caustic, and inefficient to the larger anticipated change goals (Rouibah 277).

Demonstrated understanding of why some attempts at organizational change management are more effective than others

Though the current competitive business environment has been characterised by many business enterprises recording negative performances, it should be highlighted that a considerable number of enterprises have come out to re-engineer best frameworks that have in turn led to their profitability.

In demonstrating how such business institutions have been able to succeed in implementing effective change processes, this business research report chose to analyse the following themes and industry examples:

The selection of unique and best business models: Case study of Toyota’s expansion into the world’s populous and lucrative Chinese market

Toyota’s expansion into the world’s populous and lucrative market of China in 2002 was marked by the use of its Japanese management model that demonstrated how companies can create extraordinary value by fostering long-term, partnering relationships with their suppliers (Hohn 14).

In using its management model to expand into China, Toyota’s management recognized that more opportunities existed for cost reduction during product planning than in actual production and development (Shim et al. 379; Russo & Zhao).

The appropriate application of its change management concepts have enabled this Japanese company, that started its business as a little known car manufacturer with a production capacity of only 10,000 vehicles per year in the 1950’s, to rise (de Bono & Heller) impressively within a half a century to become the undisputed world leading auto manufacturer as of 2006 with an estimated worldwide market share of 15% and sales of 10 million vehicles a year (Paul 546).

The adoption of the above change frameworks were highlighted as major factors that facilitated the surpassing of General Motors by Toyota as the largest automobile company in the world during the second quarter of 2007 in terms of sales (Toyota Motors Corporation).

The opportunistic inclusion of IT among the change frameworks: Case study of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart’s success story continues to be re-narrated time and again across the world. Hill and Jones stressed that Wal-Mart was one of the most extraordinary success stories in business history (2). Kotabe and Leal noted that the store’s consistently superior profitability reflected a competitive advantage that was based on a number of strategies.

Hill and Jones went on to name these strategies as the application of the self service supermarket business model in 1962, the innovations in information systems, logistics and human resources sections (2).

The company’s management has been praised for having adopted cost saving technologies and advances in transportation to achieve remarkable efficiencies in the retain supply chain (Irwin 2) thus surpassing its closest competitor, Frances Carrefour, by three times. The company’s 2009 results showed increased revenues of US 408.21 billion.


This study has been very useful in achieving its earlier documented purpose of providing an argumentative report on the theories of multi-framing as propounded by Bolman and Deal. The author discussed the key themes that made up each of the frameworks. This was followed by a discussion of the risks that faced managements that failed to understand the key concepts in the 4 frames.

To add, the author went ahead to review abundant previous literature that evaluated the value of the 4 frames as tools for enhancing change management in organizations. In the end, the author presented key evidences that revealed why some organizations had implemented effective changes to levels higher than their rivals.

The findings of the above presented a single fact. This is that volumes of theories have been researched and document on this important topic of reengineering across organizations. Though the evaluation of the frameworks had a number of shortcomings as was revealed in the evaluation section, this author acknowledged the contribution of the two reputable US scholars.

This was so because they did a commendable job by sifting through the olden and abundant literature of the complex theories on the topic to come up with their own theories, experience and analyses.

This constituted their now famous 4 frames. These frames have been compared to lenses in most researches due to their capability to enable anyone to clearly see the organization from its changing perspectives just as lenses enable anyone to clearly view the world and its changing places.

In a nutshell therefore, drawing inference from Abrahamson, the research works of Bolman and Deal can be said to have provided “a very useful framework for understanding the different approaches or “lenses” that leaders utilize, indicating that each leader has frames that are more dominant within their individual leadership styles, but it is important for an effective leader to have the capacity to move back and forth between the frames based on the dynamics and needs of the situation” (97).

Works Cited

Abrahamson, Margaret Anne. Improved Math Achievement in an Urban High School: A Case Study of a High School in the Vista Unified School. USA: ProQuest, 2007. Print.

Arsham, Hossein. . 2007. Web.

Bolman, Lee G. & Deal, Terrence E. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. 3rd edn. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Davidson, Frame J. Managing Risk in Organizations: A Guide for Managers. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2003. Print.

de-Bono, Edward & Heller, Robert. . 2005. Web.

DiLuzio, Vittoriano. Effects of Globalization on North American Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP) Film Industry. USA: ProQuest, 2008. Print.

Flood, Patrick C. Managing Strategy Implementation: An Organizational Behaviour Perspective. Masachussets: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000. Print.

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Hohn, Michaela Isabel. Relational Supply Contracts: Optimal Concessions in Return Policies For Continuous Quality Improvements. Heidelberg: Springer, 2009. Print.

Irwin, Elena G. The Local Costs and Benefits of Wal-Mart.Ohio: Ohio State University, 2006. Print.

Kotabe, Masaaki & Leal, Ricardo P.C. (eds). Market Revolution in Latin America: Beyond México. Oxford: Emerald Group Publishing, 2001. Print.

Lowman, Rodney L. The California School of Organizational Studies Handbook Of Organizational Consulting Psychology: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory, Skills, and Techniques. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2002. Print.

Paul, Justin. International Business. New Delhi: PHI learning Pvt. Ltd, 2011. Print.

Rouibah, Kamel. Emerging Markets and E-commerce in Developing Economies. New York: Idea Group Inc (IGI), 2008. Print.

Russo, B & Zhao, J. How the Toyota Way Went Astray, Global Auto Sources. 2010. Web.

Shim, Jae K., Siegel, Joel G. & Dauber, Nick. Corporate Controller’s Handbook of Financial Management 2008-2009. London: CCH, 2009. Print.

Tanzi, Vito. Globalization and the Need for Fiscal Reform in Developing Countries. Volume 6 of Occasional Paper. Buenos Aires, Argentina: BID-INTAL, 2004. Print.

Uva, Wen-fei. Pricing your Products to Survive Rising Energy Costs. New York: Cornell University, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "A Review of Bolman and Deals’ Multi-framing Approach." July 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-review-of-bolman-and-deals-multi-framing-approach/.


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