Managers Can Improve Their Effectiveness Using Conceptual Frames

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“The Four Frames Model” was created in response to a crisis in leadership and managerial practice.

Rapid technological and societal changes have made organizations grow more complex and erratic. Managers are often unprepared for the decision making and leadership demands of today’s highly complex and unpredictable corporate world. The Four Frames model helps managers find clarity and direction amid the chaos.

The Four Frames divide workplace issues into different categories to help reframe problems and conceptualize the best approach to solving them. The Frames relate to aspects of an organization: Structural, Human Resources, Political and Symbolic.

The Structural frame is used to clarify tasks, set goals, define strategy and create or re-imagine systems and procedures. It articulates rules, division of labour and hierarchy. Objective performance analysis and qualification of workers are also a part of this frame, as well as assigning roles to the right people.

The Human Resources frame relates to employees as people, addressing issues of job satisfaction, morale, personal and professional growth and work/life balance. How satisfied are employees? What is their motivation level? What can the organization do to increase loyalty and engagement? Management styles and communication skills come into play.

The Political frame addresses the political arenas that arise from intense inter-personal conflicts. Rival agendas and competition for limited organizational resources result in power struggles and rivalries. Managers often find they need to expand their influence. Political skills are vital to be an effective manager and to make effective and ethical choices in line with the values of the organization.

The Symbolic frame emphasizes the importance of corporate culture and spirit. It’s more than just morale — it’s about meaningful work and a sense of purpose. It’s not enough just to execute day-to-day operations – organizations need stories and a strong and motivating vision. A well-rounded company will feature cohesiveness, a strong community and deep sentiments of loyalty and purpose.

There are no clear road maps for managers and corporate leaders in today’s change-driven and information saturated world. Managers and executives can use the Four Frames model to improve understanding and decision making in their workplaces.

The topic of this article is inspired by the curriculum for the SEEC program Masters Certificate in Organization Development and Change (Starts April 20, 2020). An effective organization development strategy helps your people achieve their goals, improve their effectiveness and achieve the best possible outcomes for clients, customers and stakeholders.