The Concept of Reframing

Organizations today, are being faced with innumerous problems within their structure, and a very fierce competition from the market. It is quite essential and important for organizations to develop the ability to 'reframe' situations in order to understand what is occuring around them, to make sense out of them and to create alternative answers and strategies. "Organizations everywhere are struggling to cope with a shrinking planet and a global economy. " (Bolman & Deal, 1997)

It is essential that organisations develop the ability to reframe situations in order to understand what is happening around them, which would also help in the creation of alternate strategies and contingencies. Reframing plays a vital role in every organisations functioning. Reframing is basically looking at situations from more than one perspective. It is an approach that is based on the assumption that there will emerge better solutions to the organizational problems when it is understood that every situation can be looked at from more than one perspective.

This examining and analyzing of organizations from a multi perspective is referred to as the technique of reframing. Reframing: "encourages us to look at ourselves and our situations with fresh eyes and to mobilise and use our capacities for imaginative, innovative thought and action. It encourages us to recognize that we can become skilled 'readers' or 'interpreters' of the situation in which we find ourselves and produce normal understandings that will allow fresh action to emerge. " (Morgan, 1993, pg. 265)

As a technique, reframing engages the use of different metaphors for understanding and taking action in the organizational world. For example, Bolman & Deal (1991) highlights four key metaphor-based frames – structural, human resource, symbolic and political; which can be explained as follows: The Structural Frame focuses on designing the structure of an organisation in which work is divided "by creating a variety of specialized roles, functions, and units. " (Bolman & Deal, 1997) Organisations are guided by goals and policies set at the top.

There are six assumptions in the structural frame theory. For instance, it's assumed that the best design structure which fits the current circumstances will achieve established goals and particular tasks. And "the right structure depends on an organisation's goals, strategies, technology and environment" If the operation doesn't work in varied markets, the problem could be not because of personal faults or capability but the structure itself. Unworkable structures or unclear individual responsibilities could cause big mistakes.

The Human Resource perspective emphasises the importance of changing people through training, rotation, promotion or dismissal. As Bolman & Deal describe, organisations and people need each other – the former needs energy, and talent; the latter needs careers, salaries and opportunities. They are interdependent. Although, a poor fit between individuals and the system affect one or both. Therefore, skills, needs, feeling and relationship between individuals and group are so essential that managers need to involve themselves in improving the relationship and motivate people.

The Political Frame basically views organisations as a coalition of various individuals and interest groups. This frame suggests that a conflict is inevitable because of enduring differences and scarce resources and power is in fact an important resource. It is totally based upon power, conflict and compromise. "From a political perspective, organisational goals, structure, and policies emerge from an ongoing process of bargaining and negotiation among major interest groups. " (Bolman & Deal, 1997)

The Symbolic Frame uses symbols such as myth, metaphor, rituals, stories, heroes, humor etc. to inspire employees and interpret events. This frame concentrates on meaning, value, faith, belief, hope, etc. This frame invites managers to consider the impact of beliefs, values and meanings on the way in which people interpret and respond to organizational situations. This frame, lays focus on the ethics and faith followed within the organization and expresses the organizational culture in a way that eliminates any confusion and ambiguity.

Once the above-mentioned four frames are clearly understood and comprehended, an organization can figure out a matrix of these frames and expand managerial thinking within their organization. They can also prevent analysing and contemplating strategies from one perspective. Reframing, thus 'creates a palette that offers an array of options' (Bolman & Deal, 1997: 16). It will lead to the development of a strong relationship among managers and employees in the workplace, and can broaden their scope of thinking and understanding, eventually making them better and more effective in the job.