The success, or failure, of organization change may have more to do with the frame of change you and your leadership view your organization culture through than any other challenge to change. Adopting and sustaining organization change rarely succeeds if you can not frame communication to emotionally and rationally resonate throughout the organization.
For change to hold, you need to capture both the head and the heart of the organization. The key to both is to clearly understand the frame to view your organization in. Does 1,2, or 3 describe the frame you view your organization through?
- An organization is the rational coordination of the activities of a number of people of the achievement of some common explicit purpose or goal, through division of labor and function, and through a hierarchy of authority and responsibility. Where the design of the organization is effective to the extent that its information processing capacity matches the level of uncertainty facing the organization. The organization is viewed as a technical organization.
- An organization is a coalition with ill-defined and inconsistent preferences with the critical question not how well we are doing? but to whom and for whom are we doing it? Governance, control and political processes are related to issues of structure developed where coalition s must receive inducements from belonging greater than the contributions they are required to make. Coalition members, then, are continually calculating whether they might fare better if they altered their participation. In addition to the allocation of resources, policies, and policy commitments are important, and they are the objectives of bargaining as well. The organization is viewed as a political organization.
- An organization is held together by people’s beliefs in a set of norms that make up the organization’s culture. Organizational and individual effectiveness is enhanced when the organization ensures ‘a maximum probability that in all interactions and in all relationships within the organization, each member, in the light of their background, values, desires, and expectations will view the experience as supportive and one which builds and maintains his/her sense of personal worth and importance’. Organization development (OD) is concerned with a normative orientation to organizations that lead to prescriptions for change. The organization is viewed as a cultural organization.*
The challenge of viewing your organization through a frame is that an organization will fit squarely within the frame and you miss those cues or areas outside the frame. The organization will begin to support only the area within view and important nuances are missed. More importantly, often termed the Pygmalion effect, the behaviors you see begin to support the frame you view.
Organization change communication often frames either/or views:
- The technical frame of organizations as rational and driven towards efficiency and effectiveness;
- The political frame of organizations as a coalitions bargaining among interests that dominate the allocation of resources; and
- The cultural frame of organizations as internalized rules, structures, and systems that perpetuate and reinforce values and norms
The frame compliments the picture.
The reality: an organization is never 1 frame, but a mix of all 3 frames. If you only view the picture with 1 frame than critical nuances outside the border are lost. To kick change off correctly, you need to take the frame off and realize that your organization exhibits all 3 technical, political, and cultural attributes together, in constant flow.
The frame should not detract from the picture.
Organization are less a technical, political, or cultural organization, because organizations are a combination of all 3. Ignoring any 1 at the cost of the other(s) means your change misses a host of critical variations. Isn’t change hard enough to accomplish without the potential to talk over the hearts and minds of the people that within your organization?
The frame you choose uniquely affects and accents the picture; where your real focus should lie. Be prepared to switch frames readily or better yet to get a better view of the big picture hang remove the frame altogether.
No doubt I got some things wrong, or left out some important ideas. Please let me know what you think and suggestions you have for me to add value.
*Systems Theory for Organization Development; A Social Network Perspective for Organization Development; Noel Tichy