THE SYMBOLIC FRAME
In Module 4, we turn to the last frame in Bolman and Deal’s Four Frames Model: The Symbolic Frame. Symbols, stories, artifacts, rituals, and rites all play a key role in organizations, as they create meaning for the members of the organization. In this final module, we will be finalizing the thesis-style paper.
In Module 4, you will write the final chapter (Chapter 4) of your 25+ page session-ending thesis-style paper. Following are instructions for proper formatting of the final paper:
- Use of proper APA Style of formatting, referencing, and writing is required.
- The final thesis-style paper requires the following: Title Page, Table of Contents, and References.
- The final paper will consist of four (4) chapters (Module 1-4 Case).
- The body of the final paper must be a minimum of 25 pages in length (not including title page, table of contents, end references, end tables, end figures, or appendices included with the paper).
Bolman and Deal (2003) liken the organization to a metaphorical “temple”– i.e., to a place in which certain things are revered by its members: “An organization, like a temple, can be seen as a sacred place, an expression of human aspirations, a monument to faith in human possibility. A temple is a gathering place for a community of people with shared traditions, values, and beliefs” (p. 405). Similar to temples, organizations need leaders who understand symbols, and their import for the creation of meaning, and for guiding the organization.
Read the following excerpt from Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T.E. (2003). Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley. Note the assumptions of the Symbolic Frame, as you will use these to guide the writing of your Case:
Assumptions of the Symbolic Frame
“The symbolic frame distills ideas from these diverse sources into several core assumptions:
- What is most important is not what happens but what it means.
- Activity and meaning are loosely coupled; events have multiple meanings because people interpret experience differently.
- In the face of widespread uncertainty and ambiguity, people create symbols to resolve confusion, increase predictability, find direction, and anchor hope and faith.
- Many events and processes are more important for what is expressed than what is produced. They form a cultural tapestry of secular myths, heroes and heroines, rituals, ceremonies, and stories that help people find purpose and passion in their personal and work lives.
- Culture is the glue that holds an organization together and unites people around shared values and beliefs.
The symbolic frame sees life as more serendipitous than linear. Organizations function like complex, constantly changing, organic pinball machines. Decisions, actors, plans, and issues continuously carom through an elastic, ever-changing labyrinth of cushions, barriers, and traps. Managers who turn to Peter Drucker’s Effective Executive for guidance might do better to study Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. But all the apparent chaos has a deeper sense of emblematic order. In recent years, the importance of symbols in corporate life has become more widely appreciated.
Symbols embody and express an organization’s culture: the interwoven pattern of beliefs, values, practices, and artifacts that defines for members who they are and how they are to do things….the various forms symbols assume: myths, visions and values; heroes and heroines; stories and fairy tales; ritual; ceremony; and metaphor, humor, and play. All these are basic elements of organizational culture” (Bolman & Deal, 2003, p. 242-3).
The following presentation by Westbrooks is an excellent overview of the Symbolic Frame:
Westbrooks, E. (2012). Reframing organizations: The symbolic frame. Prezi. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/qae4pi43dsor/reframing-organizations-the-symbolic-frame/
In this presentation, Dr. Jacobs provides a comprehensive overview of the Symbolic Frame:
Jacobs, R.M. (n.d.). Theories of practice: The symbolic frame. Villanova University. Retrieved on May 8, 2014 from http://www83.homepage.villanova.edu/richard.jacobs/MPA%208002/Powerpoint/8002%20MPA/symbolic.ppt
Finally, Hogan’s Bolman and Deal (2017) authored a very good overview of culture and symbols – i.e., the Symbolic Frame:
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. In Reframing organizations: artistry, choice, and leadership (6th ed.). John Wiley & Sons. Available in the Trident Online Library [Proquest eBook Central database].
Notice how this early article by Bolman and Deal points out the difference between “magic” and “might” – of course, both of these concepts now underpin the Four Frames Model:
Bolman, L.G., & Deal, T.E. (1996). Might and magic. Leadership Excellence, 23(6), 15. Retrieved from ProQuest.
Wizards and Warriors in organizations? From the authors of the Four Frames Model, here is a more recent (and quite excellent) discussion of the Symbolic and Political Frames:
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2009). Battles and beliefs: Rethinking the roles of today’s leaders. Leadership In Action, 29(5), 14-18. Retrieved from EBSCO – Business Source Complete.
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