Briefly describe the theory underpinning Bolman and Deal’s Symbolic Frame, discussing its usefulness in organizational analysis, and its utility in our understanding of organizations.

Paper 1 and 2 background

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).

Required readings

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 presentation is a very good overview of culture and symbols – i.e., the Symbolic Frame:

Hogan, R. L. (n.d). Chapter 12: Organizational culture and symbols. Eastern Illinois University. Retrieved from www.leebolman.com/Reframing_4th_Powerpoint/Chap%2012.ppt

Optional readings

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.

PAPER 1

After you have reviewed the contents of the Walt Disney Company website, read the materials included at the Background page of Module 4, and performed additional research from the library and the internet, write a 6- to 7-page paper in which you do the following:

Using the following five assumptions of the Symbolic Frame, complete an in-depth assessment of the Walt Disney Company:

· 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.

Keys to the Assignment

The key aspects of this assignment that are to be covered in your 6- to 7-page paper include the following:

· Briefly describe the theory underpinning Bolman and Deal’s Symbolic Frame, discussing its usefulness in organizational analysis, and its utility in our understanding of organizations.

· Using Bolman and Deal’s Symbolic Frame, choose 3-4 examples of symbolic characteristics of the Walt Disney Company (you may choose some aspect of the organization’s culture – e.g., artifacts, stories, values, belief systems, etc). Then, examine your chosen examples using the above assumptions of Bolman and Deal’s Symbolic Frame.

· Of the 3-4 examples you have discussed above, which do you believe is the most salient mechanism or process by which the Walt Disney Company creates meaning for its members? Is this mechanism or process made explicit or tacit (or both) for Disney’s members?

· What conclusions can you draw from your use of the Symbolic Frame as it is applied to the Walt Disney Company? In other words, what have you learned about the company? How is use of the Symbolic lens helpful relative to informing outsiders as it concerns the organization’s approach to leadership?

· In the final section of Chapter 4, conclude by commenting on which of the Four Frames (or combination of frames) you believe is most useful to our evaluation and understanding of the Walt Disney Company. Explain.

· The background readings will not give you all the answers to the Case. Therefore, you are required to perform some research in the library, and use a minimum of 3-4 scholarly sources from the library to support and justify your understanding of the case.

· Your paper must demonstrate evidence of critical thinking (if you need tips on critical thinking, http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/college-and-university-students/799 is an excellent resource). Don’t simply restate facts – instead, be sure to interpret the facts you have accumulated from your research.

PAPER 2

In the Module 4 SLP, you will write a 3- to 4-page paper in which you will apply the Symbolic Frame to the organization in which you are currently employed (or in which you have worked previously).

Assignment

The Module 4 SLP requires that you write a 3- to 4-page paper, in which you address the following:

After giving a brief description of the organization in which you presently work – or in which you have previously worked – apply the Symbolic Frame to the organization, analyzing the ways in which two or three symbolic characteristics you have identified provide meaning for your organization’s members.

Keys to the Assignment

The key aspects of this assignment that should be covered in your paper include the following:

· Briefly describe your organization – name, what it does, size (number of employees, annual revenue, relative market share, etc.);

· Choose 2 or 3 examples of the Symbolic Frame (value, beliefs, rituals, stories, heroes, etc.), and assess how they create meaning for the organization’s members.

· Which of the examples you have provided do you believe has the greatest influence on the organization-at-large? Why?

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