What does it mean to practice reframing?
Bolman and Deal (2017) posited this through two questions:
- “From this perspective, what’s going on?”
- “And what options does this view suggest?” (p. 409-10)
Through the provided case study, Bolman and Deal demonstrate how King breaks down the issues he is facing through the lens of each of the four frames. What I find most important is that King is doing this over the course of the weekend and after a public blow-up by two of his staff. He is faced with pivotal decisions immediately. It is clear that what happens next can make or break King’s tenure.
First, King acknowledged his mishandling of the staff meeting where Carver threatened Dula. This is something that does not always happen with leaders. Similar to the Model I theory, people will often blame others. King easily could have put the onus on Carver and Dula. Instead, as the leader, he recognized his role in the situation and that he needed to do something to make amends for his lack of action at the moment.
Then, King systematically evaluated the overall school situation through each of the four frames by using the two questions provided by Bolman and Deal. King took the time to focus on each frame, determined how it could help or hinder, and then determined actions to take.
Ultimately, King developed a strategy to tackle the issues he was facing, taking into account the various perspectives of the staff and faculty. King wrote out answers to the two questions to craft a course of action. He mapped a pathway. Whether it will work or not is a different story, however, a plan was devised that accounted for the four frames, the situation, and the associated people.
More importantly, King managed to do this in the context of ethics and spirit. In devising responses and potential actions, these two concepts were always a part of the solutions. King easily could have succumbed to negative approaches for each of the frames in handling the situations. As the principal, King could have entered with an “iron fist,” using is power and authority to decree to all the new rules. He could have capitulated to each individual complaint he received, promising everything to everyone. King could have pit the various factions against each other to fight it out until only one side prevailed. Lastly, he could have allowed the areas to further entrench themselves in their own agendas essentially eliminating the common purpose of the school.
But he did none of those things. King approached the dilemma by using the reframing ethics: excellence, caring, justice, and belief. He advocated the use of authorship, love, power, and significance.
As the case study ends, who knows how things will turn out. There will likely be missteps and mistakes along the way. Maybe some of the faculty and staff will refuse to buy-in and decide to resign or are asked to leave. Perhaps other catastrophes will pop-up as progress is being made. Setbacks will likely occur.
What I have learned throughout my time in higher education is that no progress is linear. Change is messy. Having a plan is helpful, but always be ready for Plan B, C, and maybe even D. This is why reframing and reflection are vital. It is rare when things work exactly the way want them to. Therefore, we have to take a second to reflect on what happened, try to understand why, and prepare to take a new approach.
The four frames working in concert with one another will enhance the opportunity that change will be successful. The most important thing we can do is practice the process of reflecting and reframing when we have the chance, so when we are vaulted into a situation similar to King, we will have the best chance at achieving positive results.