The Four Frame Approach

Finding Other Ways Forward

See things from four perspectives.

© iStockphoto/nilsz

Managers who master the hammer and expect all problems to behave like nails find organizational life confusing and frustrating. – Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal
When you're in a hole, stop digging. – Denis Healy, British Politician

Tony runs a small team of IT developers. He helps his people meet their objectives by setting clear goals, and by making sure that everyone knows their roles.

The problem is that Tony's organization is currently being restructured, and projects he has been championing are being called into question. As a result, Tony is stressed, and is struggling to motivate his team.

Although we may not like to admit it, many of us are like Tony; we rely on only a few approaches for leading our teams. Then, when things change, or when we're in new situations, we're not as effective as we could be.

One way to overcome this common problem is to use Bolman and Deal's Four Frame Approach. This tool teaches us to view situations using four different perspectives. This then helps us to think about different ways of managing difficult situations.

About the Model

The Four Frame Approach is a concept developed by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal, and was first published in their 1991 book, "Reframing Organizations." The model is a set of four frames, or perspectives, that we can use to analyze a situation in the workplace.

The four frames are:

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