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The Political Frame

The political frame, invented and developed primarily by political scientists, views organisations as arenas in which different interest groups compete for power and scarce resources. Conflict is everywhere because of the differences in needs, perspectives and lifestyles among various individuals and groups. Bargaining, negotiation, coercion, and compromise are all part of everyday organisational life. Coalitions form around specific interests and change as issues come and go. Problems arise because power is concentrated in the wrong places or because it is so broadly dispersed that nothing gets done. Solutions are developed through political skill and acumen – as Machiavelli suggested they should be centuries ago in The Prince. In this definition it is clear that:

  • Organisations are viewed as coalitions composed of varied individuals and interest groups
  • There are enduring differences among individuals and groups
  • Allocation of scarce resources is central
  • Conflict is central to organisational dynamics and power is the most important resource
  • Organisational goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiation, and jockeying for position among members of different coalitions.

The propositions of the political frame do not attribute politics to individual selfishness, myopia, or incompetence. They assert that interdependence, difference, scarcity and power relations will inevitably produce political forces, regardless of the players. It is naive and romantic to hope that politics can be eliminated in organisations. Managers can, however, learn to understand and manage political processes.

There is no guarantee that those who gain power will use it wisely or justly. But is it not inevitable that power and politics are always demeaning and destructive. Constructive politics is a possibility, and a necessary possibility if we are to create institutions and societies that are both just and efficient. Given the current climate, which is characterized by rapid and continuous change in a time of scarce resources, the political frame may have increasing importance.

This study utilised Grounded Theory as this a methodology the author used to simply the discovery of emerging patterns in theoretical models around Reframing organisations. Grounded Theory is the generation of theories from data, in this study; it is concerned with the South African context. (Glaser in Walsh, Holton et al 2015).

Grounded theory was applied in this study as it is research tool which enabled the author to seek out and conceptualise the Reframing emerging strategic patterns and structures of the relevant and emerging strategic constructs. This methodology was used in developing theory which is more aligned to the emerging industry trends. This was used by the author as the deductive phase of the grounded theory process (Glaser in Walsh, Holton et al 2015).


In answering the question: Does the reframing organisation theory make a contribution to successful projects? we will conclude by saying yes it does. Reframing organisations theory emphases the need for multiframing and integrating all the four frames namely political, HR, structural and symbolic. Whilst businesses may have previously been managed using a structural or political frame, the multiframing technique has advocated that the HR frames and symbolic frames cannot be ignored if one is to successfully manage a business and its people. The impact of excluding the HR frame has been proven to be ”fatal”. Whether there is great hardware available for the project and a well laid-out physical environment, if the team members are not included in the decision-making and if the correct communication plan is not practiced, the success of that project is doomed. Reframing organisation theory encourages team-based and participative project management. This new way of communication comes with a lot of responsibility for project managers, however it also allows for a higher rate of project success. In implementing all frames, project managers can get overwhelmed but the following questions can be used as a guideline to manage a project successfully while using reframing organisations theory:

  • Does the structure fit the scope of the project or organization?
  • Is your communication plan in place before starting your strategic planning?
  • Does the communication method suit the structure?
  • Are leaders within the structure capable of implementing and maintaining the communication structure?
  • Does the plan include timely and regular communication?
  • Is communication of lesser individuals within the structure filtered properly, or will it get lost in the hierarchy, and is it given the proper consideration?
  • Does communication include all relevant participants?
  • Does the structure allow for easily accessible communication methods?
  • And lastly what effect will the structure of communication have on the other 3 frames (Symbolic, human resources and political frames) and does it take these into consideration.

Lastly, it is imperative that all the frames are taken into consideration when undertaking a project and a thorough yet practical communication plan should be in place. Each frame can work well when implemented individually, however this is being short-sited. Using one or two frames limits the leader’s ability to act as effectively as possible. Bohlman suggests that leaders need to use all four frames. Leaders must develop the ability to `reframe’ situations in order to make sense of what is happening and to create alternative solutions and strategies. The most effective leaders integrate the frames into their thought patterns and behaviour


Bohlman, L & T Deal  (1991): Reframing Organisations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership.  San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 

Collins, J C  & J I Porras (1995): Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Century: London. 

Enterprise Careers. (1998): May 04. vol. 20, iss. 18, pg: 98. 

Knights, D & H Willmott  (2000): The Re-engineering Revolution, Critical Studies of Corporate Change. Sage: London. 

Laxton, D M  (2000): Management Theory and Practice. (

Robbins, S  (1998): Organisational Behaviour, 8th Edition. Prentice Hall: U.S.A

Internet References (

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Author Dr Dennis Mark Laxton

DBA, MBL, MBA, BTech Academic Team Leader and Senior Lecturer Regenesys Business School

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