Bolman & Deal frameworks

Most educational administration graduate students can tell you about Bolman & Deal’s leadership frameworks. The frames help change agents conceptualize different approaches to an issue. Depending on the circumstances, one approach may be more appropriate than another. Or, most likely, several approaches in combination will be most successful. Bolman & Deal’s four frames are as follows:

  1. Structural. Leaders who make change using this approach focus on structural elements within the organization as well as strategy, implementation, and adaptation. Changing institutional structures works well when goals are clear, when cause-and-effect relationships are well understood, and when there is little conflict, uncertainty, or ambiguity.
  2. Human resource. Leaders who approach change from a human resource frame focus on people. This approach emphasizes support, empowerment (perhaps through distributed leadership mechanisms), staff development, and responsiveness to employee needs. A focus on people works well when employee morale is a consideration and when there is relatively little conflict.
  3. Political. Leaders who use a political approach to facilitate change focus on the political realities that exist within and outside organizations. This approach emphasizes dealing with interest groups (and their varying agendas), building power bases, coalition-building, negotiating conflicts over limited resources, and creating compromises. The political approach is appropriate when resources are scarce or diminishing as well as when goals or values are in conflict.
  4. Symbolic. Leaders who make change using a symbolic approach focus on vision and inspiration. Symbolic leaders feel that people need to believe that their personal work, and the work of the organization, is important and meaningful. Traditions, ceremonies, and rituals are very important to the symbolic approach, which is most appropriate when goals and/or cause-and-effect relationships are unclear.

Bolman & Deal’s frames can be used at the planning stage of a change initiative to help diagnose organizational needs, to identify institutional challenges and contexts, and to devise appopriate actions (e.g., ‘For this initiative, we need to be sure to address the political aspects because…’). The frames also can be used to rethink and reframe unsuccessful change initiatives (e.g., ‘This initiative failed because we didn’t appropriately address the human resource frame.’).

A combination of the four perspectives is nearly always warranted when implementing a change initiative. Unfortunately, I think most educators would agree that the structural aspects of change initiatives tend to be emphasized quite strongly (e.g., ‘We’ll create a new program’ or ‘we’ll reorganize ourselves’ or ‘we’ll buy some technology to help’) with a concurrent neglect of the other three frames. Because school leaders often may be strong in one or two of these frames but not all four, it is important to get others on board to adequately conceptualize and address all needed aspects of the change initiative.

I’m sure most of you can identify a situation where an emphasis, or lack of emphasis, on one of these frames led to a change initiative’s success or failure.

51 Responses to “Bolman & Deal frameworks”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m mentally connecting this to your other post on the four quadrants and whether not schools can change.

    I’m thinking about how you could overlay these principles onto the quadrants and see what that tells you.

    I do think you are right, that too often the change focuses on the structural–change the parking lot, change the schedule, and not enough on the other areas.

    That does take a leader with vision and a coherent plan. While I do think the environment to accomplish the vision is important, I also think someone with the right human resources skills can create an environment open enough that it will “change” the environment over time.

    One thing I was also interested in is the concept of good vs. great. I don’t mean great in terms of standardized test scores or traditional measures, I think of it more in terms of an exceptionally rich and deep teaching and learning experience, a campus where students and teachers feel engaged and involved, and more.

    Lots of food for thought here!

    I’m still hoping you’ll share a few strategies for how to address some of these issues regarding individual change, though I think this model touches on it. Inviting people in, distributing power and decision making, and supporting human resources is a beginning.

  2. sushmita singha roy Reply June 21, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    good article.has provided me with sufficient insight into the subject being my topic of research..have read the book, and found it interesting.lookin frwd to more articles on this subject.

  3. Dr. Thomas Kane Said…

    My Rutgers University Graduate students will be posting on this topic during their class on June 4, 2009. I will be asking my students to identify “a situation where an emphasis, or lack of emphasis, on one of these frames led to a change initiative’s success or failure” as presented by a school leader. Let’s see what happens…

  4. (I’m one of Dr. Kane’s Rutgers University Graduate students)

    Why do initiatives fail? Why might some initiatives be successful? It all depends on what approach(es)/frame(s)a leader may take. Scott,who created this blog, brings us to the framework of Bolman and Deal. He mentions that sometimes depending on what the situation or circumstances are, one approach or frame may be preferred over the other. Bolman asks the question, “Are leaders with multiple frames more effective than those with a singular focus?” Looking at his research, really only a small percentage of leaders use all four frames.

    One situation in my school, involved the failure of an initiative by the director of the guidance department due to the lack of emphasis of the frames. In my school, the Smart Start initiative was created to have teachers mentor and help those high school students who are in danger of failing and not graduating. Each teacher was to choose one student who was in danger of not graduating to mentor and guide them in the right direction. I was one of those teachers and I can proudly say that I checked up on my student at least once or twice a week, helped him out when he needed it, gave him guidance, and he is going to walk in graduation this month. Unfortunately, the students of other teachers who were also involved in the Smart Start Program were not so lucky. What was the error here? I find no fault with the teachers, but rather the frames the director decided to choose or lack thereof.

    I think one of the most valuable frames in this situation would be the structural frame. If the program were kept organized, where clear goals and policies were enforced, and the teachers were held accountable for the results, then it would have been a success. She may have had a vision but she did not follow that vision or share her goals with the teachers. The problem was the director of guidance never checked in on how Smart Start was going. She did not provide clear instruction on when, how often, or how we would meet with our student. The only discussion or checking in the director of guidance got was when teachers met the first time to choose a student and an email that she just sent out now, at the end of the year, asking if we had mentored the student we chose earlier in the year. Some teachers hadn’t even seen their student more than one time.

    One must keep in mind that the choice of frames may depends on what leadership position you are in. Here, the director could have used the Political Frame where she enforced her power, or even the Human Resource Frame where she could adjust the program to better fit the teachers and students. Unfortunately, in this situation, I believe the initiative was a failure because the director could have used multiple frames to approach this situation but she only used one frame and used it poorly.

  5. The beauty of each of these four frames is that they are specific enough to identify strengths, yet vague enough to address the cultural issues of change by bringing someone on board who can pick up the slack in the deficit area. Curricular projects often get attacked from one angle while neglecting the remaining three. For instance, implementing new curricular initiatives often is accompanied with strong emphasis on the symbolic and political frames by articulating their vision and mission to the public to gain support for their work. It is often the human resource frame and the structural frame that get neglected as districts provide professional development with minimal emphasis on sustainability and fail to modify the structure of the current system to meet the needs of the project.

    The most available example: teacher websites. Districts that adopt teacher websites emphasize how easily parents will be able to track the assignments (namely homework) in schools thereby catering to the political and symbolic frame. Politically they are emphasizing to parents what a valuable resource teacher websites are and that voting for the budget allows for these types of projects to exist. Symbolically, they are emphasizing how much they value uniting parents and teachers to ensure the success of all children. Both of these are noble visions.

    The problem is that the districts fail to consider the structure of the school day or provide adequate professional development. If districts infuse websites (or any technology initiative) they need to hybridize new initiatives with something teachers are already doing rather than just pile on more work to an already overworked schedule. Perhaps eliminate duty periods from the schedule and have the district technology coordinator provide professional development one day per week? Dedicate one meeting per month to developing teacher websites? The possibilities of “creating time” are endless if it is carefully thought out, which means considering all four of Bolman & Deal’s frames during planning and implementation.

  6. Nice guidance example. Most leaders gravitate to the structural (or management frame) naturally. For those that consider multiple framse, special things often happen.

  7. Interesting. I am most criticized for focusing too much on the HR and Structural frame in my role as a curriculum director…perspective is everything.

  8. The most important thing about initiatives is to remember that without looking through multiple frames it will fail. A leader must talk to those who are actually “in the trenches” so to speak prior to making the assumption that their new and brilliant plan will work. Changes are usually well intended and hold great expectations from all parties, but without collaboration from the start pitfalls will occur.
    An example of this would be my school’s homework policy initiative. My school started a policy in which in any given class for each marking period three homework zeros would lower a student’s grade for that marking period by one letter. The purpose was to put more emphasis on homework completion. It also encouraged less “busy work” homework and more motivating assignments so teachers would ensure students would do the homework. Unfortunately, this turned into a nightmare because parents were livid when their child’s grade dropped so severely for assignments that may have only been worth five to ten points on their online gradebook. The administration then had to deal with the backlash. Finally, the policy “disappeared” because teachers were told not to follow that rule anymore.
    A perfect example of a well intended, but poorly planned initiative. Had teachers and parents been asked about this idea, a better plan may have been created.

  9. What frame was used by the leader in this initiative and what frames of leadership were absent?

  10. I find it interesting (and true!) that Bolman and Deal have observed that when initiatives fail, leaders often look to the situation and blame it on that, rather than their leadership style and mistakes that were made there. It is often a lack of objective reflection that leads to a repetition of failure.

    I am reminded of an initiative in my middle school 3 yrs ago to begin advisory groups. THis was a one weekly 45 minute meeting between 7-8 students and one teacher from the school. No workshops or professional development was offered in advance or during this year long initiative. No sample lesson plans, no input was asked for, nothing! It was presented at the first faculty meeting of the year and began during the first week of Oct. What a disaster for most teachers! Advisory groups are a great addition to a school curriculum, especially at the middle school level, but no guidance was given! It was new for the students and the teachers. THe refrain we often heard was, “Be creative, have fun!” Not very helpful. THe leaders did not look back at what they lacked in offering PD, they instead were confused by our lack of enthusiasm.
    Luckily, by year 2, enough complaints were heard and PD was given to make the class more effective and easier to effectively accomplish. Frustrations were so high and chaos ensued, which made the admins, step in an offer some hard core guidance. But Thurs mornings that year were stressful!!

  11. As teachers we are often faced with failed initiatives due to any number of reasons. Often times it is not necessarily the initiative but the leadership that fails. Last year our School Improvement Team (S.I.T.) went to the principal with a desire for the school to implement Morning Meeting into our day. As a result each teacher received a professional development book discussing Morning Meeting. Unfortunately, there was no other professional development and when we returned to school in September there was no time for Morning Meeting built into the schedule. Therefore those that wanted to found a way to fit it in and those that chose not to didn’t. In this case the principal folled the human resource frame. She listened to what her teachers were asking for. However, structurally she never followed through.

    In the middle of all this principals were moved and our building received a new principal. The idea of Morning Meeting was brought up once again only handled very differently. To begin with teachers were provided some professional development. At each faculty meeting a member of the S.I.T. committee would address a new aspect of Morning Meeting. Video clips of students doing the activities were shown as well. As a school we were all asked to try as much as we were comfortable with. The goal is for all classrooms to have Morning Meeting next year. We are promised a scheduled time for it as well. Teachers, students, and parents enjoy the addition of Morning Meeting to the school day. The difference for the success was the new principal followed through structually as well as taking a human resource approach. Sometimes a different approach is all it takes.

  12. Nice contrasting examples!

  13. In order to be a successful administrator one must be able to apply more than one frame to various situations. Failing to do so will result in negative outcomes for the school district. One instance occurred in my school, where had our principal done a little more the outcome could have been different.

    Our school district spent a lot of money on a program to revamp our curriculum, which ended up not getting approved by the Board of Education. The goal had been made clear to us, justifying the structural frame, where we spent many long hours and days working hard to meet the deadlines and it ended up being for naught.

    The outcome could have been different had our principal used the political and symbolic frames to his and our advantage. Negotiating compromises can be difficult when it comes to a platform like a board of education meeting, but given a little effort, sometimes all it takes is persuading one individual and then the rest will fall into line. Knowing the culture and being able to have the board members share in our mission and goal of revamping the program would have helped. In addition, having a leader display enthusiasm for the program would have also aided in getting this initiative passed.

    Therefore, a good leader will use multiple frames in order to have initiatives approved. Within my situation, the only frame used was structural, and had one or two others been applied the outcome would have been to our advantage.

  14. Do I need to sign up to post?

  15. Last year, my district began the use of RealTime, a web-based program designed to organize all types of student information, attendance and gradebooks in one location. It has powerful applications, from the creation of reports to the monitoring of teacher actions (a favorite of administrators). In spite of the hassle to convert all the files from various sources into one program and the task of teaching a new program to hundreds of teachers, the implementation has largely been a success. The symbolic frame was breifly used to convince teachers that the trouble it would take to change over to the new program would be more than made up for by the positives to using RealTime. While this was helpful, it did not convince all teachers, and in the end was not the reason for the success. I credit the successful transition to an effective use of the structural frame.

    First of all, RealTime is relatively easy to use and helpful for teacher organization. Second, the administration wisely chose to pilot the program in a few schools known to have more open-minded faculty (I work at one of those schools). In the pilot schools, teachers received professional development in the use of the program, given handouts to refer to later, and had the support of the technology specialist if needed. Another wise move was a step by step implementation of the program’s capabilities. First, we learned to do daily attendance in RealTime. Then, we transitioned to gradebooks and report cards. Next, we began to use the progress report and IEP survey functions. Later, we were taught how to do period attendance. While this step by step implementation might have been slow, it was effective at keeping the teachers new work load low and speeding up the learning curve.

    By the time the program was finally rolled out in the other schools, the program had many fans, or at least converts, from the pilot schools to help facilitate the transition. While the process has not been entirely problem-free, the clear, organized approach to the implementation of RealTime has overall made the change initiative a success.

  16. Currently in my school my administrator lacks the symbolic component of leadership. As a whole the staff seems to be in the building more for a paycheck rather then for their students. This is partially due to increased discipline issues that partly the fault of the staff themselves. Many no longer enforce rules, go to their duties or even show up to their classroom on time. Without a leader coming in to correct these ills teachers in the building have become more and more brazen with their insubordination. This situation will continue to worsen until the principal takes an active and forceful role in the building.

  17. At my school, prepping the 11th graders before they take the HSPA has been a huge concern for the administrative leadership. Initiatives to these ends have been piled on. Eleventh grade teachers at my school probably forget more of what they were supposed to do than they actually get around doing. Teachers have been asked to do everything from assigning essays, to bringing the students to use StudyIsland, to implementing HSPA prep do-now’s, to conducting HSPA prep lessons, to giving practice HSPA tests, and the list goes on and on. Probably one of the biggest failures of the HSPA prep initiatives was the setup of the 11th grade lab classes. Students who were identified as being weak in mathematics in their 10th grade year were assigned to a lab class for their 11th grade year. They were supposed to practice basic skills along with using the StudyIsland software. The idea sounded good. But as the year wore on, these classes slowly began to unravel. A colleague of mine taught some of these classes. The desks were set up like a typical classroom and on each desk was a computer. Each computer had complete Internet access. Needless to say, when the students were supposed to be working in StudyIsland, they were surfing the web. When lessons were taught in these lab classes, the students had to pop their heads up above the computers to see the teacher in the front of the room. Perhaps if some more thought was put in on classroom design, most of these troubles could have been avoided. Clearly the leadership lacked the structural frame when this classroom was designed. A better arrangement could have had the computer desks arranged in a circle. Then when the students were to take notes, they could be better monitored. Also all access to the Internet other than the StudyIsland site could have been shut down. It is funny to see sometimes how an easy solution to a problem can be missed.

  18. Over the course of the past two school years, there was an initiative to implement a new character education program. Under the leadership of our former principal, a committee was established to begin the preliminary phases of introducing an advisory program in our middle school. Structural speaking, the leadership established an effective plan, created professional developed opportunities, and organized a vision on how this new program would be implemented in our school. In my opinion, the avenues taken by our administrators were pretty much “structurally sound.” However, there was much resentment to this new program expressed throughout the faculty. The leadership needed the teachers to buy into the program. Using the human resource combined with the political framework, the committee, guided by the administration, negotiated the new program’s specific with the proper union members. They made a point to send every single staff member to visit an advisory session at surrounding schools. The program was only going to work if a majority of the teaching staff was on. The leadership built a power-base and increased staff morale, with regards to this new initiative, by providing opportunities and experience that eventually allowed most of the staff to be on board. Symbolically speaking, I can not comment on how this initiative fits that specific frame. I believe this situation was a success because the leaders incorporated a number of the frameworks in their decision. Today, we have a fully functional student advisory program which was implemented throughout our entire middle school this school year.

  19. As you know I do not have personal experience with teaching so my answer with be opinionated based on my observations during my senior year of high school.

    I am originally from Richmond, VA in an affluent, “old monied” area. When I was a freshman every high school student in my county was issued an apple ibook for school purposes only. We were one of the 1st counties in the entire country to contract with a computer company that allowed laptops for every high school student. We paid a $150 initiation fee and they were pretty much ours to keep. We had to bring them to school everyday and use them sporadically. Of course as the administrators were taught how to use them in workshops soon many sites were being blocked and eventually one would only be able to access educational sites. This was one of the smartest investments ever…one of my greatest attributes is my computer skills. I have truly been blessed. However, my senior year we had just gotten a new principal…one of our middle school principals took over. Along with this, the city of Richmond was having an overcrowding problem. Students were being bussed in from the city to attend my high school…the high school that rarely experienced problems or issues with its students. By instituting a new principal, and having under priveleged students attending a wealthy school in the same year was probably not the smartest idea. The structured school environment that I was use to for the past 3 years was crumbling before my eyes. I witnessed my first lunchroom fist fight as well as my first “f bomb” detention of a student. All of our teachers had to stand outside their rooms during passing periods to monitor the hallways (which never happened before). The words on the bathroom stalls were so inappropriate I avoided them as much as possible. And our great investment of apple ibooks was being destroyed by students walking with them up to their ears blaring music like they were boomboxes and crashing to the ground because our school was now overpopulated. There was a total lack of respect for teachers and the school period. I could not wait to leaver because pretty much everyday I was uncomfortable. In the end, that principal quickly “retired” a year later and I know for a fact they are still have issues involving disrespect. The computers are still around (although they are Dells now) but I am curious to see what the school environment is like today.

  20. I think the administration used a structural frame and should have used a political and human resources frame

  21. The two schools I worked for had different administrative structures yet both worked well since roles were assigned and people communicated (Structural Frame). The first was a 7-12 middle and high school district. The administration consisted of supervisors in each subject area, who taught as well as supervised. The teaching staff primarily communicated with their supervisors for field trips, spending dollars, technology and different odds and ends. The principals were then left to run the day-to-day management of the building, students and parents. The advantage with this was that the supervisor knew your instructional approach well, offered advice, and supervised closely. The structure was well-defined although different rules applied to different departments.

    In the second district, principals were the immediate supervisors of the teachers, subject budgets were drawn through the school accounts and with the principal’s approval. A K-12 supervisor was in charge of a subject in six different schools and so was not directly involved with teachers’ day-to-day activities. The principal was more likely to comment on instructional approaches. The downside may have been less supervision, but on the bright side rules differed less between departments, and teachers felt more like a community of teachers rather than members of one department or another.

    Both systems worked well because people had clearly defined roles, and there was little conflict.

  22. In order to be an effective leader one must always keep a focus on structure or that individual may scramble to pick up the pieces. Last year our school was up for Middle States review. Normally this is a multi-year process with a yearlong review before the school is granted accreditation. In my district we had not participated in any part of the Middle States process for three years prior to this evaluation for accreditation due to the instability of the administration. After the previous administrator in charge of maintaining the program left, no one was appointed to continue the process of monitoring and evaluating the previous action plans. In order to complete this process a committee of stake holders was quickly put together representing all teaching disciplines, students, administrators, board members and parents. This task force was working at a significant disadvantage because they had to complete a ten month process in three months. The other disadvantage facing the group was that the majority of the members had not participated in the previous accreditation review, so there was a steep learning curve to overcome.
    If there was emphasis on monitoring and evaluating the previous Middle States action plans this would not have been such a burden for the members of the committee. In the end the school was granted accreditation but that was due to the hard work and diligence of the members of that committee and not the lack of focus by the administration.

  23. Last year, my principal and Language Arts supervisor brought BAS (Benchmark Assessment System) from Fountas and Pinnell. This system focuses on assessing students’ ability to read sight words and demonstrate an understanding of what they read. These two administrators failed the structural frame because one professional afternoon was dedicated to learning this system and being ready to implement the program within a week. This caused a great deal of anxiety among the teachers because it was left for us to dissect the kit and learn it on our own through an included DVD. The human resource frame was also left out because the teachers did not feel that we were considered when outlining this “training” schedule. I believe administrators sometimes forget what it is like to have multiple preps and then learning an additional program. We were not made to feel empowered or facilitated through the process. We were simply given a kit, and left to our own devices.

  24. Given the variety of issues they must deal with on a daily basis, school administrators are required to utilize all four of Bolman and Deal’s four frames when solving problems and implementing changes. As the original posting states, most leaders tend to focus on utilizing the one or two frames they feel most comfortable with. Overreliance on one or two certain frames may cause administrators to run into problems from time to time. An issue that was addressed utilizing one frame may have been better looked at through a different frame. Good leaders will recognize this and take the opportunity to reflect on the scenario and utilize different frames which may offer possible solutions.

    This past fall, a team of teachers decided to have a “movie day” with their students on the half day before Thanksgiving break. Four different movies were played in different rooms, and students were allowed to sign up for the movie they wanted to watch. The problem was that none of the movies selected were seen as having any educational value. When the school administrators caught wind of this, they immediately sent out an email to all staff stating:

    A day before a holiday or a four hour session day is a day of instruction. Students should not be watching movies all day or movies that are not tied into curriculum objectives. Any team activity or movie to be shown in one or all classes must be submitted as a written lesson plan with specific objectives and related core curriculum standards two weeks in advance for approval. This is effective immediately.

    Prior to the issuing of this email, there was no school policy in place regarding videos in school, especially on ‘pre holiday’ school days. While most teachers knew it was wrong to do so, the issue was seen as something that teachers could occasionally get away with. In a school where our administration often seems overbearing on structures, this was a hazy area.

    During the faculty meeting following Thanksgiving, we all received a memo stating new policies regarding videos shown in class at any time basically a repeat of what was stated in the email). In addition to this new structure, the administration also utilized the symbolic frame to help push the initiative. Attached to the memo was an additional sheet reminding us of the importance of our work as teachers and the value of utilizing our instructional time for meaningful educational purposes. In other words, we were reminded that our “personal work, and the work of the organization, is important and meaningful.” Following this statement was a list of questions we should ask ourselves when considering showing a video in class – all relating back to the overall goal of educating our students.

    This add on to the policy served as a powerful reminder to every teacher in the room that our focus needs to be directed toward the overall goal of student learning. Instead of seeing the policy as forceful, reactive, and cold, we were all forced to look at ourselves and understand why the issue was so important.

  25. About six months after I first started working at my school, there was a new reading initiative implemented. This new initiative was in response to a growing trend of low LA scores on the NJASK test. Unfortunately, there was a definite lack of emphasis on the structural frame for this new plan at first. The person who was in charge of the initiative simply sent over a memo, a series of deadlines of when we should be implementing certain parts of the program in our classroom by, and some resources to help us. There was absolutely no training or professional development involved. It seemed as if the person in charge was so caught up in a political frame of mind, he completely forgot about creating a solid plan to successfully implement this initiative.

    In the end, it was the individual principals of the elementary schools who ended up successfully using the structural frame of thinking to help train and prepare us for this new program. In essence, the principals were the ones who bridged the gap that higher-level adminstrator (who will remain nameless) left behind.

  26. Bolman and Deal have separated the leadership frames such that they can be clearly recognized and attributed to the personality, value, and style of the administrator. Scott (the author of this post) mentions the fact that most administrators, when instituting some new initiative, over-utilize the structural frame, while neglecting the other three. A fairly recent change that has occurred in my school would support that argument. With the increasing ratio of classified students in our building, the active involvement of most parents (classified and regular ed), and the emphasis on student achievement, our school recently changed to a rotating-modified-block schedule. Basically, there are 6 instructional blocks (one of which is a prep). Those six periods rotate each day, with one class not meeting for one day of the six day cycle. For example, on the first day, classes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 would meet but class 6 does not meet. The next day, classes 6, 1, 2, 3, and 4 would meet, and so on. While most teachers agree that they like the rotating aspect of the new schedule because then it allows for students to see each class at various times of the day to ensure greater attention and performance, but it also enables teachers to see each class at a different time so there is not one time of day that is easiest or hardest to manage.
    The new schedule was surely constructed using the structural frame in that a drastic change was implemented to the organization and structure of the school day. However, the human resource frame was clearly neglected. Although the administrators formed a committee to discuss new schedule options, it was very clear that they already had a plan in mind, which was ultimately the one that was implemented. The biggest issue the teachers (and students) have is that while they appreciate the rotation, the drop causes severe disturbances. It makes it very difficult to plan lessons and keep different classes at the same point in the curriculum. The schedule also makes it so that for one day out of the six, the class that is dropped happens to be the teachers’ prep period. While the administrators make the point that in terms of the amount of actual time provided for prep is equal to that in the former schedule, the loss of the prep makes it difficult for teachers to take care of last minute instructional changes, run off extra copies, or simply have a break. It also means that the students do not get their special, such as gym or art, to allow for a physical, mental, or creative outlet that day. This change has drastically changed the morale and attitude throughout the building. Essentially, the human needs for mental rest, regroup, and discussion or planning with other teachers, are not being met.

  27. When you are presented with a strategic crossroad and a plan needs to be in place, you need implement a rational plan. That plan might consist of gathering data, staff surveys, or just simply silen observation. Next, you must choose what lens you want to use in order to move forward. Finally, assess the situation, reflect on it and see if modifications need to be met.

    My administration team uses the Symbolic Frame to build up staff morale, charisma etc… In our school we have a support staff of the month and a certificated staff of the month from September through June. I feel that the team wanted to create some values that shaped human behavior. Made the teachers and staff realize that what they do at work does not go unoticed. This has now become a ritual of the school and takes place at our monthly staff meetings. Personally, I think it is a great idea, for the administration to show they value what we all do everyday to make our school strong.

  28. Aaron makes the key point about the “possibilities of ‘creating time’ [or anything worth doing] being endless if change or an initiative is carefully thought out [and] all four of Bolman & Deal’s frames” are considered “during planning and implementation.” That’s when we see the inspirational leadership that we all aspire to practicing.
    A truly great principal of mine in South Carolina. Lillie Lewis, (you can Google her) was asked to turn around a struggle inner city Middle School. The school was in the heart of one of the worst, crime-ridden, high poverty areas of Greenville County. She brought in young, idealistic and committed teachers, and hired young, idealistic, and committed administrators to work with a not previously successful student population. She let her people know all the time that they were a team, and a family. She used her considerable reputation in the community to wrangle funding and donations from local arts organizations for violins, ballet lessons, loans of art, et cetera. She made clear her vision and her goals – concrete, specific testing goals. She enlisted elderly from the community, and college students to tutor. She began after school programs and “take book home” programs. She used all the frames all the time. Then just when she turned the school around, the BOE pulled her out and sent her to a high school!

  29. An example of attempting to implement or initiate change at our district was including, instructing and grading students with disabilities at the middle school. Although the principal’s attempt to implement changes in the instruction and assessment of these students had some strengths from the view of the four different frames it also had numerous weaknesses from the four different perspectives.
    The principal organized meetings to discuss the concerns and stated the goal of the meetings which was positive from the structural frame. He did not allow open communication, discussion, and did not hear teachers’ concerns. He had his solution already prepared and that’s what was reinforced.
    He also did not realize the lack of trust, trust being the most essential component needed for school improvement. General and special education teachers do not have much regard, respect to one another. This issue has not been addressed at all during the course of the meetings.
    The principal played the political frame well, he tilted the scale in the direction the general education teachers wanted it to tilt. The principal was up for his tenure, in the past he had difficulties with the board getting his contract renewed, by placating and gaining the support of general education teachers, who are much larger in number than special education teachers ensured support for him in the building and at board meetings when his contract was discussed.
    The principal did not solve the problem at the school, but he secured tenure for himself.

  30. Ryan G.
    Often, in my experience, when educational initiatives fail it is as a result of a lack of proper scaffolding and an over-reliance on a structural frame or top-down leadership style. Many times, at least in my district, the administrators are scrambling to keep up with the changing national and state requirements. When they find that our current policy no longer adheres to a news guideline they often simply change the policy. They give little to know explanation as to why this change is necessary and fail to explain how it is organizationally or academically beneficial. They simply say “Do it this way now.” However without the why the staff, even though they may follow the rules, never really buys into the change. They simply try to keep their heads down and wait for the next initiative.
    For example, my district’s curriculum is incredibly fragmented, and there is inadequate vertical alignment. This is a legitimate issue that needs to be resolved. In order to do so the district, after an exhaustive and expensive search for an effective solution, picked a curriculum mapping product. One of our administrators utilizes a very rigid top down structural management style. She often attempts to use fear to motivate, and rarely allows for contrary opinions to be considered in any fashion.
    This administrator presented the entire concept of curriculum mapping in a three hour in-service day with the creator of the program, and then selected one member of each department to be their expert. This person’s job was to take all of the curricula for the department and input them into the new software package. The administrator stated that since no new curriculum was being developed no compensation was required, and the person involved received no relief of duty for the additional time expected. They were simply allowed to use those hours towards the contract required EIP time.
    Anyway, there was no buy in at all. The teachers were incredibly protective of their existing curriculum. They were not effectively convinced that this would be beneficial to their teaching, and were actually afraid that it might eliminate their ability to teach topics that they were passionate about. The administrator had nothing on her side to facilitate the change except formal authority. She is not especially well received by the staff, and therefore has no real coalition to get support from. More than one person was heard saying they were simply not going to do it and what was she going to do?
    Finally the people that were expected to implement the change resented the additional work. They did not necessarily volunteer, but were selected for their computer competence. There were not given any compensation, not even a symbolic title or position of authority. They simply had more work. Therefore even the people who were supposed to be leading the initiative were disaffected.
    Finally the program is not even being utilized at this point. After all of that effort and strife, no one really utilizes the resources. They look good on paper, and when we are audited, but they are not impacting the day to day functioning of the district, and have not improved the curriculum in any significant way. Content is still disjointed from one grade to another, and teachers jealously guard their favorite topics.
    By relying on the structural frame to the exclusion of all other frames this administrator did not adequately implement the change that was desired. If she had utilized the HR frame she might have recognized that teacher are concerned about losing topics they are specialized in and reassured the staff that in a well developed curriculum there should be plenty of topics to go around. If she had used a political frame she might have identified the key staff members who could most effectively implement such a large change and tried to attract them first. In my experience a strong coalition is the most effective way to create change in an educational organization. Finally, if she had been conscious of the symbolic frame she might have done something as simple as give the team members titles. By giving even the impression of authority, people can often be persuaded to participate.

  31. Nice work Carissa.

  32. One example of a breakdown of the four frames where I work happened within the political frame. My supervisor was stronger with the other three frames. He communicates well the families and he has worked with the community by bringing in a local karate school to work with the students during the phys ed class. This shows that he is strong with the human resource frame. He is also strong with the structural frame. He has set clear goals for our department which each member was able to carry out and we have revised policies when necessary. He has also been successful with the symbolic frame by having the department come up with our own mission statement and rules. He has also continued to carry out traditions and ceremonies that are important to our department staff and students such as our annual thanksgiving brunch and our end of the year award banquet among other things.
    Unfortunately, he has shown weakness in the structural frame. Although, we have collaborated on shared goals and have assigned specific tasks he has not been on top of his responsibilities. He has not followed through with plans discussed with guidance counselors and case managers. At the beginning of the year he promised he would meet with them twice a month to give them updates on their students’ performance. When it came down to it though, he was overwhelmed with other tasks that he was not able to keep up with this promise. Even worse, when counselors and case managers would call him for updates he would not respond nor would he reply to their emails. This, unfortunately, caused a distaste towards the guidance department and ours. Our departments social worker felt morally obligated to take on the tasks of communicating with the guidance department instead. Thankfully, our social worker was able to restore our relationship with guidance, however, their department still does not look at our supervisor as someone they can work with. This also added a very big responsibility that our social worker needed to maintain on top of her already busy schedule.
    Our department looks to overcome these issues next year and hopes for a fresh start with the guidance department since our department will now be headed by the assistant principal of student services, who also heads guidance, starting next September.

  33. One of the biggest issues in the way that our initiatives are passed is a structural one. In the inner city high school at which I am a school teacher, there is a principal and a vice-principal. One could argue that all of this administration is needed to accommodate the challenges faced by a “failing” school of 1200 in an inner city environment, but in reality the structure gets in the way of our success as a school.

    The six administrators struggle to make a decision because they try to reach these decisions by consensus. All teachers are assigned two vice-principals to directly report to, one that is the VP of their department and another that is the VP of their team. When teachers have an issue or a concern, it is very difficult to know who to address it with, and often times issues do not get addressed in a timely or effective manner.

    One example of this occurred today. One of our AP teachers had been discussing and arranging the selection process of students for next year’s class with our scheduling VP. He had it nearly all arranged when his department VP wanted him to start all over again because he didn’t like how he created the process.

    Needless to say, a structural change would greatly benefit our school.

  34. The use of the symbolic frame seems to be left out in many districtrs, I know that mine is one of thesoe. The approach used by theur district could have far reaching impacts. If teachers feel appreciated by their administration they may be more apt to embrace the overall mission posed by that administration. I recall a stroyt from Neptune school district where instead of a PD day the district held a staff wellness day. They brought in health care professionals to work with the staff and check their physical and mental well-being. The goal was to reduce the absent rate of the staff and after the wellness day it imporved dramatcially. Thois symbolic gesture greatly improved the generral morale of the district,

  35. Zulie,

    It is obvious that this principal needs to work on his human-resource frame. Your posting seems that he lacks these qualities immensely. By not allowing an open forum, squashing teacher’s concerns, and not creating an avenue of trust, this principal seems reluntanct to build relationships and form bonds within his school. Mike

  36. This is a great point and one that schools need to start paying more attention to. The structural frame is crucial because we believe that adding curriculum work, without changing the school day, will fit all needs. This is similar to a one-size-fits-all curriculum except this is referring to the break-up of the school day. Schools need to begin considering what they are currently doing and how to improve that practice withnew ideas rather than continually adding onto what already exists.

  37. Sue,

    This situtaion reminds me to a similar initiative and situation that happened at our middle school. Just like in your school’s case the principal presented his ide and solution to the problem and expected everyone to agree. He did not solicit for teacher input, or other stakeholder input and it lead to teacher dissatisfcation.
    Also professsional developemnt opportunities were not offered or provided.
    This case shows the lack of human resource leaderships style, listening to people and hearing out their needs.

  38. (NB)

    At my school we are facing a similar challenege with UbD. We’ve had or two professional days on this topic and the administration is expecting teachers to submit lesson plans and examples of student work where UbD was used. One huge misconception here is that the administrators expected the teachers to apply UbD to a single 1 or 2 day lesson. UbD from what I understand is used for units. It’s funny how things come and go and when they come its a rush to do things half-fast.

  39. Reply June 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm


    This implementation sounds a lot like the program my high school has known as K12planet. From a teacher’s perspective, it has all of the features your program does. Parents love it because they can view the student’s grades, attendance records, homework assignments etc. I know my mother goes on the website everyday for my 14 year old sister to get all of her assignments that will be due because she constantly tells my mom she doesn’t have homework when she clearly does. The program can only benefit your district and sounds like a great new addition.


  40. I have found that teacher websites can be helpful to the parents that really care about their childs’ grades. We have something similar in our school district, but only the honors parents are continually tracking their kids’ progress. We were provided 2 workshops on the process of posting assignments and grades on the site and most of the younger teachers were able to adapt to the new system, but a few of the more tenured teachers have resisted to posting on their website and it could be as you have discussed with the lack of training. One thing that we have been allowed to do is use one day of our team time to post assignments and results on the website.

  41. Ryan I think this happens more often then we would like to think. It is a shame that people were forced to create this new system and not have it implemented. You are correct when you suggesting that the administrator should have been a little more political in helping this along by finding the right people to help.

  42. I think many administrators (especially LA and Math) become hung up on the standardized test buzz. That is due in part to the society in which we live that has become more stringent on measuring success through numbers. I feel many administrators in these content areas are romanced by the notion that a “kit program” can fix any issues relating to test scores. These are children, not merely numbers to be measured on a state test. These kits and programs are not designed to look at an individual child and assess his/her academic needs, and I feel that is where the problem stems from. Not only do teachers need support to help deliver instruction, but it is obvious to all of us (teachers…) that children need support as well.

  43. I agree Nick that it is amazing how a theoretically easy solution, can become way more complicated than expected. I feel as a fifth grade teacher, a lot of times teachers think in more of the symbolic framework, trying to inspire students and get them excited. However, at the younger grade levels, it seems that a structural framework is often more necessary in order to help guide students. Younger students need a solid framework from which to learn. It seems that even with older students, this solid framework is needed to provide efficient learning.

  44. Meg,
    This is clearly a structural issue on the administrative level. Clearly, this issue causes a lot of miscommunication between other administrators plus teachers which ultimately effects students. It is a shame that teachers come up with good ideas especially since they are the ones that work closest with the students and this structural issue which teachers cannot help effects the efficiency of their jobs.

  45. Ryan G. in Response to Adrienne

    It almost seems as if the plan was doomed to fail from the start. Without any prior teacher “buy in” or appropriate scaffolding to help familiarize the staff it is almost impossible to implement a significant change. If a supervisor were to observe a teacher not inroducing a skill before expecting the student to use it I am sure they would be critical.

  46. In response to Aaron’s post about teacher websites:

    I agree that technology initiatives have to be thought through very well and teachers have to be trained on both the use of the technology (logistics) and the way administrators would like to see teachers use them. In our school, we have recently begun using E-chalk, an online program that allows all teachers & students to have accounts. There are many applications for it’s use, including having students store work online so that they may access it anywhere in “digital lockers” to having students submit homework or other assignments to teachers. Unfortunately, this has already had some negative complications due to a lack of appropriate structural administration. Some students who have made inappropriate uploads have lost computer privileges for the year, resulting in their inability to complete class projects. If the program had been implemented with more organization, teachers could have learned how to monitor students better.

  47. Your positive experience with undergoing monitoring from Middle States is example of the use of structural frame. It sounds like your goal was clear – passing the monitoring – and therefore people were able to be productive. Also the cause-and-effect relationship of people’s actions were quite clear. Pass = good; failure=bad. I hope that there were no conflict even if there was uncertainty and ambiguity since you had not been part of the process in the past.

  48. It seems as though your school has an issue of having too many cooks in the kitchen. I would wonder how the school would address bigger issues such as those surrounding curriculum changes. It would seem that instead of having so many of the same kind of administrator, someone might consider providing each with a specific area of expertise…maybe a VP of discipline, curriculum, department, etc. and have the head of each team meet with those vp’s once every so often so all the information can still have the opportunity to come together. I can see why your school would want to have so many hands involved and come to decisions together, but if it is separated a little it might be more productive and efficient.

  49. Meg,
    I thought your comments were neat. I worked in a disorganized place … I find delegation of responsibility works. I have 3 administrators and they all have specific jobs enabling them all to be “leaders”.


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