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reframing-complexity-a-four-dimensional-approach-2

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Reframing Complexity: A Four Dimensional Approach to Organizational Diagnosis, Development, and Change by Joan V. Gallos From J. V. Gallos (ed.). Organization Development: A Jossey-Bass Reader . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006. Improving organizations requires understanding them. Understanding anything as complex as modern organizations points to the importance of good theory. While this may sound academic to those who labor in the organizational trenches, good theories are pragmatic and grounded. They explain and predict. They serve as frameworks for making sense of the world around us, organizing diverse forms and sources of information, and taking informed action. Theories come in all shapes and sizes. They may be personal – tacit mental schemas that individuals develop over time from their unique life experiences. They can be research-based B models that stem from formal exploration and study. Whatever the origin, theories guide human behavior and choice. The question is not whether to use theories. It is which ones, how accurately they describe the richness of reality, and whether they enable us to view the trees without losing sight of the forest. Kurt Lewin, father of the applied social sciences, was right: there is nothing more practical than a good theory. Good theories are at the core of effective organization development and change. Every effort to improve organizations is based on assumptions about how they work and what might make them better. Theory, therefore, facilitates the work of OD professionals. It also presents them with a two-fold challenge: (1) sorting through the many models, frameworks, research studies, and findings that compete for attention; and (2) avoiding myopic or simplistic interpretations of complex organizational processes. This chapter addresses these challenges. It builds on the work of Bolman and Deal (2003) in proposing a multi-pronged approach to organizational diagnosis, development, and change. 1
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More specifically, the chapter begins by developing Bolman and Deal’s four frames as a diagnostic model that organizes the major schools of organizational thought and facilitates a comprehensive yet manageable approach to organizational complexity. It then examines the role of reframing in effective organization development work, and explores ways to use the multi-frame model to expand understandings of planned change, intervention strategy, and organization development. The purpose of this chapter is to enable OD professionals and others engaged in planned change to be more discriminating consumers of theory and advice, see new ways of working, and translate the myriad of prescriptions for organizational effectiveness into elegant diagnostic tools and intervention strategies. Sorting complexity: leveraging the pluralism in organizational theory Bolman and Deal (2003) view organizations as machines, families, jungles, and theater.
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