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Innovative Leadership and Culture Matrix

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Bolman and Deal (1989) developed the Four Frames Model to present a model that is useful in understanding organizations that they themselves characterized, as embracing conceptual pluralism.  They argued that frames help to order the world, and to decide what actions should be taken to move an organization and its members forward.  They are; the Structural, Political, Symbolic, and Human Resource frames, each of which offers a lens through which an organization, its functions, its leadership and its culture can be viewed. The importance of this diagram lies in its multisided approach that analyzes leadership in a very deep sense – the Four Frames Model is a result of long literature, experience and organization analysis. There are two main structure elements hidden inside each framework: the first one is a frame, also called as “lens” that stands for the preferable focus of each frame. The second element is a tool embracing both strengths and restrictions.

The Structural frame embraces the goal of coordination to link goals with roles, relationships, rules and policies. The Human Resource frame promotes individual job fulfillment and structures the organization to meet the human needs. The Political frame seeks to increase political skills by developing bargaining and coalitions, to maximize the use of scarce resources. The Symbolic frame seeks to manage symbols, myths, and traditions via the use of rituals, myths, ceremonies and beliefs (Bolman & Deal, 1989).

This particular model is useful, according to Bolman and Deal (1989), because each frame has its own vision of reality, while organizations exhibit elements of each of the four frames and their corresponding goals.  Such a model lends itself to a comparison of Dell Corporation and rival Hewlett Packard (HP).  Generally, as noted by Sims (2011), HP has faced a leadership crisis and deficit, despite its early dramatic successes, whereas Dell continues to grow and advance, due to the dramatic cultural changes undertaken in the last decade or so. 

According to Quinn and Poletti (2006), HP began to experience the leadership crisis after having grown at a rate of 18 percent a year for 60 years under the leadership of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and their record of innovative product development.  However, beginning under the leadership of John Young, who served HP as CEO from 1978 to 1992, a leadership vacuum, coupled with the need to generate ever increasing revenues began to undermine the company.      

When Carly Fiorina took over, said Sims (2011), it had become increasingly apparent that HP had forgotten how to learn; additionally, employees at the firm described a culture of fear, risk aversion, limited innovation and an overwhelming emphasis on cost cutting. One of the sufficient mistakes in HP innovative management was poor succession planning that influenced the company performance a lot. Moreover, HP didn’t consider customer interests to the extent that the competitors did. Today, said Sims (2011), HP’s board is in shambles, experiencing turnover, and also experiencing an imperial approach to leadership that ignores customer focus, invention and innovation, and the value of people over profit (Sims, 2011). 

At Dell, a culture shift taking place in the middle of the first decade of the current century moved the firm from a focus on growth and domestic market dominance to one of leadership, talent management and a global outlook (Culture shift invigorates Dell, 2006).  The new Dell emphasizes leadership development, promoting individuals from within, creating alignment and developing capability, as well as managerial effectiveness. Dell CEO and Chairman, Michael Dell, reports that innovative success of the company is found when all ideas are considered. Thinking differently is the priority as “it is dangerous when every member thinks the same way” (Dell, 2012). Similar approach to the problem is the major obstacle on a way to the real innovation. In that sense, all Dell employees and officers are always directed to ask the very same question in a different wording, have another prospective on the issue and cover all possible aspects that matter. Turning problems into opportunities and developing global thinking in every single colleague is the secret to a successful Dell development.

In addition, having experienced a decline in growth in late 2000, due to the bursting of the Internet bubble, Dell began to focus on redesigning its culture in a way that would emphasize new values, new rituals and traditions, a new entrepreneurial spirit, and a willingness to invest substantially in improving knowledge and skills exhibited by workers.  In the process, Dell has begun to experience dramatic improvements in employee satisfaction and worker retention, leading to productivity and performance improvements as well (How Dell got soul, 2004).

Further, Dell (2012) notes that people is the most important asset. He has created a Winning Culture that includes promoting the best practices among the global workforce.  The Work/Life Effectiveness and career management programs enhance the company’s ability to retain and develop Dell Team members.  Dell (2012) emphasizes the diversity, provides multiple programs to assist employees in obtaining needed services, structures’ flexible scheduling to meet employee needs, and otherwise, advances individual goals through a variety of rituals and programs.

Matrix Design

Basing on the foregoing analysis, and using Bolman and Deal’s (1989) Four Frames Model, the following matrix can be used to directly compare Dell and HP on critical aspects of the organization and its internal reality.

As we see, HP tends to use the Structural framework more often. It also has a tendency to apply Political and Human Resource frameworks. It means that HP is highly influenced by the lack of clarity and chaos, collision of interests, power washouts and lack of self-confidence, certainty and stability.

As for Dell, it uses Symbolic, Political and Human Resource frameworks, meaning that the company incorporates traditions, brand loyalty and individual commitment.

HP is recommended to change its established formal connections and rules, improve inside communication and realign the structure, so that it fits into the demands of the IT development field, where creativity and group leadership for better innovation should be encouraged. The company should involve psychological support, personal participation, involvement and discovering new skills in oneself.

Meanwhile, Dell Company manages to celebrate the future without forgetting about past successes and company traditions. It also creates comfortable platforms for discussing innovation, and negotiating not merely with the employees, but also with suppliers, customers and other interested stakeholders.

In essence, the Bolman and Deal (1989) models, as briefly summarized above, leads to the conclusion confirmed in the literature that Dell has succeeded in navigating an important cultural transformation with the Human Resource, Symbolic and Political frames predominating.  Conversely, at HP, fractured leadership at the top has created a culture in which employees do not feel valued, stakeholders are not being satisfied, and the company has retreated from its history of innovation (Sims, 2011).  Overall, the model helps to explain Dell’s success, due to its emphasis on people.

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