framesofreferences

Article

How frames of reference shape interpretations and influence commitment

Achieving richer solutions

Frames guide our experience and shape our interpretations. In projects, frames are multiple, heterogeneous and often contested. However, overlooking a variety of frames might be detrimental for the commitment to the project and the quality of the final solution. Incorporating multiple frames encourages the exploration of richer solutions that speak for diverse viewpoints.

Frames guide experience

Imagine you were advising a client undergoing a major merger and acquisition. If you asked stakeholders what the upcoming changes meant to them and the organization, you would probably get as many answers as the number of people you asked. The CEO might perceive the merger as a great opportunity to expand the customer portfolio; whereas an employee may consider the situation as burdensome since learning the new way of working will pile up to the usual workload. These stakeholders are looking at circumstances through different lenses. In other words, these stakeholders have different ‘frames of reference’.

Commitment depends on frames of reference

We work in changing environments. Being a merger and acquisition, or ‘going digital’; our work entails altering practices, procedures, or structures. In situations of change, stakeholders prioritize different elements and have dissimilar expectations. Not surprisingly, frames of reference influence people’s commitment to projects and their eventual success. If a person frames the upcoming changes as an opportunity, she will be more open to support the project. On the contrary, somebody framing the change as a threat is more likely to oppose to the forthcoming transformation, and offer resistance.
Many times we are reluctant to incorporate multiple frames of reference being afraid that too much diversity will lead to an impasse. However, overlooking a variety of frames might be detrimental for the commitment to the project and the quality of the final solution. Stakeholders might feel unheard, and we might end up having a one-sided result.

Including multiple frames in our practices

  • Incorporating multiple frames encourages the exploration of richer solutions that speak for diverse viewpoints. This is mainly because:
    Acknowledging the presence of multiple frames sheds light on important effects that we might have not considered upfront. For example, insights into employee’s frames will help the CEO to better understand the implications of procedural changes in the new way of working. 
  • Insights into people’s frames help to better foresee the impact of change on their commitment and experience within the organization. Changes alter people’s habits, patterns, ways of being and operating. Similarly, frames are not static but evolve over time and respond to changes. Consequently, a transformation modifies the way stakeholders perceive their tasks, their identity within the organization, and their expectations. Understanding frames of and within change helps to adapt to the stakeholders’ demands, positively influencing their commitment and experience. 
  • Keeping track of frames and their differences helps to understand the alignment of stakeholders. On the one hand, too few frames might lead to one-sided solutions. On the other hand, too many opposing frames might reveal a lack of proper communication strategy and disagreement among different stakeholders that should be addressed. “Virtue is the happy medium between two extremes”.

The main question remains: to what extent are frame differences constructively discussed and shared in our practices so we can provide more innovative and richer solutions.

More information on frames in multi-stakeholder contexts?

Do you want to know more on frames in multi-stakeholder contexts? Please contact Julieta Matos Castaño at +31 (0)88 288 1425 or JMatosCastano@deloitte.nl.

 

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