Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reframing Force-Field Analysis

Ask yourself, "How might I reframe my model of the force field? What are my beliefs and behaviors that may be contributing to resistance in our interaction?"
I think resistance to change is an interpersonal dynamic. But traditional change theory carries an unexamined premise that we coaches/consultants are not part of the problem. Our collaborative behaviors are assumed, and we tend to explain any resistance we encounter as an element within the client and/or the client system.

Lewin's force-field analysis is the most commonly used model to illustrate elements of change and resistance to change:


According to Lewin's model, pressing for change threatens stability and increases the power of forces maintaining the system, so the most effective way to bring about change is to reduce the forces of resistance. Note that Lewin's model, however, implies that resistance exists only on one side of the force field. As coaches and consultants, we see ourselves as "driving forces." Thus theory guides practice when we interpret resistance to change as emanating only from clients ("restraining forces").

In contrast, I believe both change forces and status quo forces exist within the interaction system. And if a system depicts an interaction, both driving and restraining forces must also be depicted as interactive:

This mental model guides us to interpret resistance to change as an interactive variable.  Instead of assuming resistance is something in your clients to 'overcome,' ask yourself, "How might I reframe my model of the force field? What are my beliefs and behaviors that may be contributing to resistance in our interaction?" 

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