The Change Action Framework

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By Patrick Psaila

The Change Action Framework © is a practical tool for dealing with situations that you find challenging or that require change. I often use this tool when coaching individuals who are considering making significant changes in their lives or careers because they are unhappy with their current situation.

The framework can be applied to multiple situations that require change interventions. These can be jobs, careers, relationships, teams, organisations, etc. The starting point is acknowledging and accepting that the situation is having a negative impact on you in some way. You then need to decide whether you want to do something about it. The Change Action Framework can then be used to plan and implement your strategy. As illustrated below, it consists of four main action quadrants: Do Nothing; Actively Adapt; Induce Change; Move On. These four action quadrants are explored within the context of Personality and Environmental Factors.

As an example of how the framework can be applied, I will take the case of a junior manager I coached who I shall call Kelly. Kelly was unhappy at work but did not know what to do. Naturally, Kelly first needed to explore her situation in some depth and achieve absolute clarity about the sources of her discontent. She liked her work and was happy with her salary and working conditions. She also had a good relationship with her colleagues and got on well with most people at the office. Her issue was with her manager.

Kelly had a very accommodating and conscientious personality and placed a high value on being regarded as a diligent and hardworking person. She felt that her manager took advantage of this and kept piling more work, expecting it in less time. Moreover, Kelly felt disappointed that he showed no appreciation for her efforts. She regularly worked 12-hour days leaving no time for her private life except during weekends. By then she would be exhausted and depleted of energy, with little or no time to relax and do the things she enjoys. Her partner and close friends and family often complained that she was no longer a fun person to be around.

I used the Change Action Framework© to help Kelly deal with her issue. The first step was for Kelly to decide whether she wanted to take action and bring about a change and whether this was the right time for her to do it.

Action 1: Do nothing

Kelly decided she had had enough and wanted to do something about her being so overloaded with work. This meant that we could eliminate the Do-Nothing section of the framework in addressing the workload issue, and only temporarily do nothing about her manager’s lack of appreciation. This helped her to focus on the most important aspect of her problem.

Doing nothing is rarely an effective strategy and often leads to apathy and passive resignation. However, it can be a useful strategy as a temporary measure when you need time to weigh your options, to save money until your financial position improves and think things through. It can also be an effective course of action when you know that the situation will soon change for the better due to external factors. Sometimes you can also decide to do nothing about a less significant aspect of an issue while focusing on your priority target, as Kelly decided to do.

Action 2: Active adaptation

The second area we explored was Active Adaptation. Kelly needed to find ways of working smarter and more efficiently. She realised that she could go into less detail in certain aspects of her work, trust her ability more and do less double checking, take some practical shortcuts and delegate more routine work to junior members of her team.

Active adaptation is an effective strategy when your situation has a lot of positive elements to it. By finding ways of adapting, you can manage the problematic issue without letting it effect you so badly. It is clearly not a good strategy when it means accepting a situation that is toxic and causing you harm in the long-term.

Action 3: Induce change

We then moved on to explore the third part of the framework, Induce Change. This option required the most courage and determination. It also meant that Kelly needed some preparation and training. Kelly decided to give her manager feedback about how she was feeling and suggest some concrete changes in the way work was assigned. To do this she needed to learn how to communicate assertively and pluck up the courage and confidence required to face her manager. She was also prepared to escalate the issue if her manager did not take her feedback seriouslyShe also needed to put together some data to clearly show that she needed help to manage all the work she was being assigned.

Challenging the system is useful when you still wish to be part of an organisation, team or relationship but you are not ready to adapt to and accept certain aspects of it. However, it can also be risky, so before considering this option, you need to be aware of what you are going in for and make sure it is worth the effort. You also need to assess the likelihood of an acceptable outcome.

Action 4: Move on

The fourth and final area we explored was to Move On. Kelly decided it was too early to consider this option and would only come back to it should her other initiatives fail to bring about the desired outcome.

Moving on is the most radical of choices and in my view should be considered only when active adaptation and inducing change fail to help you achieve your goal. If overused or used prematurely it can become a means of escaping adversity and challenge which are normal aspects of life. In some circumstances, moving on may simply not be a viable option.

The Change Action Framework © is a deceptively simple model that can help you organise your thinking and your plan of action. Depending on your situation, you may decide to apply one or more parts of it. For example, there are situations where with some active adaptation strategies the situation is resolved. It is also a good reminder that you always have a degree of influence over a situation you are not happy about.

When used appropriately, it can be an immensely powerful coaching tool to help people overcome their impasse and bring about the necessary changes to make marked improvements in their work and personal lives.

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