Thursday, January 26, 2012

LEAN Thinking – FRAMING, It's all About Framing

I like words. My belief is that words I use say a lot about me, in addition to what I am meaning to say.

One word I have been paying attention to for some time is “framing.” I first became aware of framing in the early 1990s while studying psychology; and then it was “reframing” that caught my attention. I was at a training and talking with other participants, one of whom was offering what I heard as a negative critique of the earlier talk. I had appreciated the talk and made a comment that took the idea being expressed and transformed it into one I felt was more positive. One of the others listening complimented me on a “good reframing” of the other person's point. I had not thought that was what I was doing and filed away what I took as a compliment to think about later. 1

As my studies progressed in psychology, I learned more about reframing and used it in a more conscious manner. I learned that it is a very powerful method of working with and influencing others. A seemingly simple shift in the context of the item or issue being discussed can change the way it is being perceived. In the field of psychology I've used reframing to clarify the possible intent of a comment heard or action experienced by a client. In business I've used reframing to change or broaden the context of what is being discussed. An example of this would be to take an aspect of business performance that may look like a positive attribute in terms of how it helps a business unit perform within a service line, but when looked at in terms of the customer's needs, may turn into a negative that does not benefit the customer. Here the initial context may be “How does this make my job easier?” and the new context is “How does this benefit the customer?”

The “frame” that most of us utilize in our working lives is “What will do the best job in this case?” And that frame has benefited us. We do want to do the best job and asking that question, in the frame of “my job” and “this case” puts into focus the way we usually think. Lean thinking asks that we look at a new way of “framing” our questions. We put down a personal, team, or company frame and adopt a client frame. The new questions are “Will the client pay for this? Does this add value for the customer?”

And this means that a new frame needs to be used from top to bottom of our organization. To become more effective at what we do, we all need to reframe our conversation, or questions. We will still ask about the top and bottom line, and all the other questions. However, our first questions will be with the customer, about the customer, and from the customer's perspective. 

1From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: The term reframing designates a communication technique which has origins in family systems therapy. ... Another meaning or another sense is assigned by reframing a situation or context, thus sees a situation in another frame. A frame can refer to a belief, what limits our view of the world. ... Psychotherapists trained in the reframing by communication attempt to let scenes appear in another point of view (frame) so that someone feels relieved or is able to deal with the situation better.

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