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Force Field Analysis
Analyzing the pressures for and against change.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Some people struggle when they have tough decisions to make. They hash through the pros and cons, and agonize over making the right call.
When you're making difficult or challenging decisions, it pays to use an effective, structured decision-making technique that will improve the quality of your decisions and increase your chances of success. Force Field Analysis is one such technique and, in this article and in the video, below, we'll explore what it is and how you can use it.
About Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis was created by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. Lewin originally used it in his work as a social psychologist. Today, however, it is also used in business, for making and communicating go/no-go decisions.
The idea behind Force Field Analysis is that situations are maintained by an equilibrium between forces that drive change and others that resist change, as shown in figure 1, below. For change to happen, the driving forces must be strengthened or the resisting forces weakened.
Figure 1 – Force Field Analysis
The tool is useful for making decisions by analyzing the forces for and against a change, and for communicating the reasoning behind your decision.
How to Use Force Field Analysis
To carry out a Force Field Analysis, use a blank sheet of paper or a whiteboard, or download our worksheet and follow these five steps.
Step 1: Describe Your Plan or Proposal for Change
Define your goal or vision for change, and write it down in a box in the middle of the page.
Step 2: Identify Forces For Change
Think about the kinds of forces that are driving change. These can be internal and external.
Internal drivers could include:
- Outdated machinery or product lines.
- Declining team morale.
- A need to increase profitability.
Your external drivers could include:
- A volatile, uncertain operating environment.
- Disruptive technologies.
- Changing demographic trends.
It's important to identify as many of the factors that will influence the change as you can. Where appropriate, involve other people, such as team members or experts in your organization.
The following questions may help you to identify forces that will influence the change:
- What business benefit will the change deliver?
- Who supports the change? Who is against it? Why?
- Do you have the resources to make the change work?
- What costs and risks are involved?
- What business processes will be affected?
Tools such as the Futures Wheel , Impact Analysis , "What If" Analysis , Stakeholder Analysis , and brainstorming can also help with this step.
When you've identified the forces that are driving change, add them to the left-hand side of your Force Field Analysis.
Step 3: Identify Forces Against Change
Now brainstorm the forces that resist or are unfavorable to change.
Internal resistors and restrainers could include:
- Fears of the unknown.
- Existing organizational structures.
- " That's not how we do it here " attitudes.
External factors might be:
- Existing commitments to partner organizations.
- Government legislation.
- Obligations toward your customers.
Now add the forces against change to the right-hand side of your Force Field Analysis.
Step 4: Assign Scores
Next, score each force, from, say, one (weak) to five (strong), according to the degree of influence each one has on the plan, and then add up the scores for each side (for and against).
For a visual representation of the influence that each force has, draw arrows around them. Use bigger arrows for the forces that will have a greater influence on the change, and smaller arrows for forces that will have a weaker influence.
By now, your Force Field Analysis should look something like the example in figure 2, below.
Figure 2 – Example Force Field Analysis
Image adapted from “ Tools for Knowledge and Learning A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organizations ” by Ben Ramalingam © Overseas Development Institute 2006. Adapted with permission from Ben Ramalingam.
Step 5: Analyze and Apply
Now that you've done your Force Field Analysis, you can use it in two ways:
- To decide whether or not to move forward with the decision or change.
- To think about which supportive forces you can strengthen and which opposing or resisting forces you can weaken, and how to make the change more successful.
If you had to implement the project in the example above, the analysis might suggest a number of changes that you could make to the initial plan. For instance, you could:
- Train staff to minimize their fear of technology. The +1 cost of training increases "Cost" to -4 but the -2 benefits reduce "Staff fearful of new technology" to -1.
- Show staff that change is necessary for business survival. This new, +2 force supports the change.
- Show staff that new machines would introduce variety and interest to their jobs. This new, +1 force also supports the change.
- Raise wages to reflect new productivity. The +1 cost of raising wages takes "Cost" to -5, but the -2 benefits reduce "Loss of overtime" to -1.
- Install slightly different machines with filters that eliminate pollution. The -1 benefit of the new machines eliminates "Impact on environment" as a force against change.
These changes would swing the balance from 11:10 (against the plan), to 13:8 (in favor of the plan).
Some factors, where you need absolute certainty in order to make a good decision, don't fit well with this approach. Considerations that affect people's health and safety, for example, aren't suited to Force Field Analysis. Be sure to deal with these appropriately, whatever the outcome of your analysis.
Bear in mind that, while Force Field Analysis helps you to understand the impact of different factors on your decision or change, it can be subjective. If you're making an important decision, using it alongside other decision-making tools such as Decision Matrix Analysis , Decision Tree Analysis , and Cost/Benefit Analysis will help to reinforce the quality of your decision.
Don't underestimate how much work a Force Field Analysis can involve. We've used a simple example here, but there will be many factors that you'll need to consider for complex decisions and changes.
Force Field Analysis helps you to think about the pressures for and against a decision or a change. It was developed by Kurt Lewin.
To carry out a Force Field Analysis, describe your plan or proposal in the middle of a piece of paper or whiteboard. Then list all of the forces for change in a column on the left-side, and all of the forces against change in a column on the right-side.
Score each factor, and add up the scores for each column. You can then decide whether or not to move forward with the change.
Alternatively, you can use your analysis to think about how you can strengthen the forces that support the change and weaken the forces opposing it, so that the change is more successful.
Ramalingam, B. (2006). ' Tools for Knowledge and Learning: A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organizations ,' London: Overseas Development Institute. p.32.
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- Force Field Analysis: A Comprehensive Overview
- Process optimization techniques
Force field analysis is an important problem-solving technique that helps identify and analyze the forces that drive and resist change. It is a useful tool for problem-solving, process optimization, and decision-making. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of force field analysis, including its purpose, process, and applications. Force field analysis is a powerful tool for understanding the dynamics of any situation. It helps identify the factors that are driving or resisting change, allowing you to make better decisions and optimize processes.
Benefits of Force Field Analysis
Using Force Field Analysis can help teams identify competing forces at play in any given situation, such as those that may be driving or preventing change. By understanding these forces, teams can develop strategies for overcoming obstacles, or for amplifying the effects of those forces that are driving successful change. Force Field Analysis can also help teams identify potential areas for improvement, as well as potential risks associated with making changes. This helps teams make more informed decisions about their process optimization initiatives, allowing them to avoid costly missteps.
Steps Involved in Conducting a Force Field Analysis
2.brainstorm possible driving forces and restraining forces, 3.identify each force’s level of influence on the issue, 4.evaluate the driving forces and restraining forces, 5.identify potential solutions or strategies for overcoming obstacles, 6.implement your chosen solution or strategy, 7.monitor progress and adjust your approach as needed.
By identifying the competing forces at play and the potential areas of improvement, teams can gain insight into their environment and make more informed decisions. With its easy-to-understand approach, Force Field Analysis is a valuable tool for any team looking to optimize their processes and solve problems.
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Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Using Force Field Analysis
Updated: March 14, 2023 by Ken Feldman
Some changes in your organization go smoother than others. Sometimes there is resistance to the changes which must be overcome for the change to occur. Force field analysis identifies and analyzes those forces which help drive change and those which restrain or inhibit change. Let’s learn more about those forces and how to manage them to assure your organization can implement needed change without disruption and delays.
Overview: What is a force field analysis?
In simple terms, force field analysis is a framework for understanding the factors which can influence and impact a potential change. This change can be associated with an individual, organizational, or improvement project. For change to happen, the driving (helping) forces must be strengthened, or the resisting (hindering) forces weakened.
The model was originally developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin , who described the individual change process as a balance between two types of forces – those that are driving movement toward a goal (helping forces) or are blocking movement toward a goal (hindering forces). His theory was expanded by John R. P. French who applied it to organizational and industrial settings.
Here are the steps for completing a force field analysis:
1. describe and clarify the proposed change and write it in a box in the center of the page., 2. brainstorm and identify the driving or helping forces for change..
These may include such internal or external things such as:
- Outdated machinery or product lines.
- Declining organizational morale
- A need to increase profitability
- Uncertain operating environment
- Engaged organizational leadership
- Changing demographic and competitive trends
3. Brainstorm and identify the blocking (resisting or hindering) forces to change.
These may include such things as:
- Fear of the unknown
- Existing organizational structures
- An attitude of That’s not how we do things around here
- Current commitments to other organizations
- Government regulations
- Existing customer obligations
- Uncommitted or uninvolved leadership
- Too busy to do it
- Negative outcomes from prior attempts at change
- No champion for the change
4. Score and weight each factor.
You can score each factor from one (weak) to five (strong), based on the degree of influence each one has on the change. Add the scores up for the driving and resisting forces. For a simple visual presentation, you can use the length of arrows to show the relative strength of each factor. The figure below is an example of what your force field analysis might look like at this point.
Example of force field analysis
5. Analyze and implement your action plan for change.
Decide which of the forces have some flexibility for change or which can be influenced. Create a strategy to strengthen the driving forces or weaken the restraining forces, or both. If you’ve rated each force, how can you raise the scores of the driving forces or reduce the scores of the restraining forces, or do both?
What action steps can you take that will achieve the greatest impact? Identify the resources you will need and decide how to implement the action steps. Sometimes it’s easier to reduce the impact of restraining forces than to strengthen driving forces.
3 benefits of a force field analysis
Here are a few of the benefits of using a force field analysis to improve your probability of a successful change in your organization.
1. Reduces barriers to change
Understanding the forces driving or hindering your desired change can help identify what forces are preventing forward movement and what is needed to overcome those barriers.
2. Creates effective communication
Attitudes and mindsets are common restraining forces in many organizations. Having an open and honest discussion of why certain things are considered restraining forces, will help your management understand the nature of those emotions and help create more effective communication of the proposed changes.
3. Reduces resistance to change
Employee resistance is a common obstacle to change, and often appears as one of the restraining forces in a force field analysis. Understanding the reasons for that resistance can help you develop appropriate strategies for reducing it.
Why is a force field analysis important to understand?
Understanding the importance and purpose of a force field analysis will help you utilize this powerful tool to optimize your implementation of change in your organization.
The existence of specific forces which will help or hinder change
Organizations are often aware of the negatives which may impact a desired change. But there are also positives which will help facilitate and drive your change. These must be identified and used.
Provide insight into why people may resist your change
While resistance to change is a well-known factor impacting any change process, you need to understand what the underlying reasons for this resistance are.
Flexibility of the force field analysis
This tool can be used to assess a macro change affecting a group of people as well as at the individual level.
An industry example of a force field analysis
As a result of some marketing research, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing formed a Six Sigma improvement team to explore changing the sales process to reduce the time sales-people spend with their customers. Before implementing the recommendations, the team’s Black Belt suggested they do a force field analysis to better understand the possible barriers to a successful implementation of the changes. Below is their analysis.
As you can see, the value of the restraining forces is greater than the driving forces. This change will fail unless the driving forces are strengthened and/or the restraining forces are weakened.
3 best practices when thinking about a force field analysis
Doing a force field analysis is a relatively straightforward process. Use the following tips to help you keep things simple yet constructive.
1. Formalized brainstorming
Conduct formal, structured brainstorming to identify the driving and restraining forces which will impact how well your desired change will work.
2. Be realistic
When analyzing your driving and restraining forces, be realistic as to your options for strengthening your driving forces while weakening your restraining forces.
3. Do your force field analysis early in the Improve phase of DMAIC
Developing your force field analysis, possibly along with an FMEA , will let you mitigate resistance prior to implementation of your proposed changes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about a force field analysis
What are the components of a force field analysis.
According to Lewin, there are four components of force field analysis: driving forces, restraining forces, forces for change, and the forces resisting change.
When would you use a force field analysis?
Force field analysis is used to identify which factors, when attempting to make a change, drive a person or organization towards or away from a desired state. It is also used to identify the forces which cause people or the organization to resist or restrain the desired change.
How would you describe how to do a force field analysis in simple terms?
- Describe the desired change project or desired state
- Identify driving or helping forces
- Identify restraining or hindering forces
- Analyze the two opposite types of forces
- Develop actions to strengthen driving forces while weakening hindering forces
Quick review of a force field analysis
Force field analysis, as developed by Kurt Lewin, helps you consider the forces for and against a decision or a change.
To do a force field analysis, you first need to describe and clarify your proposed change. You can write that in a box in the center of your form. Then, list all of the driving forces for change in a column on the left-side, and all of the restraining or blocking forces against change in a column on the right-side.
Develop a scoring scheme for each factor, and add up the scores for each column. You can then decide whether you want to move forward with the change or to change the balance of your forces to get a positive outcome for your desired change. You can use your analysis to develop a strategy and action plan so you can strengthen the forces that support the change and weaken the forces opposing it.
About the Author
The Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Force Field Analysis
Updated on: 5 January 2023
This guide will help you understand what a force field analysis is and how to conduct it in 6 simple steps.
If you are looking for a tool that will help you make business-related decisions faster and better, you will find the force field analysis useful.
Let’s get started.
What is Force Field Analysis
The force field analysis is a widely-used change management model ; it works as a diagnostic tool and a powerful decision-making tool during change planning.
You can use it to identify – by visually mapping – the driving forces and restraining forces for and against the initiative and thus work on leveraging the factors in favor while reducing the unfavorable ones to ensure the successful implementation of the change plan.
The force field analysis tool was developed as a change management model in 1951 by the German-American psychologist, Kurt Lewin who is also known for being a founder of modern psychology. Today, the tool is even widely used to inform business decision-making.
The basis of the tool
The basic idea behind the force field analysis is that a certain given situation remains the way it is because of counterbalancing forces, or because of the state of equilibrium between forces that drive change and oppose change.
In order to promote change, either the driving forces should be strengthened or the resisting forces should be weakened.
And it integrates with Lewin’s 3-stage theory of change .
When to use the tool
The force field analysis is ideally used for diagnosing a problem. You can use it to
- Analyze the balance of power
- Identify the key roles involved in decision-making
- Identify who supports and opposes change within the organization
- Explore ways to influence those who are against change
- Decide whether to go ahead with a proposed change or not
How to Conduct a Force Field Analysis
The analysis is best carried out in small groups of 5 to 9 people who are directly involved in the change implementation process.
It’s important that everyone else who is also likely to be affected by the change is kept in the loop. To gain their commitment and support for the deployment of the project, they should be kept informed about and involved in planning, development and decision-making from the very beginning.
For a more productive discussion, have a force field analysis worksheet ready at the beginning of the meeting.
The worksheet can be paper-based, or you can use the following Creately template to start right away. Simply add the email addresses of the other group members to the document to give them edit/ review access. This way everyone can collaborate on populating the worksheet.
Step 1: Assess the current situation
You need to start the session by discussing the current situation of the organization in terms of the issue at hand with the key stakeholders.
This may include determining where you are at, the challenges you are facing due to the issue you are trying to solve, the reaction of the employees, etc.
It’s also important to clarify where you want to go or the desired state you want to achieve with the initiative. At the same time, consider what will take place if you fail to take action to change the current situation.
Here you can do a quick SWOT analysis to understand what strengths you can use to overcome the existing threats and see how you can work on overcoming weaknesses and take advantage of the presented opportunities.
Step 2: Define the objective
The next step is to identify the expected outcome of the change initiative. Once you have clearly defined the goal(s), write them inside the box in the middle of the template provided above.
Step 3: Identify the driving forces
Driving forces are the factors that are in favor of the proposed change or the ones that support the achievement of the defined goal.
These are considered positive and usually includes factors like advancing technology, changing industry trends, increasing competition, opinions of customers or shareholders, incentives, etc.
In this step, your task is to brainstorm as many driving forces as possible with the team and list them in the relevant field of the worksheet.
Of course, you can turn to people outside the team (interview them), people who are specialized in the subject area to find the information you need during this step.
Step 4: Identify the restraining forces
These are the factors that will block your path to achieving your goal. They tend to restrict the impact of the driving forces. For example, these may include the fear of the individuals, organizational structures and negative attitudes of employees, etc.
The list of forces that are against change should be listed on the right-hand field of the worksheet.
One thing you need to keep in mind is not to be subjective when deciding which forces to add to the force field analysis and which ones to leave out.
Step 5: Evaluate the forces
You can evaluate the influence of each force by assigning them scores.
Using a numerical scale (10 being extremely strong and 1 being extremely weak), assign each force a score based on the impact they have on the change initiative.
You can also assess the forces by focusing on the impact each of them may have. This way you can ditch assigning each force a score.
Based on the effect they have, you can decide whether the proposed change is viable. Accordingly, you can discuss how you can influence the forces in favor of change: you can weaken the restricting forces by strengthening the driving forces.
Step 6: Create an action plan
Based on how you want to go about strengthening driving forces and weakening restraining forces, you can create a quick action plan.
This can help you clarify what needs to be done, who is responsible, the resources needed, and the due dates you need to be concerned about, etc.
What’s Your Opinion?
The force field analysis is a great tool to evaluate if the proposed change is practical or not and identifying the blockers against change. Its outcome will help you identify possible solutions to remove these obstacles and effectively work on achieving your change management goals.
How do you go about decision-making and problem-solving? Do you currently use any other tool other than the force field analysis? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Your article was super helpful for me. I love the way you laid out the topic and the templates are a lifesaver. I’ve struggled to understand one point of the force field analysis, and I was wondering if you could help explain it to me. Since I am currently doing a force field analysis – I want to know the best way to support the restraining/driving forces when it comes to evaluation. Is it best with a numerical scale? Or does a qualitative take on the effects, like you said, show a more holistic approach?
I would really appreciate your response!
Thank you and glad that you found the article helpful. And yes you can evaluate the factors by assigning each factor a score, or you can consider the impact they may have on the initiative. It really depends on which method you would find effective and easy; however, both help out just the same.
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