Force Field Analysis

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up – it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Force field analysis
Force field analysis is an influential development in the field of social science. It provides a framework for looking at the factors (forces) that influence a situation, originally social situations. It looks at forces that are either driving movement toward a goal (helping forces) or blocking movement toward a goal (hindering forces). The principle, developed by Kurt Lewin, is a significant contribution to the fields of social science, psychology, social psychology, organizational development, process management, and change management.

Lewin, a social psychologist, believed the “field” to be a Gestalt psychological environment existing in an individual’s (or in the collective group) mind at a certain point in time that can be mathematically described in a topological constellation of constructs. The “field” is very dynamic, changing with time and experience. When fully constructed, an individual’s “field” (Lewin used the term “life space”) describes that person’s motives, values, needs, moods, goals, anxieties, and ideals.

Lewin believed that changes of an individual’s “life space” depend upon that individual’s internalization of external stimuli (from the physical and social world) into the “life space.” Although Lewin did not use the word “experiential,” (see experiential learning) he nonetheless believed that interaction (experience) of the “life space” with “external stimuli” (at what he calls the “boundary zone”) were important for development (or regression). For Lewin, development (or regression) of an individual occurs when their “life space” has a “boundary zone” experience with external stimuli. Note, it is not merely the experience that causes change in the “life space,” but the acceptance (internalization) of external stimuli.

Lewin took these same principles and applied them to the analysis of group conflict, learning, adolescence, hatred, morale, German society, etc. This approach allowed him to break down common misconceptions of these social phenomena, and to determine their basic elemental constructs. He used theory, mathematics, and common sense to define a force field, and hence to determine the causes of human and group behavior.

A deeper View on the Topic
Qualitative change will always be opposed by restraining forces that are either too comfortable with the status quo or are afraid of the unknown. In a competitive global market where constant innovation and continuous improvement are the driving forces that keep businesses running, identifying those forces in order to assess the risks involved and to better weight the effectiveness of potential changes becomes an imperative.

The Force Field Analysis is a managerial tool used for that purpose. FFA is a technique developed by Kurt Lewin, -a 20th century social scientist- as a tool for analyzing forces opposed to change. It rests on the premise that change is the result of a conflict between opposing forces, in order for it to take place, the driving forces must overcome the restraining forces.

Whenever changes are necessary, FFA can be used to determine the forces that oppose or stimulate the proposed changes. The opposing forces that are closely affected by the changes must be associated with the risk assessment and the decision making. The two groups are charted according to how important they can impact the changes, with the objective of abating the repulsive forces and invigorating the proponents of changes.

What to do, to conduct a Force Field Analysis?

  • To conduct a FFA, a certain number of steps should be taken:
  • The first of which should be the description of the current and the ideal states, to analyze how they compare and what will happen if changes are not made.
  • Describe the problem to be solved and how to go about it. Brainstorming sessions can be an effective tool for that purpose.
  • Identify and divide the stakeholders who are directly implicated in the decision making in two groups: the proponents for the changes and the restraining forces and then select a facilitator to mend the fences.
  • Each group should list the reasons why it is for or against the changes. The listing can be based on questionnaires for or against changes.

The listing should classify the reasons according to their level of importance; a scale value can be used as a weight for each reason. Some of the issues to be considered are:

  • Company’s needs
  • Cost of the changes
  • Company’s values
  • Social environment (Institutions, policies..)
  • Company’s Resources
  • How the company usually operates
  • Stakeholders’ interests
  • Stakeholders’ attitudes

The two lists are merged in the same chart to visualize the conflicting forces.

  1. Question every item on the lists to test their validity and determine how critical they are for the proposed changes.
  2. Add the scores to determine the feasibility of the changes. If the reasons for a change are overwhelming, take the appropriate course of action by strengthening the forces for change.

An operation manager has suggested that all the operations of a fictitious company should be consolidated in one facility. The following diagram depicts and example of a Force Field Analysis.

Another “how to” Manual
Force Field Analysis is a useful technique for looking at all the forces for and against a decision. In effect, it is a specialized method of weighing pros and cons. By carrying out the analysis you can plan to strengthen the forces supporting a decision, and reduce the impact of opposition to it. To carry out a force field analysis, first download our free worksheet and then use it to follow these steps:

  • Describe your plan or proposal for change in the middle
  • List all forces for change in one column, and all forces against change in another column
  • Assign a score to each force, from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong)

Once you have carried out an analysis, you can decide whether your project is viable. In the example above, you might initially question whether it is worth going ahead with the plan. Where you have already decided to carry out a project, Force Field Analysis can help you to work out how to improve its probability of success. Here you have two choices:

  • To reduce the strength of the forces opposing a project, or
  • To increase the forces pushing a project

Often the most elegant solution is the first: just trying to force change through may cause its own problems. People can be uncooperative if change is forced on them.
If you had to implement the project in the example above, the analysis might suggest a number of changes to the initial plan:

  • By training staff (increase cost by 1) you could eliminate fear of technology (reduce fear by 2)
  • It would be useful to show staff that change is necessary for business survival (new force in favor, +2)
  • Staff could be shown that new machines would introduce variety and interest to their jobs (new force, +1)
  • You could raise wages to reflect new productivity (cost +1, loss of overtime -2)
  • Slightly different machines with filters to eliminate pollution could be installed (environmental impact -1)
  • These changes would swing the balance from 11:10 (against the plan), to 8:13 (in favor of the plan).

Key points
Force Field Analysis is a useful technique for looking at all the forces for and against a plan. It helps you to weigh the importance of these factors and decide whether a plan is worth implementing.

Additional Graphics

Force Field Analysis I Force Field Analysis II

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