Force field analysis

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Using the change initiative you discussed in the previous discussion, Stakeholder Analysis, or a similar change initiative, complete the force field analysis template in the Resources to include driving forces as well as restraining and resisting forces. Respond to the following:

  • How can you disrupt the equilibrium to facilitate movement from the current to desired state?
  • What are the benefits or drawbacks you see in using such a process?

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Force Field Analysis

Male Speaker

Force Field Analysis, Understanding the Pressures For and Against Change.

The Force Field Analysis is a useful technique for looking at all the factors for and against the decision or plan or course of action. In effect, it is a specialized method of weighing pros and cons. By carrying out analysis, you can plan or strengthen the factors supporting a decision, a plan, or course of action and reduce the impact of opposition to it.

The Force Field Analysis was developed by Kurt Lewin, a German-born psychologist and one of the modern pioneers of Social-Organizational Psychology. He was one of the first researchers to study group dynamics and organizational development. He began his work in Pre-World War II Germany and worked with psychologists at the Gestalt School. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Lewin worked at the London Tavistock Institute and then later immigrated to America. He worked at Cornell University and the University of Iowa and MIT where he would become director of the Center for Group Dynamics.

While there, Lewin set up a workshop to find an effective way to combat religious and racial prejudices which laid the foundations for what it is now known as Sensitivity Training. In 1947, this led to Lewin’s establishment of the National Training Laboratories at Bethel, Maine shortly before his death.

Borrowing a concept from Physics called quasi-stationary equilibrium, Lewin noted that the perceived status quo in life is just that, a perception. He did organizations as systems in which the present situation was not as static pattern but a dynamic balance of forces working in opposite directions. These two opposing forces are one, those factors seeking to promote change, the driving forces and two; those factors attempting to maintain the status quo which he called the restraining forces.

In order for any change to occur, the driving forces must exceed the restraining forces, thus shifting the equilibrium. These organizational forces or factors can be persons, habits, customs, policies, procedures, and attitudes that both drive and restrain change.

The Force Field Analysis is a method for listing, discussing and evaluating the various forces for and against the proposed change. When a change is planned, the Force Field Analysis helps you look at the big picture by analyzing all of the forces impacting the change in weighing the pros and cons. You can develop strategies to reduce the impact of opposing restraining forces and strengthen the supporting driving forces. Using this tool is a two-step process. First, a Force Field Analysis is conducted and then the intensity of a force or set of forces has either increased or decreased.

Change can be fostered by adding to or increasing the intensity of the driving forces or change can be fostered by diminishing the opposing or restraining forces. Lewin’s Changed Theory predicts that the better of these two choices is to reduce the intensity of the restraining forces because by adding forces or increasing the intensity on the driving side, a simultaneous increase would occur on the restraining side and the overall tension for the system whether it is a person, a group, or an organization would intensify. The equilibrium would stay intact and the status quo would persevere.

This idea, too, he borrowed from the Physical Sciences as it was Newton who stated with his third Law of Motion, “To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The better choice then, according to Lewin, is to reduce the restraining forces. So, if you want change to happen in the system, do not try to force it into being, rather, reduce the power and influence of those factors which resisted from happening.

So, how do you use the Force Field Analysis tool? First, on this template, describe your plan or proposal for change in the middle. Secondly, list all the forces for change in the left column and all the forces against change in the right column. Then, assign a score to each force with one being the weakest and five the strongest.

For example, imagine that you are a manager deciding whether to install new manufacturing equipment in your factory. You might draw up a Force Field Analysis like the one in Figure 1. Once you have carried out an analysis, you can decide whether your project is viable. In the example in Figure 1, you might initially question whether it is worth going ahead with the plan. When you have already decided to carry out a project, the Force Field Analysis can help you to work out how to improve its probability a success. Here, you have two choices: one, to reduce the strength and the forces opposing a project, the restraining forces; or two, to increase the forces pushing a project, the driving forces.

As Lewin indicated, often the most elegant solution is the first because just trying to force change through may cause its own problems. People can be uncooperative is change is forced on them.

Going back to the example in Figure 1, if you had to implement the project to install new machinery, the Force Field Analysis might suggest a number of changes to the initial plan. For example, by training staff, you can eliminate some of the fear of technology or you might show the staff how change is necessary for business survival or you could show staff how new machines would introduce a variety and interest to their jobs. Or, you could raise wages to reflect new productivity or you can install slightly different machines with filters to eliminate pollution.

These changes could swing the balance from against the plan to being in favor of the plan.

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