Force Field Analysis
Analyzing the Pressures For and Against Change
Use Force Field Analysis when weighing up decisions.
Force Field Analysis is a useful decision-making technique. It helps you make a decision by analyzing the forces for and against a change, and it helps you communicate the reasoning behind your decision.
You can use it for two purposes: to decide whether to go ahead with the change; and to increase your chances of success, by strengthening the forces supporting change and weakening those against it.
About the Tool
Force Field Analysis was created by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. Lewin originally used the tool in his work as a social psychologist. Today, however, Force Field Analysis is also used in business, for making and communicating go/no-go decisions.
You use the tool by listing all of the factors (forces) for and against your decision or change. You then score each factor based on its influence, and add up the scores for and against change to find out which of these wins.
You can then look at strengthening the forces that support the change and managing the forces against the change, so that it’s more successful.
How to Use the Tool
To carry out a Force Field Analysis, use a blank sheet of paper or whiteboard.
Then describe your plan or proposal for change in a box in the middle of the paper. List the forces for change in a column on the left-hand side, and the forces against change in a column on the right-hand side.
As you do this, consider the following questions:
• What business benefit will the change deliver?
• Who supports the change? Who is against it? Why?
• How easy will it be to make the change? Do you have enough time and resources to make it work?
• What costs are involved?
• What other business processes will be affected by the change?
• What are the risks ?
Tools such as the Futures Wheel , Impact Analysis , “What If” Analysis , and Stakeholder Analysis can help with this step.
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.
Next, assign a score to each force, from, say, 1 (weak) to 5 (strong), and then add up the scores for each column (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 less of an influence.
For example, imagine that you’re planning to install new manufacturing equipment in your factory. You might draw up a Force Field Analysis like the one in Figure 1, below:
Figure 1 – Example Force Field Analysis
Using Your Analysis
Once you’ve done your Force Field Analysis, you can use it in two ways:
1. To decide whether or not to move forward with the decision or change.
2. 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.
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 (“Cost” +1) to minimize the fear of technology (“Staff uncomfortable with new technology” -2).
• Show staff that change is necessary for business survival (new force that supports the change, +2).
• Show staff that new machines would introduce variety and interest to their jobs (new force that supports the change, +1).
• Raise wages to reflect new productivity (“Cost” +1, “Loss of overtime” -2).
• Install slightly different machines with filters that eliminate pollution (“Impact on environment” -1).
These changes would swing the balance from 11:10 (against the plan), to 13:8 (in favor of the plan).
Some factors – such as those affecting people’s health and safety – don’t fit well with this approach. Make sure that you deal with these appropriately, whatever the outcome of your analysis.
Bear in mind that while Force Field Analysis helps you understand the impact of different factors on your decision or change, it can be quite subjective. If you’re making an important decision, use it alongside other decision-making tools such as Decision Matrix Analysis , Decision Tree Analysis , and Cost/Benefit Analysis .
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 think about the pressures for and against a decision or a change. The tool 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.