What is Force Field Analysis?

A simple and practical tool – Force Field Analysis is developed by Kurt Lewin which is used for organizational change management. It is for change leaders to map and analyse the different factors which are influencing a change initiative.

There are multiple pressures which are working in favour of change and against change. These pressures and forces are not physical but actually these are influences and circumstances that are driving or rejecting the change initiative.

If an organization maintains equilibrium by balancing both forces, then there is no change happened. Change happens only when equilibrium is disrupted. It means that an organization needs to over come the opposing forces by strengthening the driving forces.

What are Driving Forces?

Driving forces are the positive forces which influence or support the change initiative. These are the real reasons which bring out change in an organization. Examples of some driving forces include:

  • new leadership
  • new opportunities in market
  • new technology
  • competition
  • Increased demand
  • fashion
  • pressure from management
  • incentives
  • political regimes
  • regulatory laws and policies
  • public opinion

What are Restraining Forces?

Restraining forces are the negative forces which are against the change initiative. These forces tend to maintain status quo and restrict implementing new ideas or change. Some of examples of restraining forces include:

  • fear of uncertain future
  • previous failure of change initiatives
  • old habits of employees
  • living in comfortable zone
  • hostility among employees
  • employees’ unions 
  • strict bureaucratic structures
  • Organizational culture

Changing the Balance

Force Field Analysis is used to evaluate the driving forces and restraining forces. But before they are evaluated these need to be identified. This can be done through using some other analysis tools such as:

  • SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats)
  • PRIMO-F (People, Resources, Innovation, Marketing, Operations and Finance)
  • PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environmental)

Force Field Analysis is all about changing the balance in order to make change happen. Therefore, organizations need to change the balance or equilibrium. It can be done through strengthening the driving forces or by weakening the restraining forces or by doing both simultaneously.

5 steps to Conduct Force Field Analysis

Step 1: Define Your Desired Change

The first step of Force Field Analysis is to describe the desired change that an organization seek to achieve. Traditionally all the change leaders and the key team members sit together and do brainstorm  to have a clear vision of the desired change. Usually it is done on a huge paper and the on the middle of the paper the desired change statement is written after having consensus on it.

Step 2: Identify the Driving Forces

The next step is to identify the driving forces that are the supporting factors which are pushing change. These can either be external, internal or both. This forces can be identified by throwing questions like: what are benefits of the desired change; what are business opportunities if desired change happened; what resources are needed to implement change; and who is supporting change and why.

Step 3: Identify the Restraining Forces

Identification of the restraining forces is the next step. This can be done also by having brainstorm session among the change leaders and all the relevant employees. It should be done in a way that employees feel comfortable in sharing their honest and candid thoughts. The pertinent questions for this are: what are negative consequences of the desired change; what does it cost to implement change; what are bottlenecks; and who are against the desired change and why.

Step 4: Evaluate the Forces

Evaluating the both driving and restraining forces is the fourth step. It can be done through scoring the forces. If the score range is 1-5 then the force with highest impact is scored 5 and force with lowest impact can be scored 1. All score of the driving forces at one summed up and likewise all the restraining force can be summed up. The cumulative score will give a clear picture that whether driving forces are strong or restraining force are strong.

Step 5. Action Plan

The final step is to develop an action plan to implement change. A good action plan devises strategies to strengthen the driving forces and weaken or remove restraining forces. Based on the scores, the action plan can also aim to increase the score of the driving forces and decrease the score of restraining forces.  

Example of Force Field Analysis

An organization intends to replace the old manufacturing technology with the modern technology. The leaders and key employees sit together to take strategic decision to adopt change or not. They use Force Field Analysis to take informed decision. The define the statement of change that is to replace the outdate manufacturing technology with the updated modern technology. They identify the driving forces and restraining forces and evaluate these forces by scoring on the scale of 1 to 5. What they have found is that sum of driving forces is greater than the restraining forces which put change leader in commanding position to make an action plan for the set on the change. The following pictures represent the analysis they made:

Why to Use Force Field Analysis?

Following are the advantages of Force Field Analysis

  • Force Field Analysis requires full participation of all stakeholders and employees to have all inclusive viewpoint of all the relevant stakeholders.
  • This analysis is very easy to use and it provides a professional tool which helps to understand the situation and management can take an informed decision with regards to change.
  • By analyzing the driving and restraining forces, change leaders and employees are able to have clarity on the desired change and whether it is worth implementing or not.
  • This analysis also helps identify supporter and allies of change; and who are against it and what are their perspective on opposing this initiative.

Disadvantages of Force Field Analysis

  • From identification of driving and restraining forces to scoring of these forces, it is all subjective as it is hard to maintain objectivity while scoring the forces.
  • Some critics are of the view that this analysis works only in limited setting and in some complex settings it is less applicable.  
  • This analysis further complicates divisions and hostilities as it is always difficult to have consensus on scoring the forces.

Take Home Points:

  • There are some supportive forces to change these are called driving forces. On the other hand, there are some restraining forces which resist change these are called restraining forces.
  • There is no change when an organization maintains balance between driving and restraining forces.
  • If this balance is undone and driving forces are stronger than the restraining forces, then change is happened.
  • 5 steps of Force Field Analysis are about defining change; identifying driving forces, identifying restraining forces, evaluating these forces and making an action plan of change.
  • This analysis allows participation and inputs of all the key personnel and it gives comprehensive understanding of change. However, critics say that it is less neutral and creates conflicts in an organization.

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