March 21st, 2012 Force Field Analysis
Force field analysis is a management technique developed by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field of social sciences, for diagnosing situations. It will be useful when looking at the variables involved in planning and implementing a change program and will undoubtedly be of use in team building projects,when attempting to overcome resistance to change.
Kurt Lewin assumes that in any situation there are both driving and restraining forces that influence any change that may occur.
Driving forces are those forces affecting a situation that are pushing in a particular direction; they tend to initiate a change and keep it going. In terms of improving productivity in a work group, pressure from a supervisor, incentive earnings, and competition may be examples of driving forces.
Restraining forces are forces acting to restrain or decrease the driving forces. Apathy, hostility, and poor maintenance of equipment may be examples of restraining forces against increased production. Equilibrium is reached when the sum of the driving forces equals the sum of the restraining forces. In our example, equilibrium represents the present level of productivity, as shown below.
This equilibrium, or present level of productivity, can be raised or lowered by changes in the relationship between the driving and the restraining forces.
For illustration, consider the dilemma of the new manager who takes over a work group in which productivity is high but whose predecessor drained the human resources.
The former manager had upset the equilibrium by increasing the driving forces (that is, being autocratic and keeping continual pressure on subordinates) and thus achieving increases in output in the short run.
By doing this, however, new restraining forces developed, such as increased hostility and antagonism, and at the time of the former manager's departure the restraining forces were beginning to increase and the results manifested themselves in turnover, absenteeism, and other restraining forces, which lowered productivity shortly after the new manager arrived. Now a new equilibrium at a significantly lower productivity is faced by the new manager.
Now just assume that our new manager decides not to increase the driving forces but to reduce the restraining forces. The manager may do this by taking time away from the usual production operation and engaging in problem solving and training and development.
In the short run, output will tend to be lowered still further. However, if commitment to objectives and technical know-how of the group are increased in the long run, they may become new driving forces, and that, along with the elimination of the hostility and the apathy that were restraining forces, will now tend to move the balance to a higher level of output.
Managers are often in a position in which they must consider not only output but also intervening variables and not only short-term but also long-term goals. It can be seen that force field analysis provides framework that is useful in diagnosing these interrelationships.
Understanding the Pressures For and Against Change
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.
Using Force Field Analysis
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).
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 the following Figure :
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 of Force Field Analysis
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.
Where you have decided to carry out a plan, Force Field Analysis helps you identify changes that you could make to improve it.