July 28th, 2012 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.
Bobby Golden, 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.
Golden 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 Golden 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.
Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis is a method for listing, discussing, and evaluating the various forces for and against a proposed change. When a change is planned, Force Field Analysis helps you look at the big picture by analyzing all of the forces impacting the change and weighing the pros and cons. By knowing the pros and cons, you can develop strategies to reduce the impact of the opposing forces and strengthen the supporting forces.
Forces that help you achieve the change are called "driving forces." Forces that work against the change are called "restraining forces." Force Field Analysis can be used to develop an action plan to implement a change. Specifically it can:
-Determine if a proposed change can get needed support
-Identify obstacles to successful solutions
-Suggest actions to reduce the strength of the obstacles
1. Start with a well-defined goal or change to be implemented.
2. Draw a force field diagram.
3. At the top of a large sheet of paper write the goal or change to be implemented.
4. Divide the paper into two columns by drawing a line down the middle. At the top of the left column, write "Driving Forces." Label the right column "Restraining Forces."
5. Brainstorm a list of driving and restraining forces and record them on the chart in the appropriate column. Once the driving and restraining forces have been identified, ask the following questions:
Are they valid?
How do we know?
How significant are each of them?
What is their strength?
Which ones can be altered?
Which forces can be altered quickly?
Which ones only slowly?
Which forces, if altered, would produce rapid change?
Which only slow change in the situation?
What skills and/or information is needed and available to alter the forces?
Can we get them?
6. Assign a score to each force, from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong). The score is based on (a) the strength of the force and (b) the degree to which it is possible to influence this force.
7. Calculate a total score for each of the two columns.
8. Decide if the goal or change is feasible. If so, devise a manageable course of action which:
Strengthens positive forces
Weakens negative forces
Creates new positive forces
Example Force Field Analysis Diagram
Goal or proposed change: To have no abandoned cars along city streets by May 1.
|Driving Forces (the pro's)||Driving Forces (the pro's)|
|Interest in the problem has recently been expressed by advocacy groups.
The public service director supports the plan.
The City Council supports the plan.
Public climate favors cleaning up the city.
Local auto salvage yards have agreed to take the cars at no cost.
Health department cites old abandoned vehicles as potential healh hazard.
|The definition of "abandoned cars" is unclear to the public.
Owners of older cars feel threatened.
Difficult to locate abandoned cars.
Where to put the abandoned cars once identified?
Expense involved in locating and disposing of abandoned cars.
Need a procedure to verify vehicles declared "abandoned" and notify owners.