Force Field Analysis
What is Lewin's Force Field Analysis?
In 1951, Lewin developed a model for analyzing and managing organizational problems which he has termed Force Field Analysis (French & Bell, 1999; Fuqua & Kurpius, 1993; Lewin, 1951). This model is relatively simple to understand and easy to visualize. A depiction of the model (see Figure below) identifies both driving forces and restraining forces within an organization. These driving forces, such as environmental factors push for change within the organization while the restraining forces, such as organizational factors (e.g., limited resources or poor morale), act as barriers to change. To understand the problem within the organization, the driving forces and restraining forces are first identified and, hence, defined. Goals and strategies for moving the equilibrium of the organization toward the desired direction can then be planned.
The model relies upon the change process, with the social implications built into the model (e.g., disequilibrium is expected to occur until equilibrium is reestablished). The general goal of this model is to intentionally move to a desirable state of equilibrium by adding driving forces, where important, and eliminating restraining forces, where appropriate. These changes are thought to occur simultaneously within the dynamic organization.
History of Force Field Analysis
Lewin, 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.
Lewin 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 Lewin 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 Steps
The analysis is best carried out in small groups of 5 to 9 people who are directly involved in the change implementation process. It is important that everyone else who is also likely to be affected by the change is kept in the loop. To gain their commitment and support for the deployment of the project, they should be kept informed about and involved in planning, development and decision-making from the very beginning. For a more productive discussion, have a force field analysis worksheet ready at the beginning of the meeting. The worksheet can be paper-based or electronic (see template below). Simply add the email addresses of the other group members to the document to give them edit/review access. This way everyone can collaborate on populating the worksheet.
Step 1: Assess the current situation: Start the session by discussing the current situation of the organization in terms of the issue at hand with the key stakeholders. This may include determining where you are at, the challenges you are facing due to the issue you are trying to solve, the reaction of the employees, etc. It is also important to clarify where you want to go or the desired state you want to achieve with the initiative. At the same time, consider what will take place if you fail to take action to change the current situation. A quick SWOT analysis can be done here to understand what strengths you can use to overcome the existing threats and see how you can work on overcoming weaknesses and take advantage of the presented opportunities.
Step 2: Define the Objective: The next step is to identify the expected outcome of the change initiative. Once you have clearly defined the goal(s), write them inside the box in the middle of the template provided above.
Step 3: Identify the Driving Forces: Driving forces are the factors that are in favor of the proposed change or the ones that support the achievement of the defined goal. These are considered positive and usually includes factors like advancing technology, changing industry trends, increasing competition, opinions of customers or shareholders, incentives, etc. In this step, the task is to brainstorm as many driving forces as possible with the team and list them in the relevant field of the worksheet. Of course, people outside the team (interview them) may be consulted such as those who are specialized in the subject area to find the information needed.
Step 4: Identify the restraining forces: These are the factors that block the path to achieving your goal. They tend to restrict the impact of the driving forces. For example, these may include the fear of the individuals, organizational structures and negative attitudes of employees, etc. The list of forces that are against change should be listed on the right-hand field of the worksheet. One must be careful to not be subjective when deciding which forces to add to the force field analysis and which ones to leave out.
Step 5: Evaluate the forces: The influence of each force may be assigned by assigning them scores. Using a numerical scale (10 being extremely strong and 1 being extremely weak), assign each force a score based on the impact they have on the change initiative. Forces may also be assessed by focusing on the impact each of them may have. Based on the effect they have, you can decide whether the proposed change is viable. Accordingly, the forces may be influenced in favor of change: by weakening the restricting forces and strengthening the driving forces.
Step 6: Create an action plan: An action plan should be created based on the method for strengthening driving forces and weakening restraining forces. This will help clarify what needs to be done, who is responsible, the resources needed, and the due dates you need to be concerned about, etc.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Force Field Analysis
Advantages of Force Field Analysis (FFA)
Some of the advantages of using a FFA are:
- It examines the whole situation
- The analysis is clear to understand
- It shows the risk of any change
- Everyone can be involved in determining strengths and weaknesses
- Helps with decision making
Disadvantages of Force Field Analysis (FFA)
Some of the disadvantages of using a FFA are:
- Subjective to peoples scoring system
- It takes time to develop
- No the best over overly complicated situations with lots of variables