Change is the only thing that is permanent, even cells in our body change every day and today we don’t have any cells that we were born with. According to researchers, the body replaces itself with a largely new set of cells every seven years to 10 years, and some of our most important parts are revamped even more rapidly.
To be fair these changes are beyond our control. However, there are many that we are expected to manage effectively and sometimes lead others through a change. For these changes, we need effective change management and decision-making tool.
Fortunately, Force field analysis is one such tool. It is simple yet very effective and was proposed by Kurt Lewin primarily for social science. The principle, however, finds application in various fields summed up below
- Organizational development
- Change management
- Decision MakingPsychology (individual, Social, community)
- Process management
- Social science
You may be wondering how a principle has such wide applications? This is the real strength of the tool. Force Field Analysis is a very simple principle which allows you to develop a framework that helps you in all areas where change management is one of the critical factors.
Understanding the concept of Force Field Analysis
Let us understand the concept of Force Field Analysis through an example. We all have ceiling fans in our house, it serves us fresh air while attached to the ceiling through a downrod. While it sits, there are two forces acting at it.
The first one is the gravitational pull of the earth or the driving force if you may call it and second the downrod acting as a counter against gravity and ensuring that the fan doesn’t fall on your face.
Two forces keep the fan there. Gravity pushes down and the download resists this, keeping the ceiling fan in its place.
Equilibrium in Force Field Analysis
Two counter acting forces in the ceiling fan ensures that fan remains in its place and achieve what is called an equilibrium. Now, if you ever wanted to break this equilibrium, not suggested for your fan though, you need to either increase gravity of the earth so that it overcomes the resisting force of downrod.
Or, you can decide to weaken the downrod and let gravity play its part and pull down the fan.
If you followed through the example you have understood the concept of Force Field Analysis. Mr. Kurt Lewin applied exactly this thinking to his theory of change within social situations – to people
Force Field Analysis as a tool
As in the example above the idea behind Force Field Analysis is that current situations are maintained by an equilibrium between forces that drive change like gravity in our example and others that resist change like the downrod in the example.
For a change to happen, the driving forces must be strengthened or the resisting forces weakened.
How to use the Force Field Analysis tool
There are four major steps involved in using the Force Field Analysis as tool. It will help you in change management, leading people through change and efficient decision-making.
Step 1: Define you Change Objective
The first simple step is to clearly define your change objective, It may also include your goal and vision and write it down in the rectangular box in the middle. It is important that it is defined accurately.
Step 2: Identify forces driving change
Discuss and brainstorm, explore data, find out facts to identify all the forces that are driving your change. These forces or drivers can be both internal and external.
- A need to improve service quality
- Need for automation
- Lack of specialized manpower
- Organizational culture
- Change in buying behavior of customers
- Major Change is demographics
- Change is technology
- Regulation Change
This exercise has similarity with finding our strength and opportunities in SWOT Analysis.
Step 3: Identify forces against the change
Now in step-3, you need to identify all the forces that are working against the change. These are also external and internal.
- High cost of relocation
- Employee disagreement
- Prevailing organizational structure
- The existing agreement with suppliers
- Contractual obligation
- Environmental policy
- Complexity of operation
Step 4: Give weight to all forces whether for or against the change
Further, you need to assign a weight or score to each of these forces based on their strength. Not all driving force or opposing force are of equal strenth. It is recommended to use a 5 point rating scale where 5 represents the strongest.
For a complex change you may also want to use 10 point rating scale, this depends on how critical the change is and the number of driving and opposing forces. Still, most of the time a five-point rating scale will work just fine for you.
Now your force field analysis will look similar to this image from the example section
Step 5: Adjust forces to get desired results
After the exercise of Force Field Analysis is complete, you need to use it in your decision making process. There are two simple outcomes
- You decide to move forward with your decision
- You decide to stop the change initiative and not move forward with the decision
In most scenario number 2 is not an option, this is where you will use Force Field Analysis as a strategic change management tool.
- Look at the forces working against and try to implement actions necessary to either reduce or eliminate their strength
- You train your staff to adapt to new technology
- Educate all the stakeholders
Force Field Analysis Example
The tool is not only used where organizational changes are required but you can also use it for individual decision making. Let us take an example where you want to use Force Field Analysis for a change in job.
- After you perform step-1 and step-2 your sheet will look something like this. I have tried to keep it very simple to make it easy to understand.
Please note that for simplicity I have used three driving forces and three opposing forces, but this is not the norm. You need to use as many as possible provided they are one of the forces.
2. Now you need to provide weight to each of the force after adequate consultation, fact check and brainstorming. The sheet will now look like this:
3. Clearly, after giving weight you have +1 for the driving forces. You can now take the decision which favors moving into the new job. But what if the opposing forces had higher scores? You need to work on the opposing forces and weaken them.
- Learn new skills to mitigate performance pressure
- Discuss and seek clarity about your job role from your new organization
- Discuss with all people related to your new organizations and friends who could help to find a way to quickly and positively establish yourself in your new organization.