force field analysis

Force Field Analysis – a decision making tool

Introduction to Force Field analysis

force field analysis - kurt lewinThe Force Field analysis is a graphical tool or visualization tool for supporting decision making. It can be used equally by individuals or teams.

In 1951Kurt Lewin developed the concept based in the physical sciences.He originally proposed it as a tool to understand problem based situations in social science and to effect planned change.

Kurt Lewin described a problem situation as one where the difference between the way things are and the way they are desired to be. The principle of force field analysis is that in any situation it the way it is  at any given point because of counterbalancing forces are keeping it that way.

Force does not infer any physical pressure but to the broad range of influences at the time – be they political, personal etc. One way to understand the situation is to analyze the environment or ‘forces’ in it to explore what is supporting the change or resisting the change.  Therefore to effect change we much change the way these forces act on the organization at a given point in time.

Lewin - Force Field Analysis

Using a simple graphical model and having identifying the drivers and restraining forces (through SWOT, PRIMO-F and PESTLE analysis) they can be plotted and discussed by key decision makers.  The visual methodology aids understanding of a complex environment.

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Driving Forces within the Force Field Analysis

Driving forces are those forces affecting a situation that are pushing in a particular direction. Those forces which are supporting of a stated goal or objective.  They tend to initiate a change and keep it going. For example, In terms of improving productivity in a work group, pressure from a supervisor, incentive earnings, and competition. In other situations, politics, legislation, shareholder or public opinion may be the key factors.

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Restraining Forces within the Force Field Analysis

Restraining forces are forces acting to restrain or decrease the driving forces. These may include apathy, hostility, and poor maintenance of equipment.

In some situations you will be striving for equilibrium  – in change situations you will require the driving forces to be stronger than the restraining forces.

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A Process for using the Force Field Analysis approach

Typically users of this model take the following steps:

  1. Define the target of change
  2. Outline towards and resisting the change
  3. Identify which are driving and restraining forces
  4. Analyze the forces to identify which can be changes
  5. Action plan on what can be changed

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Lewin’s change model

Lewin’s model has 3 steps:

1 unfreezing – reducing strength of forces which maintain current equilibrium

2 moving – developing new organisational values, attitudes and behaviours to help move the organisation on

3 refreezing – stablilizing after the changes have been made so that there’s a new equilibrium.

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* References – Lewin K. 1951, ‘Field Theory in Social Science’, Harper and Row, New York

Force Field Analysis

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