Force Field Analysis

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What is Force Field Analysis

What is Force Field Analysis and how do we use one of the great change management tools for managing change in the workplace and for achieving successful organizational change management strategies?

Well just about anyone who knows what is force field analysis will say that it works as one of the effective change management tools used as part of the organizational change process and business improvement initiatives.

Of the many possible change management methodologies available, as a change management consultant we train clients to use the force field analysis tool to bring the project enablers and restraining forces out into the open.

When managing change in the workplace we use force field analysis to assign actions to required activities and to get important things done. It is also one of the great change management tools for achieving effective communication in the workplace and effective business meetings.

So let's begin looking at force field analysis, 'a great change management tool!'

How do we identify, sort through and deal with the forces that are working for and against us when we are trying to implement any type of change in the workplace?

Imagine now we are doing a project implementation. What are the aspects of the business, people of influence, the decision makers, and the systems and processes which are driving and enabling the project to be successful? And who and what are the aspects that are restraining or disabling the project?

Generally, regardless of what it is, improved infrastructure, new processes, people, or systems, strategies, and so on, there will be those who want things to remain the same (keep the status quo) and those who are pushing for change. Generally we find ourselves in a negative situation for the business, with these two forces working against each other.

As change agents and owners of an improvement opportunity we want to reduce or eliminate the restraining and disabling forces and we want to strengthen the enablers, the forces that are helping us.

Force field analysis is a change management tool we use to help us do this.

Using the force field analysis change management tool helps us to achieve successful organizational change by helping us identify and deal with the various forces, influences and situations that are working for and against us.

By continually using the tool as part of the change management process it helps us to move through the various project management phases with a positive momentum to implementation success.

Force Field Analysis Diagram - with Action Plan Template

The force field diagram is T shaped with enabling forces listed down the left side, and restraining forces listed down the right side.

Arrows face into the center line to the appointed strength score of the enabling and restraining forces.

An important purpose for using the force field diagram is to assist the change owner, and the people involved to visualize the forces and there strengths, to visually analyze and prioritize them and to generate action items.

It is common to see this tool used with the goal, plan or action written in the centre between the arrows. Though based on my applied experiences as a management consultant, I find it is better to write the change proposal and meeting purpose at the top of the page, and to focus on that. I have observed meetings where people write multiple proposals and goals down the centre of the force field diagram, then lose clear direction and focus away from achieving any one key aspect, and the meetings have become less effective.

force field analysis

BENEFITS of doing a Force Field Analysis

  • By using the force field analysis change management tool early in the change management process it helps us to weigh up the 'for's and against' and the importance of these factors to decide whether a plan is worth implementing.

  • The Kurt Lewin force field analysis change management tool (developed by Kurt Lewin) benefits us by helping us identify challenges that lie ahead so that we can plan to strengthen the forces supporting the decision and take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the forces apposing it.

  • Force field analysis benefits supervisors, team leaders, managers, and agents of change by helping them to characterize the nature of the change. Is it a positive or negative change from the perspective of those affected? Is implementing the change going to be easy or difficult?

  • Doing a force field analysis helps to provide an idea of the timeline required, and additional resource requirements that may be necessary to drive the project through to completion.

  • If skills are restraining the project this analysis can help identify the training required.

  • If systems are not supportive, specialist can use this change management tool to identify where re-design of the systems is necessary.

  • Using the force field diagram as a visual aid helps simplify communication and to reduce communication barriers within a group setting.

  • It is a great change management tool for using in team based projects, when attempting to identify issues and reduce resistance to change.

  • If people of influence are not supporting the change initiatives this analysis benefits us by helping to open the dialogue, to work out what the issues are. Understanding there are several reasons why there may be resistance to change, using force field analysis as part of the broader organizational change process helps us to identify the reasons, bring them to the service and resolve them.

  • Using the force field diagram assists the group in developing an understanding among all the groups members of the opinions and the concerns associated with the situation.

  • In instances where there is more than one person responsible for successful implementation of the change, benefits include it helping us to identify those sources of power and influence that are effecting the implementation, so then the people involved can determine how effective they themselves may be in being able to get the change through to successful completion, in consideration of the others responsible.

  • Force field analysis benefits it uses as one of the positively focused problem solving exercises when dealing with resistance to change when managing change in the workplace. It is a practical change management tool for supervisors, team leaders, taskforces and groups, managers, and change management specialists who are trying to get changes or improvements implemented.

  • Force Field Analysis Template - for Effective Business Meetings

    force field analysis

    The proposal may be to install new technology on the factory floor.

    The purpose may be to identify issues that are foreseen will effect the installation and to compile a list of actions to minimize or eliminate the issues.

    How To Do a Force Field Analysis

    Force Field Analysis Steps
    1. Bring together a team meeting, of all the relevant people, and those who have proposed and/or who are driving the project. The force field analysis template and diagram are the center piece of the meeting.

    2. At the top of the force field diagram template the change proposal is stated. i.e. Install new manufacturing technology on the factory floor.

    3. A purpose for the meeting is also written on the template. I.e. The purpose may be to agree on the necessary tasks going forward. Use an agenda to control time and topic.

    4. Then begin a brainstorming process to list all the forces down the left hand side that are enabling and supporting the proposal. Down the right hand side list all the forces that are against the change and that are disabling or restraining the proposal. Identify the barriers to being successful, individual personal requirements and team and crew requirements.

      Brainstorm questions such as which restraining force can we reduce or eliminate by making a process improvement. Which restraining forces can we make a driving force by delivering training, or improving workplace communication? What are some of the things internal or external to the project that if we introduce would support and or build up more driving forces for the project.

    5. Assign a score from 1 to 5 for each enabling and disabling force. Where 1 is a weak force and 5 is strong.

    6. Then cross out the forces that no-body has any control over, or cannot influence or change. Then restate the proposal to provide a clear picture of the things for and against that we can influence. Note: Be mindful of the difference between 'can't do it' and 'can't be bothered'.

    7. Then (depending on the size of the group and time line until the next meeting, etc) priorities the top 3 to 5 most disabling forces and most supporting forces. These are the aspects of the business that we are going to try and either eliminate or strengthen before the next meeting.

    8. Focus on removing or mitigating the disablers first, while ensuring the benefits of any action taken will outweigh the total costs.

    9. Then on the action plan template document the actions that are required to be completed to meet the proposed change. Then assign a person responsible to each action and a required completion date. Actions listed on the action plan template should begin with a verb.

    10. The above process has enabled us to identify the what, who, when, where, why. How well the responsible individual may do in achieving the completion of their actions may be a facet of their particular skill set, role or position. This may also be identified and listed if necessary. The important thing is that the process leads to action items being completed and any new forces identified are fed into the force field analysis process.
    11. Complete the Force Field Analysis Successful Unsuccessful No Change Template.

    12. Assign an individual as the chairperson for the meeting to maintain the list of forces raised, the action list, and the actions that have been successful, unsuccessful or that still remain the same. All documents should be distributed to all members of the meeting.

    13. Set the agenda, the time, date, location, etc for the next meeting. At the next meeting review again the force field diagram and action plan list, and ask did the actions strengthen of eliminate the issues, or do they remain the same. Discuss the issues and repeat the force field analysis process.

    14. By continuing the process the disabling forces will be reducing, and the enabling forces will be the same or increasing. If this is not happening then the process is probably not working for the team. Questions would then be raised in regards, the effectiveness of the meetings, the strengths of the team responsible and whether the roles and responsibilities of the people involved are clearly defined.

    15. Importantly, if individuals themselves are not completing their actions, and do not have appropriate feedback for the group then it may be identified they are themselves a disabling force and this should need to be addressed.

    Important note for Force Field Analysis Meetings

    On several occasions as a management consultant I have observed force field analysis meetings. In some instances they began firstly by recognizing the required attendees who had not attended. With further investigation these instances highlighted to the other members of the group, a restraining force.

    When actions were not being completed and no feedback was provided to the group at the appropriate time, the individuals were demonstrating their resistance to change.

    These issues are barriers to organizational change that the force field analysis process will benefit by helping to bring to the surface.

    Various problem solving techniques and problem solving exercises for dealing with change and for managing resistance to change that we undertook at that time included familiarizing them with what the future will be like, and focusing on support points. In this way we reduced the resistance and strengthen the change support.

    Force Field Analysis Video

    This video provides a detailed explanation of force field analysis and how to do it, a brief summary of Kurt Lewin and very briefly some background to the Kurt Lewin methods theories and applied psychology.

    Summary of Kurt Lewin Force Field Analysis

    Force field analysis was developed among the broad spectrum of the Kurt Lewin methods theories psychological and scientific research studies of the early 1900's. In the 21st century this change management tool remains a valuable resource for your business.

    Undertaking force field analysis delivers benefits that strengthen the chances of achieving successful organizational change.

    If force field analysis is applied together with the thinking behind the Kurt Lewin 3 phases change management model of 'unfreeze, change, freeze', the substance of an organizations approach to the change management process can also be further enhanced.

    Read here for a summary of Kurt Lewin change theory and the Kurt Lewin 3 phases change management model.

    Incorrect Variations

    The Kurt Lewin force field analysis is often found incorrectly referred to and incorrectly spelt forcefield analysis or the forcefields change management tool, or forcefields analysis.

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