Decision Making

by Ian Moore

Force field analysis

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.

Professor Stephen Hawking

This is a framework for looking at the forces that influence a decision. There are two types of force:

  • Helping forces drive movement towards the decision
  • Hindering forces resist movement towards the decision.

Using the technique

The first step is to draw a box within which you write the decision. Then you list all the helping and hindering forces. The example I will use here concerns whether I should buy a new car:

Having spent some time trying to think of all the forces in play, we then assign to each force a strength between 1 and 5, where 1 is weak and 5 is strong:

Note

The forces in a force field analysis are dynamic and will change over time. Doing the same analysis in a month’s or a year’s time will usually produce a different result.

We can then add up the strengths of the forces to give a helping:hindering ratio. In this case it is 7:11, so initially it looks as though the decision will be not to buy a new car because the hindering forces of buying one outweigh the helping forces.

If I actually want the decision to go ahead, I can now look for ways to increase the helping forces and decrease the hindering forces.

Looking at the hindering forces:

  • If I leased a car, I could change the cost from 4 to 2
  • As I don’t have much time to look at other models, I could always just buy the same model, which would change this score from 4 to 1
  • Which model would therefore also decrease from 3 to 1.

So, by decreasing the hindering forces, the analysis now gives 7:4 – much more promising.

In the example, the helping forces will mostly increase with time as reliability, decreased maintenance and fuel economy become more significant. We might say that in a few months these will change to 4, 3 and 3 respectively. (It is unlikely that in a few months’ time I will care any more about my car looking new, so that score would stay the same.) So in a few months’ time, this may change to 11:4 - even more promising.

My conclusion from this analysis is therefore that I should lease the same model of car as I have already, either now or in a few months’ time.