Force field analysis

Force field analysis is an approach used to look at change and consider how it should be handled. It can be applied to any type of change.

What is it used for?

This tool is used to assess how difficult it will be to implement a desired change. With this model, it is possible to assess what the forces for and against your change are, and how strong each pressure is. In particular, it can help you to understand and analyse the factors that will be against your change so you can act in advance to minimise these.

Force field analysis is very important in the implementation of changes, particularly where people are involved. Many people do not like change and resist it. If you can work out in advance where resistance may lie, you can approach the change in a way that negates these factors for individuals, helping the change process to be managed much more smoothly.

It can also help you to decide whether it is worth trying to make a change or not. If there are too many factors against the change and if the change is not business critical, then you may decide not to go ahead on the basis of the analysis.

How do I use it?

First, in the centre of a piece of paper, write down your idea for change. On the left-hand side of this, in a column, you can then list all the forces that are supporting the change (driving forces). On the right-hand side, in another column, you can detail all of the forces that will be acting against the change (restraining forces). It may also be helpful to rate the forces by assigning scores to them – for example, ranging from 1 (weak) through to 5 (strong). In this way, you can analyse how easy or otherwise it might be to implement any given change.

Types of forces to consider might include:

  • People
  • Values
  • Regulations
  • Relationships
  • Organisational structure
  • Interests of others
  • Costs
  • Attitudes
  • Traditions.

Once you have this information, you can take one of two approaches (or a bit of both) in order to implement the change:

  1. Increase the pressures for change
  2. Work to decrease the forces against change.

Approach number one, if used in isolation, can sometimes work against you. People who do not want to see a change implemented may only become more difficult and obstructive if a change is forced upon them. However, working to reduce the factors against change can go a long way towards a successful change implementation. If you break down the barriers that people have and win them over, they will be more likely to support you and the change.

What are its limitations?

As with most models, force field analysis cannot tell you what to do about a situation. It can only provide you with the information. You will still need to decide whether to increase pressures for change or decrease the forces working against it. Also, the analysis is only as good as the information that is put into it. If information is omitted, the change implementation plan may not be successful. For a really effective analysis, it is best to brainstorm with different parties until you understand the full range of driving and restraining forces.

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