Aim of the tool:
To identify and assess the strengths of the various forces influencing a desired change both supportive and restraining
When to use it?
This tool can be used at the design or evaluation state of an intervention or for decision making on organizational changes
Force Field Analysis, developed by Kurt Lewin (1951), is a widely used tool to inform decision making, particularly with regards to managing change. The method can be used to gain a comprehensive overview and assess the sources and strengths of all different forces acting on a potential organizational issue or intervention.
It is best when carried out in small groups of 6-8 people. Use of flip-over papers or overhead transparencies to make sure everyone can see what is being discussed.
Step 1: Agree on the domain of change to be discussed. This could be a desired (policy) goal or objective.
Step 2: List all supportive forces at work. These are driving forces moving the current state towards the new desired state. List all sources, regardless of their level of interest (even seemingly small or not).
Step 3: List all constraining forces at work. These forces hold the current state back from the desired state.
Step 4: Check if some of the forces can be clustered in common themes.
Step 5: Score all forces or themes of forces based on their level of influence, using a numeric scale:
Example: 1= extremely weak – 5 = extremely strong
Step 8: By adding up the scores on both sides, the feasibility of the desired change can be evaluated given current and potential forces at work.
Step 9: Discuss how the change could be influenced, from strengthening/capitalizing on the supportive forces and by weakening/eliminating the existing restraining forces.
Throughout the exercise, rich discussion, debate and dialogue should emerge. This is an important part of the exercise, so time should be allowed for this. Encourage participants to distinguish between concerns, problems, symptoms and solutions. It is useful to record these, including the consensus’ level on an action or a way forward. In regarded to policy influencing, the aim is to find ways to reduce the restraining forces and to capitalise on the driving forces.
Sources & further reading
Stephen Wells (2006) Force Field Analysis – Mini-Tutorial Quality Management. www.freequality.org/documents/knowledge/Mini-Tutorial.pdf