We get bombarded with multiple ideas during our work; each idea looks great on the surface and generates excitement amongst the stakeholders. Scarce corporate resources require that we look at the feasibility quotient of the notion, before jumping the gun. Your manager expects you to do the analysis before you table the proposal.  Let us look at using Force field analysis to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Force field analysis is a simple but powerful technique for building an understanding of the forces that may drive and resist a proposed idea/change if is implemented. This technique was developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin to analyze what he termed driving and restraining forces influencing situations. Driving forces push for and initiate change in a particular direction. Restraining forces act to restrain or decrease the driving forces. For any idea to be successfuly implemented, the driving forces must exceed the restraining forces. Equilibrium or balance gets achieved when the sum of the driving forces once again equals the sum of the restraining forces.

When to Use

In addition to its intended purpose of analyzing driving and restraining forces in a proposed change situation, force field analysis can also be used to:

•    List pros and cons.
•    List actions and reactions.
•    List strengths and weaknesses.
•    Compare ideal situations and reality.
•    Compare perceptions of opposing parties in negotiating situations.
•    List “ what we know ” and “ what we don’t know. ”

Procedure

The typical sequence of steps involved in force field analysis follows:

Step 1.

Describe the issue, problem, plan, or proposed change. Draft a brief, objective statement of the problem or challenge the team is facing and put that description in the middle of the worksheet.

Step 2:

Start by defining and listing all the forces that are enabling the change on one side of the sheet in a column and all restraining forces impeding the change in another column on the worksheet, below the problem description defined in step 1. Assign a score to each force, depending upon on its intensity, starting from 1 for feeble to 5 for a dominant force.

Step 3:

Review the completed worksheet to decide whether the change is viable. If the total of rating scores for driving forces is larger than the total for restraining forces, change is not only feasible but also needed to move toward equilibrium and balance. For an idea to go towards successful implementation,  the team could potentially strengthen the listed positive forces, weaken or minimize a listed negative force or add a potentially new positive force to the list.

One way to begin the force field analysis is to have team members individually create statements describing driving and restraining forces. In this way, all perceptions of the situation can emerge before the discussion starts. Individual comments can be posted to a shared database, put into a shared file, or added to a private section of the team ’ s intranet Web page. The team can then schedule a face – to – face meeting or synchronous computer meeting (with access to shared applications such as interactive whiteboards or Skype) to process the individually created statements and form a standard description of the driving and restraining forces. Adding an audio link (through audio conferencing) may also be useful. From this newly constructed team statement, members can brainstorm actions to reduce restraining forces and increase driving forces toward an ideal change.

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