Force Field Analysis

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Analyzing change factors: the driving forces and the restraining forces. Explanation of Force Field Analysis and Diagram. Kurt Lewin.



Kurt Lewin

Kurt Lewin was an American social psychologist. He has contributed to science group dynamics and action research, and he is regarded one of the founders of modern psychology. But Lewin is perhaps best-known for developing Force Field Analysis and Force Field Diagrams.

Force Field Analysis Diagram LewinLewin's view on organizations

According to Kurt Lewin, an issue is held in balance by the interaction of two opposing sets of forces. Those seeking to promote change: the driving forces. And those attempting to maintain the status quo: the restraining forces. Lewin viewed organizations as systems in which the present situation was not a static pattern. But a dynamic balance ("Equilibrium") of forces working in opposite directions. In order for any change to occur, the driving forces must exceed the restraining forces, thus shifting the equilibrium. Compare: Catastrophe Theory.

The Force Field Diagram

The Force Field Diagram is a model built on this idea that forces are both driving and restraining change. These forces include: persons, habits, customs, and attitudes. A Force Field Diagram can be used at any level: personal, project, organizational, network, to visualize the forces that may work in favor and against change initiatives. The diagram helps its user to picture the "war" between forces around a given issue. Usually, a planned change issue is described at the top. Below this, there are two columns. The driving forces are listed in the left column, and the restraining forces in the right-hand column. Arrows are drawn towards the middle. Longer arrows indicate stronger forces. The idea is to understand, and to make explicit, all the forces acting on a given issue.

Use of the Force Field Analysis method

  • Investigate the balance of power involved in an issue.
  • Identify the most important players (stakeholders) and target groups for a campaign on the issue.
  • Identify opponents and allies.
  • Identify how you can influence each target group

Steps in a Force Field Analysis? Process

  1. Describe the current situation.
  2. Describe the desired situation.
  3. Identify where the current situation will go if no action is taken.
  4. List all the forces driving change toward the desired situation.
  5. List all the forces resisting change toward the desired situation.
  6. Discuss and interrogate all of the forces: are they valid? Can they be changed? Which are the critical ones?
  7. Allocate a score to each of the forces using a numerical scale e.g. 1 is extremely weak and 10 is extremely strong.
  8. Chart the forces. List the driving forces on the left. And list the restraining forces on the right.
  9. Determine whether change is viable and progress can occur.
  10. Discuss how the change can be affected by decreasing the strength of the restraining forces or by increasing the strength of driving forces.
  11. Remember that increasing the driving forces or decreasing the restraining forces may increase or decrease other forces or even create new ones.

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