Force field analysis, a framework developed by Kurt Lewin, is used to develop goals and initiate change in organizations. Force field analysis looks at the forces that may drive or restrain change, acting as useful tool in change management. The starting point for FFA is the construction of a force field analysis diagram, which allows the factors identified, and the weights assigned each, to be seen graphically.
Force field analysis uses group brainstorming to identify issues, define the causes of those issues, isolate the forces which drive or restrain those causes and develop a plan of action. The plan of action developed has measurable parameters and identifies those responsible for ensuring those parameters are met. A quiet room, large whiteboard and large flip pad are conducive to the brainstorming session.
The force field diagram is nothing more than a graphical interpretation of the forces affecting an certain issue. Forces are identified as driving or restraining and then are assigned weights, usually on a scale of 1 to 5; higher weights are assigned to those forces of greater importance. The diagram, once set up, looks very much so like a pro-and-con list.
The diagram features a vertical line dividing the paper in half long-ways. "Driving Forces" appears on one side, and "Restraining Forces" on the other. The group identifies the different forces driving or restraining the cause of an issue and the attitude towards change. The moderator writes a brief description of the force identified under the appropriate heading. The moderator draws a line underneath the force to indicate its weight, for example, a weight of 5 equals a line of 5 inches. See the example.
Drawing the factors identified by the group on a whiteboard allows the entire group to be able to see what forces have already been identified. It also encourages participation, as many participants may be provoked to participate because they think of a force that has not been named yet or may wish to provide a clarification. Using the whiteboard also prevents the flipchart from becoming crowded.
Once the group has finished identifying the driving and restraining forces of an issue, the moderator draws the actual diagram.
The most obvious benefit of using force field analysis and creating the accompanying diagram is that it is easy. The more comfortable participants feel with a method of analysis, and their own understandings of that method, the more productive the analysis will be.
Drawing a force field analysis diagram has the benefit of graphically interpreting the force field analysis as well. Many advocates for force field analysis say that this feature helps the issues affecting change be clearly seen and the analysis itself to be understood by a variety of audiences. The finished force field diagram can also serve as a reminder of where focus needs to be applied.
Force field analysis does not begin nor end with the drawing of the force field diagram. Before forces are identified, the issues and their causes must be mapped. While this "mapping" can be done formally, as in a printed cause-and-effect analysis (resembles a family tree), or informally, as in simply written on a whiteboard, the mapping has to be completed before the forces affecting the causes of the issues can be identified and weighted.
Likewise, the purpose of force field analysis is the eventual creation of a strategy to mitigate or take opportunity of the forces affecting change. While the force field diagram is useful in and of itself, this step should not be ignored. Whether the driving forces are sufficient or need to be provoked, and/or restraining forces reduced, this is the intent of force field analysis and its strength.