Force Field Analysis

Simple tools are available to make life easier. One such is the Force Field Analysis. It simply lists the pros and cons of any proposed action on a straightforward chart that makes it easy to see and compare the drivers and constraints. The forces and factors that support or work against the solution of an issue or problem are identified so the positives can be reinforced and the negatives can be eliminated or reduced.

When used with a group, it forces people to think together about all aspects of making the desired change a permanent one. It encourages people to agree about the relative priority of factors on each side of the chart. It also encourages honest reflection on the real underlying roots of a problem and its solution. It is not only applicable with a group, but you can use it to structure your decision making process when using it by yourself.

To use it, simply draw a large letter “T” on a flip chart if using it with a group or on a clean sheet of paper if using it by your self. At the top of the T, write the issue or problem that you plan to analyze. To the far right, write a description of the ideal solution you would like to achieve. Write a plus symbol (+) over the left column and a minus symbol (-) over the right hand column.

Brainstorm the forces that are driving you towards the ideal solution, either internal or external, and list them down the left column. Then brainstorm the forces that are restraining movement toward the ideal state and list them down the right column. Draw arrows from each item toward the centerline of the T so as to portray them as opposing forces.

The next step is to prioritize the driving forces that can be strengthened or identify the restraining forces that would allow the most movement toward the ideal state if they were removed. Discuss with your group in a rational manner until you have reached true consensus. It may take longer to make a decision if you have to struggle until you have consensus but implementation time will be much faster if everyone agrees on the course of action.

When choosing a target for change, remember that simply pushing the positive factors for a change can have the opposite effect.  It is often more helpful to remove barriers. This tends to remove the resistance to change attitude that we all share to some extent and allows us to move forward. Someone once said, “I am not resistant to change, I just don’t want to be changed.”