Force Field Analysis

Introduction

When firms are analysing whether to implement a course of action they will often weigh up the reasons for and against implementation. In 1951 Kurt Lewin developed a model that allowed managers to visualise these points. He called it the Force Field Analysis Model. The reasons "for" and "against" implementing decisions are known as forces.


The Diagram below shows an example Force Field Analysis

Force Field Analysis Diagram

What Does Force Field Analysis Involve

The first step in carrying out a force field analysis, involves drawing up a list of reasons to follow a particular route; the driving forces and a list of reasons to not go down a particular route which are called the restraining forces.

Next allocate each of the forces a rating based on how strong (severe) that reason is. The Force Field force ratings run from 0 - 5 where 0 is a neutral force without an impact and 5 is a strong reason with a strong impact.

Finally add up the scores for the driving forces and add up the scores for the restraining forces so that you have an overall score for implementing a course of action and a score for not proceeding. The list with the highest score wins and that is the decision the firm should follow. If the difference between the total score for driving forces and restraining forces is small, you may need to conduct further research or review how the score for each force was allocated.

Example Force Field Analysis

Lets use the Force Field Analysis Diagram above to complete an example Force Field Analysis.

In the diagram above, the for and against reasons have been assessed as follows:

Driving Forces - Positive reasons in favour of the decision Driving Forces Score Restraining Forces - negative reasons against the decision Restraining Forces Score
The customers trust the brand 4 Cost implications 4
It will help the firm to move into new market segments 3 Risky because it is a new business area 3
Potential for sales increase 4 Could prompt negative reaction from competitors e.g. price cuts 2
Driving Forces Total Score 11 Restraining Forces Total Score 9

As you can see from the table above the final scores are quite close. If the firm would like to extend the brand into the cereal market i.e. make the decision, they could look at ways to reduce the likelihood or severity of the against forces. For example to reduce the risks involved in moving into a new business area the firm could buy a established firm already involved in the business area the firm would like to move into.

Sometimes (for example due to competitor activity or government rules) a firm may have to implement a change even if it doesn't want to. In this instance after a force field analysis exercise the firm should review how it can weaken negative (no) forces and strengthen positive (yes) forces; this will improve the success of the change.

Summary

To summarise a force field analysis helps businesses to weigh up the reasons for and against a particular business decision through a visual diagram. The analysis involves assigning a score to each of the forces impacting on a decision. A force field analysis is usually carried out for strategic level decisions rather than every day operational decisions.

If you would like further information about change management visit Lewin's unfreeze-freeze-refreeze approach.

 

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