The force field analysis is a model that can be used in business to evaluate the feasibility of proposed organizational change projects.
When used in conjunction with other change management tools and models, the force field analysis can help improve the chances of successfully leading business changes.
In this post, we’ll learn more about this model and how it can help change managers.
What is the force field analysis of change?
In a nutshell, the force field analysis is a framework for understanding the factors that influence a potential change. In the context of business, the changes looked at are usually organizational changes.
The model, developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin, describes situations as an equilibirum between two types of forces – forces that are either driving movement toward a goal (helping forces) or blocking movement toward a goal (hindering forces).
The forces that are driving change (helping forces)
Many types of forces can push a business change forward, such as:
- Market forces
- Digital innovation and disruption
- Geopolitical change
- Organizational culture change
- Legacy IT systems
- Poor employee performance
The degree of support for a change usually correlates with the need for a change and the chances of success. Those forces, however, must be weighed against opposing forces.
The forces that are blocking change (hindering forces)
Changes are prevented by forces that oppose change, which maintain equilibrium, as mentioned above.
In a business scenario, examples of hindering forces can include:
- Organizational inertia
- Mindsets and attitudes
- Financial constraints
- Poor employee training
- Government regulations
The general idea behind this model is that hindering forces can prevent a project’s success if they are not handled properly.
By properly using the force field analysis, however, change managers can improve the likelihood of success.
Why Use the Force Field Analysis?
The force field analysis can help change managers and leaders:
- Reduce barriers to change. Understanding the forces that are driving or hindering your work can help identify what forces are preventing forward movement and what is needed to overcome those barriers.
- Inform decision-making. Like other business assessment tools, the force field analysis can offer insights and, in turn, help stakeholders and project leaders make better decisions.
- Solve problems. An analysis of helping and hindering forces can also help decision makers better understand a business problem and, as a result, create better solutions.
- Create an effective communication plan. In an organizational setting, attitudes and mindsets are common hindering forces. Understanding the nature of those emotions can help managers create more effective change management communication plans.
- Reduce resistance to change. Employee resistance is a common obstacle to change, and in many cases, it will appear as one of the hindering forces in a force field analysis. Understanding the reasons for that resistance can help change leaders develop strategies for reducing it.
- Assess costs. A force field analysis can help managers understand exactly what types of resources are needed to minimize hindering forces and maximize helping forces. That information can, in turn, aid with budgeting.
- Influence the outcomes of a change project. Ultimately, a well-conducted force field analysis can increse the chances of a change project’s success, making this tool one of the most valuable in the change manger’s toolbox.
Finally, another reason to use this tool is that it is easy to implement – the force field analysis can be conducted with little effort and it can offer quick insights into a business scenario.
The Force Field Analysis in Practice
Here is how the force field analysis can be applied:
- Describe the proposed change project
- Identify helping forces
- Identify hindering forces
- Weigh the two types of forces
- Find ways to strengthen helping forces and weaken hindering forces
As with any other major business initiative, it is important to evaluate proposals carefully.
The force field analysis can be useful, but it should be used in conjunction with other assessments and analytical tools.
Using the Force Field Analysis with Change Readiness Assessments
Change readiness refers to how open, willing, and capable an organization is to a particular change proposal.
Force field analyses can help assess readiness, especially if they are augmented with assessments such as:
- Employee surveys and polls
- Technology acceptance model questionnaires
- Skills assessments
- Culture assessments
- Digital maturity assessments
- SWOT analyses
- Gap analyses
All of this information should be combined to create a detailed overview of the change proposal, its feasibility, its potential costs, and its chances for success.
The force field analysis is a simple, easy-to-use tool that can help managers quickly assess a proposed change project.
By understanding the forces that both support and hinder change, stakeholders can determine whether the change should be implemented, what would be needed to succeed, and more.
For best results, this tool should be applied as part of a comprehensive project assessment that includes other analyses, such as those listed in the previous section.