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Force-Field Analysis In A Nutshell
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the force-field analysis in the 1940s. The force-field analysis is a decision-making tool used to quantify factors that support or oppose a change initiative. Lewin argued that businesses contain dynamic and interactive forces that work together in opposite directions. To institute successful change, the forces driving the change must be stronger than the forces hindering the change.
Lewin argued that businesses contain dynamic and interactive forces that work together in opposite directions. To institute successful change, the forces driving the change must be stronger than the forces hindering the change. Importantly, change can be achieved by either strengthening a driving force or weakening a hindering force.
These factors are central to the force-field analysis because driving and hindering forces in equilibrium cause a business to remain stationary, or stagnant. Indeed, Lewin noted in 1948 that “to bring about any change, the balance between the forces which maintain the social self-regulation at a given level has to be upset.”
Businesses wanting to conduct a force-field analysis should move through these steps:
Start by defining the problem and the desired future state by inviting key stakeholders to come together.
Then, generate a list of driving and hindering forces. To stimulate idea generation, consider those who support or oppose the change, and give potential reasons for both arguments. It’s also helpful to define the risks, constraints, and benefits of a broader project. Most importantly, the business must have adequate resources to see the process through to completion.
With the list of forces, write the driving forces on the left-hand side of a sheet of paper. Write the hindering forces on the right, with the proposed change occupying the center.
Rate each force on a scale to assess their validity. Most businesses use a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a weak force and 10 is a strong force. Then, sum the ratings of both the left and right hand side to determine whether driving forces or hindering forces are in control.
Assess change viability and take action. When instituting change, it is usually more cost-effective to weaken hindering forces than it is to strengthen driving forces. For example, if the expansion of an ice cream business is hindered by locations with cool summers and high transport costs, forces could be weakened by expansion into warmer climates in closer proximity. Having said that, simultaneously strengthening driving forces and weakening hindering forces is also an effective strategy.
Common examples of driving and hindering forces
In the force-field analysis, driving forces that encourage change by supporting a goal or objective include:
External factors such as politics, trade agreements, and shareholders.
Conversely, hindering forces that inhibit progress toward a goal include:
Fear of failure.
Outdated or inflexible management style or culture.
Unsuitably qualified or skilled employees.
Environmental or economic regulation.
The basic premise of the force-field analysis is that counterbalancing forces enhance the status quo in business operations, thereby inhibiting change.
The force-field analysis argues that driving forces encourage change while hindering forces discourage change. When the two forces are in equilibrium, a business must weaken hindering forces or strengthen driving forces – or a combination of both.
In the force-field analysis, common driving forces include innovation and increased competition. Common hindering forces include a lack of resources, regulation, and outdated management structure.
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