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.
- Understanding the force-field analysis
- Moving through the force-field analysis process
- Common examples of driving and hindering forces
- Force-Field Analysis Case Study
- Key takeaways
- Connected Analysis Frameworks
Understanding the force-field analysis
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.”
Moving through the force-field analysis process
Businesses wanting to conduct a force-field analysis should move through these steps:
Define problem and key stakeholders
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 a broader project’s risks, constraints, and benefits.
Most importantly, the business must have adequate resources to see the process through to completion.
Organize the driving forces on a sheet
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 sides 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, suppose locations with cool summers and high transport costs hinder the expansion of an ice cream business.
In that case, forces could be weakened by expansion into warmer climates in closer proximity.
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:
- Fluctuating market conditions.
- Technology and innovation.
- Increased competition.
- Incentives, rewards, or bonuses.
- 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.
Force-Field Analysis Case Study
As an example of a force field analysis, imagine an internal analysis of the factors affecting a company’s adoption of a new marketing strategy to understand what forces can be leveraged to enhance the strategy.
Some of these driving forces might include factors such as the potential for increased revenue and market share, top management’s support, and the strategy’s alignment with the company’s overall goals.
The restraining forces might include increased costs, employees’ resistance to change, and potential adverse effects on the company’s reputation.
Based on the results of the force field analysis, the company might decide to focus on strengthening the driving forces and mitigating the restraining forces to successfully implement a more effective marketing strategy.
For instance, the company by providing additional training to employees to help them understand and support the new strategy and communicate the benefits of the new strategy to key stakeholders to gain their support.
And develop strategies to address those factors and successfully implement the change.
- 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 an outdated management structure.
To perform a force-field analysis, perform the following steps:
- Define the problem and key stakeholders
- Then, generate a list of driving and hindering forces
- Organize the driving forces on a sheet
- Rate each force on a scale to assess their validity
- Assess change viability and take action
The Force-Field analysis is used to identify the forces driving or restraining a change or decision. That is based on the idea that change is driven by a balance of forces and that to implement a change successfully, the driving forces must be strengthened, and the restraining forces must be weakened. Take the example of a company that identifies forces behind increased revenue and market share, top management’s support, and the strategy’s alignment with the company’s overall goals, thus enhancing or restructuring its marketing strategy.
Connected Analysis Frameworks
Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Business Models, Tech Business Models, Jobs-To-Be Done, Design Thinking, Lean Startup Canvas, Value Chain, Value Proposition Canvas, Balanced Scorecard, Business Model Canvas, SWOT Analysis, Growth Hacking, Bundling, Unbundling, Bootstrapping, Venture Capital, Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Generic Strategies, Porter’s Five Forces, PESTEL Analysis, SWOT, Porter’s Diamond Model, Ansoff, Technology Adoption Curve, TOWS, SOAR, Balanced Scorecard, OKR, Agile Methodology, Value Proposition, VTDF Framework, BCG Matrix, GE McKinsey Matrix, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.