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.

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:

  1. Start by defining the problem and the desired future state by inviting key stakeholders to come together. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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:

  • Recruitment.
  • 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.
  • Cost.
  • Unsuitably qualified or skilled employees.
  • Environmental or economic regulation.

Key takeaways:

  • 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.

Connected Analysis Frameworks

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.
Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.
Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.
A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.
The Monte Carlo analysis is a quantitative risk management technique. The Monte Carlo analysis was developed by nuclear scientist Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 as work progressed on the atom bomb. The analysis first considers the impact of certain risks on project management such as time or budgetary constraints. Then, a computerized mathematical output gives businesses a range of possible outcomes and their probability of occurrence.
A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.
Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.
The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.
It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.
The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.
A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.
A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.
The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.
Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

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