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Force Field Analysis


Force field analysis is a technique developed by German psychologist Kurt Lewin.

Lewin believed that people's behaviour is affected by forces in their surrounding environment or 'field'. Successful firms need to be constantly adapting to changes in the environment.

Force field analysis uses the concepts of:

  • Driving forces, and
  • Restraining forces

Driving forces promote the change, while restraining forces hinder the change. Things such as ambitions, goals, needs or fears drive people towards or away from something constitute driving forces. Restraining forces, however, are different in nature as they act to oppose driving forces rather than constituting driving forces in themselves. Force does not imply physical pressure, but refers to the broad range of internal and external influences at a particular time.

Lewin asked two questions:

  • Why does a process continue at its current level under the present circumstances?
  • What conditions would change these circumstances?

Force field analysis can help indicate when the driving and restraining forces are not in balance, creating an opportunity for change. To help move towards a desired change the firm will need to develop a strategy to minimise the restraining forces and/or maximise the driving forces. These form the basis of change management, a theme developed in the next section.

A force field analysis diagram shows the forces in opposite directions.


Force-field analysis

It is common for the strength of the force to be represented by the length of the arrow. The longer the arrow, the stronger the force. The force-field diagram will help managers decide whether a change is worth pursuing by:

  • Examining the balance between driving and restraining forces
  • Identifying the individuals or groups affected by a change
  • Identifying supporters and opponents of the change

Managers will be encouraged to examine each of the forces in turn to establish the underlying factors behind each and consider strategies to inhibit restraining factors and to strengthen driving forces. It is the strategy used to implement the change that is important. Strengthening the drivers would seem the obvious policy, but analysis shows that this can lead to the strengthening of the resistors. Reducing the restraining forces, may be more effective.

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For more detail, read the Wikipedia article on force-field analysis. You can do this in the window below, or you can follow the previous link to open the link in a new window. You may also find the article on force-field analysis useful.