Force field analysis for business

Written by renee o'farrell
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Force Field Analysis is a simple tool used to determine the need for change. Very similar to a weighted pro-and-con list, Force Field Analysis is a brainstorming framework that looks at the forces affecting change.

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Definition

Force Field Analysis (FFA) is a concept that was developed by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, in 1943 as a method by which to analyse situations. FFA basically states that there are forces that drive change and those that restrain change. Lewin wrote, "an issue is held in balance by the interaction of two opposing sets of forces--those seeking to promote change (driving forces) and those attempting to maintain the status quo (restraining forces)."

An FFA basically looks at the balance of power between these forces, who the opponents/allies are and how to influence them. Performance is the result of a compromise between the goals of those directly involved. Understanding what impacts those goals is essentially what FFA is about.

Driving Forces

Driving forces are those that compel change. They may be centred on the individual, on the team/department, on the management, on the company itself, on the competition, on the market or on the economy. In order for change to occur, driving forces must outweigh restraining forces. Examples include bonus incentives, new product offerings, technology advancements, budgetary constraints, and sales performance.

Restraining Forces

Restraining forces have a mitigating effect on driving forces and, like driving forces, may manifest on a variety of levels: individual, team/department, management, company, competition, market, economy, and so forth. Examples of restraining forces include poor efficiency, low quality, process issues, support issues, lack of clarity and conflicting goals.

Applying FFA to Business

In order to apply FFA to your business, the following factors must be considered: 1. What is the current situation? 2. What is the desired situation? 3. What will happen if no action is taken? 4. What are the driving forces toward change? How strong are they? 5. What are the restraining forces? How strong are they? 6. Chart the forces by strength. 7. Is a change possible and/or advisable?

Change Management

Lewin defines three possible stages of change: (1) unfreezing: the realisation that change is required; (2) change: the actual occurrence of change; and (3) refreezing: the maintenance that occurs post-change.

Remember that any action, including no action, can have an effect on the forces impacting equilibrium. This equilibrium, in turn, will affect goal congruence; effectively forming what can be a Catch-22. To prevent the occurrence of this scenario, consistent monitoring and re-evaluation is required for FFA to be most effective.

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