Strengths & weaknesses of the force field analysis

Written by jenny landis-steward
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Strengths & weaknesses of the force field analysis
Force field analysis looks at opposing forces to change the status quo. (tug-of-war image by Pavel Losevsky from Fotolia.com)

Something's got to change, and soon. But how? The something you want to change could be something as specific as helping a disabled student add a new skill. It could be a little larger: getting the community library into a better building. Even if it's as large as getting the nations of the world to agree to limit their carbon footprint, Force Field Analysis can help you figure out the next steps as long as you take into account both its strengths and its weaknesses.

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Strength: Force Field Analysis Has Just Two Columns

The format of Force Field Analysis is very simple. First, list something you want to see changed. After listing the specific item you want changed, draw a line under the desired goal and then divide the space below that line into two columns. In one column, list the forces that are driving the change. The other column will list the forces that restrain the change. Such a clear format makes it easy to view the forces for and against the change.

Strength: Groups Can Do It Together

Force Field Analysis as a group activity provides the insight of a broader group of people. The variety of perspectives from all the participants can create a more comprehensive view of the common problem. Doing the analysis as a group helps build a consensus on the major obstacles against the change and the factors that support it.

Strength: More Than One Way To Get There

Look at the forces restraining the change you want and choose which one to tackle first, or most strategically. Say the situation is that the current library is a memorial to a beloved town founder. Moving parts of the architectural features of the current building to the new building, or finding a way to symbolically transfer that memorial designation to the new location, would weaken one of the restraints. If another restraint is concern that the new library would cost too much to staff, maybe gathering names and commitments of volunteers from the local AARP would be a better first step. The idea is to weaken some of the negative forces restraining the change. You don't have to get rid of them all.

Weakness: Strengthening the Strengths

When people are concerned that a thing they value is coming under threat, they are likely to rally the troops to their side. When you strengthen the strengths, you may threaten people and find that they strengthen their resistance. On the other hand, when you look toward weakening the resistance, you are joining with those people to find out what matters most to them and to continue to build relationships.

Weakness: Difficulty of Change Is Not Identified

David Smawfield points out that some forces are more difficult to impact than others. However, he recommends using "dotmocracy" as a way to discover the forces that are the best ones to consider addressing first. Dotmocracy is a technique to prioritise a group of items from a list. Each group member is allowed a number of "votes," and can put all of them on one item or share them among several items. At the conclusion of voting, the top three or five items represent the group priority.

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