Force field analysis is a great technique for building momentum for change. It helps you to identify and overcome the restraining forces that will hold you back. And it also helps you identify and maximize the driving forces that will create forward momentum!
Use it with your team as you lead change initiatives, it will help you build a strong foundation for successful change.
Force field analysis examples
The easiest way to get started is with some force field analysis examples, they’ll give you an intuitive grasp of the technique. Then I’ll take you through the steps to take in a force field analysis.
Force field analysis example 1: an office relocation
Let’s start with a simple example of this force field analysis technique in action. Imagine you’re considering an office move. Your lease is coming up, and you want to take the opportunity to move to a cheaper location.
Here’s what the force field analysis might look like:
Reduced rental cost and a more creative environment are the driving forces. Reduced rental is probably the most significant driver, so you give it a maximum score of ‘5’.
The restraining forces that could possibly prevent the change (or make it less successful for all involved): staff discontent, the cost of moving, and the temporary drop in productivity. None of these restraining forces are as significant as reduced rental cost, but the cumulative impact could derail the change.
Just visualizing these forces helps to make clear the challenges of leading the change. How will you minimize staff discontent? How can you manage move costs? How can you minimize the impact of a temporary drop in productivity? These questions provide the foundation for developing a plan of action.
Force field analysis example 2: new sales software
Here’s another force field analysis example, a little more complex this time.
As with most change there are costs to be calculated and the immediate impact on productivity must be considered. But these are not the most significant factors in driving successful change. The biggest challenge is usually to lead your teams through change, in this case the sales teams.
When to conduct a force field analysis
It’s best to do this type of analysis early in the planning stage, it will help you and your team to put in place a successful plan of action.
At this early stage you may also consider a premortem analysis, another useful technique to ensure project success. (The brainstorming in a premortem will also help you identity the restraining forces for this force field analysis.)
How to conduct a force field analysis: a step-by-step guide
I hope that the examples I’ve shared give you an intuitive sense of the benefits of force field analysis. Let’s now jump into a more detailed step-by-step guide to the force field analysis technique.
1. Identify your project team
You may have an existing project team, or you may need to pull together a group of people to help you with the analysis. 6-8 people is a good number, ideally with a breadth of different perspectives on the change.
If you’re all collocated and doing this face-to-face, then a meeting room with flipcharts, whiteboards and post-it notes would be ideal. If you’re doing this virtually, then a good virtual collaboration space (such as miro.com) would be ideal.
2. Define the change you want to see
Often this is quite simple, you’ve been given an initiative to complete, and the goal is clear. Sometimes, if you’re initiating the change yourself, it may take more time to define a FAST goal, and you may want to involve your team in defining this goal.
3. Brainstorm the driving and restraining forces
This is when you need your collaboration space. Use these brainstorming techniques to identify the driving and restraining forces that this change initiative will face.
Once you’ve generated plenty of ideas with this expansive thinking, take a break. When you return put your more analytical hat on and assess all the forces you’ve identified. There will likely be some overlap and some duplication. Also, you can likely discard some as relatively insignificant. You should aim for between 2-10 discreet and significant drivers on each side of the force field.
4. Score the driving and restraining forces
Now that you have identified the restraining forces and driving forces you can score them. The greater the score, the more significant the force. A scale of 1-5 works well, it gives you enough to differentiate without being too detailed.
And as you develop the final force field analysis you may want to consider ranking the forces on each side, with the largest at the top and smallest at the bottom. It makes it easier for anyone that is new to the analysis to quickly assess it.
5. Develop your action plan
The force field analysis provides a strong foundation for developing a plan that will successfully drive change and deliver the desired outcome.
You can structure your plan around the output that you’ve just created.
Take each driving force for change, use it to clarify your goals and explore how you can maximize the benefit of the change. And take each restraining force, turn it into a positive, and make it a workstream within your plan.
Take the first force field analysis example above, the office relocation.
You would need to define the targeted rent reduction and define the requirements that will maximize the office as a creative environment. On the restraining forces side, ‘Staff discontent’ would become a project workstream focused on ‘Engaging and enthusing staff’. And because it was such a significant restraining force you know that it will need to be a significant part of your plan for change.
Force field analysis: in conclusion
Force field analysis is an easy-to-use, powerful technique to help you build momentum for change.
It should be used early in the planning process, as a strong foundation for developing a detailed action plan.
The steps to completing a force field analysis are:
- Identify your project team
- Define the change you want to see
- Brainstorm the driving and restraining forces
- Score the driving and restraining forces
- Develop your action plan
First, complete steps 1 & 2, then run a workshop with your team to complete steps 3 & 4. It will probably take you about 90 minutes to run the workshop, great use of your time as a foundation for your action plan.