Force Field Analysis is a simple but powerful technique for
building an understanding of the forces that will drive and
resist a proposed change. It consists of a two column form, with
driving forces listed in the first column, and restraining forces
in the second.
The force field diagram is derived from the work of social
psychologist Kurt Lewin. According to Lewin’s theories,
human behavior is caused by forces – beliefs, expectations,
cultural norms, and the like – within the "life space" of
an individual or society. These forces can be positive, urging us
toward a behavior, or negative, propelling us away from a
behavior. A force field diagram portrays these driving
forces and restraining forces that affect a central
question or problem. A force field diagram can be used to compare
any kind of opposites, actions and consequences, different points
of view, and so on.
In the context of process improvement, driving forces could be
seen as pushing for change while restraining forces stand in the
way of change. A force field diagram is used to analyze these
opposing forces and set the stage for making change possible.
Change will not occur when either the driving forces and
restraining forces are equal, or the restraining forces are
stronger than the driving forces. For change to be possible, the
driving forces must overcome the restraining forces. Usually, the
most effective way to do this it to diminish or remove
restraining forces. It can be tempting to try strengthening the
driving forces instead, but this tends to intensify the
opposition at the same time.
The balance sheet structure of the force field diagram makes
it applicable to situations other than comparing driving and
restraining forces as well. For example, you could use it to list
possible actions and reactions, compare ideal situations and
reality, or in negotiation, weigh what you want from someone with
what they would have to face if they agreed.
Setting Up Your Force Field Diagram
- Draw two columns, with one header running across both.
- Write the planned change in the header area.
- Label the left column "driving forces", and the right one
- List the forces in the two columns.
- Encourage creative but realistic thinking.
- Forces seek equilibrium. To encourage change, create
asymmetry between forces.
- Which of the restraining forces can be removed or
Force Field: Other Uses
You can also use a force field diagram to:
- List pro's and con's.
- List actions and reactions.
- List strengths and weaknesses.
- Compare ideal situations and reality.
- In negotiation, compare the perceptions of opposing
- List "what we know" in the left column, and "what we don't
know" in the right.
Create Force Field Diagrams with PathMaker.