Lewin’s Force Field AnalogyLewin uses an analogy of a force field to describe why organizations are sometimes stable, and why they sometimes change. He identified that there are always two sets of forces at work. One set drives change while the other restrains change. When the forces are equal, then organizations maintain stability.
However, when the driving forces are stronger than the restraining forces, change occurs. There are two ways to achieve change. You can:
- Increase the forces driving change
- Decrease the forces restraining change
Using Lewin’s Force Field AnalysisLewin’s force field analysis involves identifying the:
- Driving forces behind your idea for change
- Restraining forces that may block the success of your idea
- People’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, values, feelings, workloads and their competing interests
- Structural issues, such as role clarity, the reporting relationships, and the degree of autonomy that people have
- Established systems for how different things get done in your organization
- Brainstorming a list of driving and restraining forces that could be in play
- Ranking the strength of each force (e.g. 1 being weak and 5 being strong)
- Highlighting those forces that have a high impact (e.g. ranking 4-5)
- Brainstorm ideas for increasing the strength of potentially strong driving forces
- Brainstorm ideas for eliminating or decreasing strong restraining forces
- Eliminating any ideas that are impractical in your situation
- Grouping similar ideas together
- Deciding which ideas represent the best of the rest
After the Force Field AnalysisAfter doing the above, you need to decide whether your idea for change is worth the time, money and effort that will be required. Don’t be afraid to make the call that your idea for change is not feasible. However, if you do decide to press on, you need to involve others in conducting the above steps. You could start with your leadership team, then 1 or 2 representative staff, and then your staff. Involving others in the process is itself a way to reduce individual resistance to the change, plus people will add valuable input from their on the ground perspective.
Note – the Force Field Analysis Is Part of a ProcessIt is also important to note that you should use Lewin’s force field analysis as part of a broader process for change. Treating change as a process is one of the key principles of change management. According to Lewin, such a process starts with a dissatisfaction of the existing and a broad agreement about a more desirable future. You should do this before involving staff in a force field analysis. See the 3 Stages of Change: Kurt Lewin’s Change Model for further details.
Summing Up Lewin’s Force Field Analysis
Change is a process. You conduct a force field analysis as part of that process. The analysis involves identifying forces that are driving or that could drive change, as well as forces that may restrain change. You then come with strategies that strengthen the forces driving change. At the same time, you come up with strategies that eliminate or reduce the strength of forces that restrain change. When you are thinking about initiating change, it is worth doing your own force field analysis. If you then decide that your idea for change is feasible, you should involve others in doing a force field analysis.