Change Management Technique: Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis

Force field analysis is a technique that can be used for identifying, discussing and documenting the factors that support or oppose a change initiative. It was introduced in the 1940s by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, and is usually applied to making go or no-go decisions on potentially disruptive business changes. 

A force can either aid achieving the overall objective (driving force) or block the achievement of the objective (hindering force). According to Kurt Lewin, organizations are a composition of dynamic and interactive forces working together in opposite directions. For any successful change to occur, the driving forces must outdo the hindering forces, thereby shifting the equilibrium.

This technique can help the BA to:

  • Decide whether or not to propose a change initiative
  • Increase the chances of success by promoting the driving forces and weakening the hindering forces
  • Identify areas or new ideas that can be implemented to aid the successful implementation of the change
  • Identify the most important stakeholders and their interest groups
  • Identify how to influence each target group

Practical Application

  • Organize a brainstorming session that involves all the key stakeholders of the project. This will help to generate ideas on all the forces that have an impact on the project
  • Describe the current situation and the desired future state. All stakeholders should be aware of this as well as the impact of doing nothing.
  • With help from participants, generate a list of forces that are for or against the change by posing questions around the following:
    • Who supports the change and why are they in support?
    • Who opposes the change and why?
    • What are the risks faced by the project?
    • What are the benefits of the project?
    • What are the constraints faced by the project?
  • Write the forces for the change to the left
  • Write the forces against the change to the right
  • Gather the results of the brainstorming session and assess their validity. Rate their importance and urgency by assigning weights to each force (1 - weakest; 10 - strongest); the sum of cumulative forces on each side determines whether the hindering or driving forces are predominant.
  • Determine if the change is viable. By decreasing the weight of hindering forces and increasing the strength of driving forces, change can be influenced though this may introduce new forces that would need to be further assessed.

An example of a force field analysis is illustrated below:

Force Field Analysis

To the left side of the diagram are forces that are in favour of the change (18 in total) while the right of the diagram shows forces opposing the change (11 in total). Though the hindering forces are less than the driving forces, they still need to be minimized. Reducing hindering forces is usually more effective than increasing driving forces.

In order to reduce the hindering forces in the example above, the BA could decide to hold interactive sessions to address fears, or design shorter training sessions to complement training notes where extensive training sessions are a concern.