Improvement tools: Force field analysis

Page last updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2017 - 11:56am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

When working towards a goal there are often things that help us and other things that work against us. Force field analysis looks at ways to manage these helpful and unhelpful effects.

The tool can be used in two ways. To work out ways to reduce the forces that hold us back, or to strengthen the forces that help us achieve our goal. It can also be used to decide whether we should implement a goal at all. If the restraining forces far outweigh the driving forces, it may be best to forget about the goal.

The best way to understand Force field analysis is to go through the steps for using the tool as you look at an example. Figure 1 is an example of a Force field analysis for a manufacturing business.

Steps for using the tool

  1. Draw up a scorecard like in Figure 1, or use the worksheet in the 'Documents' section on the far right.
  2. Write the goal at the top.
  3. Think about the forces that will help the goal to be achieved. These are the driving forces.
  4. Write the driving forces on the left side of the scorecard, like in Figure 1.
  5. Think about the forces that will work against the goal being achieved. These are the restraining forces.
  6. Write the restraining forces on the right side of the scorecard.
  7. Score the strength of each of the forces from 1 to 10, for example, 1= weak, 5 = medium, 10 = strong. Put the scores in the boxes beside the forces. A high score for a restraining force means the force could make it very difficult to achieve the goal. A high score for a driving force means the force will make it much easier to achieve the goal.
  8. You can draw arrows under the forces to show the strengths. A strong force will have a long arrow, while a weak force will have a short arrow.
  9. Work out which are the highest priority forces to work on. This could mean strenghtening driving forces or reducing restraining forces. The person who invented Force field analysis, Kurt Lewin, said it was better to reduce restraining forces, not just strengthen driving forces.
  10. Develop action plans to manage the high priority forces.

Forces that support achievement of the goal of upgrading a factory process are shown on arrows going from the left to the centre. Forces that restrain the goal are shown going from the right to the centre. Scores for the strengths of the forces are shown.
Figure 1. A Force Field Analysis of the driving and restraining forces associated with the goal of upgrading a factory process.

Other tools to use with Force field analysis

Force field analysis can be used in step 4 of the CI&I - Continuous improvement and innovation process.

Once the high priority forces have been identified, a How-how diagram can be used to work out how to manage the forces.

The Action design tool or Five Ws and one H can be used to plan action to manage the high priority forces.

Support to use the tool

Please contact us if you would like help to use Force field analysis.

A worksheet to help you use the tool can be found in the 'Documents' section on the far right.