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Force field analysis is a technique that allows you to examine all the various forces in play for and against a decision that needs to be made. Somewhat different from the process of listing pros and cons, force field analysis allows you to develop decision-making strategies in terms of strengthening the forces in support of a decision and reducing the impact of any opposition.
Force Field Analysis
Force field analysis was developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field of social psychology. Lewin's intent was to create a tool that would allow a group to diagnose a particular situation by examining all the forces for and against a plan to decide whether or not the plan is worth implementing. Forces that push a decision in a particular direction are called driving forces, while restraining forces are defined as those that hinder the decision-making process, such as apathy and hostility.
One of the key advantages of a force field analysis is that it provides a visual summary of all the various factors supporting and opposing a particular idea, with all the data that has been collected regarding a potential decision consolidated into a single graph. In addition, force field analysis also expands the evaluation beyond the data itself to look at qualitative factors that may have an impact on the success or failure of the decision being analyzed.
Force field analysis requires the full participation of everyone involved to provide the accurate information required for an effective analysis. This can be a disadvantage when full participation isn't possible, resulting in an analysis that doesn't provide a realistic picture of the supporting and opposing forces. Another disadvantage is the possibility that the analysis won't result in a consensus among the group. In fact, a force field analysis may actually cause a division in the group between those who support the decision and those who oppose it.
One of the key things to keep in mind when using force field analysis is that the analysis developed is entirely dependent upon the skill level and knowledge of the group working on the analysis. In most cases, force field analysis is based on assumptions, not facts; even if the assumptions are based on accumulated data, the interpretation of the data shouldn't be construed as being objective within the overall process of evaluating the driving and restraining forces.