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A good tool to use to determine if you are ready for change is force field analysis. It provides a visual framework for showing forces that support or hinder a desired change or goal. It can be used to depict an individual’s or group’s state of mind at that point in time regarding a desired outcome.

Numerous ways have been developed to display a force field analysis. However, the methodologies all follow the same basic approach and key elements.

  1. Write down/explain the proposed change.
  2. In a driving forces column, list all forces supporting or pushing toward the change.
  3. In a restraining forces column, list all forces opposing or pushing away from the change.
  4. Each driving force does not require an opposing restraining force.
  5. The length of the force arrow under each driving and restraining force should reflect the strength of the force.

According to Lewin’s theories, human behavior is caused by an interaction of various positive and negative forces. The forces are a compilation of beliefs, habits, group norms, knowledge, expectations and more. These opposing forces hold an issue in balance or equilibrium. In order for change to occur, there must be sufficient driving forces to overcome the restraining forces and shift the equilibrium.

After doing the analysis, you can better decide if it’s feasible to initiate implementing the change. It is a quick and good measure of your chances of success. An interim course of action is to work on solutions to reduce or eliminate the resisting forces or increase driving forces. Simply stated, force field analysis provides an indication of whether or not you are ready for the first or next step toward implementing a change. As resisting forces are reduced and/or driving forces increase, you can repeat the analysis as often as needed to see if you are getting closer to change readiness.

Figure 2.4: Force field diagram, medical example

Figure 2.4 is a medical example of a filled out force field diagram. There are many manual and computerized versions in use. At the top is a space to write down the change issue. On the left side are spaces to write down driving forces. Similarly, spaces on the right side are for listing restraining forces. Under each driving and restraining force issue are six spaces that can be shaded in or marked to indicate how weak (1=weakest) or strong (6=strongest) a force is. On the far left and right are spaces to write in the weak/strong score. By listing the driving and restraining forces and rating their magnitude with a one to six score, you can more easily decide if the group/department is ready for the change. Of course, you want the driving forces total score to be higher than the restraining forces total score. However, make sure the big restraining force issues are taken care of regardless of scores.

When scoping the change issue, be specific as to whom is driving the change and the group being assessed for change readiness. For each large restraining force, you should attempt to have a communicated countering action to lower the resistance. For example, if the largest restraining force is fear of job loss, then share with the team the reason for the change. It might be because the volume of billings is increasing, so the change will both enable the handling of the increased volume and allow better analysis for cost-saving decisions. Each significant restraining force needs to be remedied until the equilibrium score shifts enough to support the change. Take the time needed to get buy-in. Do not just make an announcement of what you are going to do to improve the restraining force. Communicate and implement the driving forces and assess the readiness for change as often as required. Implementing too early can further raise the restraining forces.

Tip from The Relativity of Continuous Improvement by Dr. Klaus Blache.

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