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Decision-making using the Forcefield Technique

Disclaimer, we are not talking about Star Wars in this blog! This technique was invented by Kurt Lewin, who also established the Lewin Change Model back in the 1940’s. This technique or analysis was conceived as a decision-making technique when managing a new change. Lewin was a social psychologist who continually studied ways of facilitating the adoption of change in people. This technique was developed to look at two extreme forces which are to drive change or resist change.

Today this tool is utilized by many disciplines. Coaches use the forcefield when coaching their clients through a limiting belief. Facilitators use this technique when a team is at a crossroads and needs to ground themselves. Quality groups use it as a problem-solving technique that goes deeper than the traditional Pro’s and Con’s tool since this traditional tool only looks at the two extremes of a problem, leaving it up to the user to decide on how to move forward.

The Forcefield technique identifies the driving forces for a given change, plan, or solution, as well as its resisting or restraining forces. It also adds more structure to help the user produce the best outcome. When faced with a dilemma at work, try this technique out. Have a brainstorming session with your team and see if this technique leads you in the right direction.

Here are the steps when using the Forcefield technique:

1. Begin by writing out your plan or statement which can be a dilemma, proposed change, or solution. For the following steps, we will be using the template given in this blog and refer to the statement as the “plan.”

ForceField Template
Download XLSX • 203KB

2. You can use an existing template as the one shown here or create your own table. The four columns depict the driving forces, restraining forces, and a column for each respective side to place the weighed score. The arrows are used to stress one of Newton's laws, that every driving force has a resisting force.

3. Start by listing the driving forces which can be any positive forces you see based on the plan going forward. If the plan were to materialize, what would be the benefits and impacts? Include any positive influences it may have both internally and externally.

4. Score each driving force, using the 1-3-5 method. If the driver has a weak impact to the plan, place "1", if the driver has some impact, place "3", and if you believe it’s a strong impact to the plan, place "5".

5. Next list the restraining forces which are the things that are stopping or hindering you from achieving or maintaining your driving forces. Use the 1-3-5 method to score each restraining driver using the same logic mentioned in step 4.

6. You can use several routes when analyzing your results leading to your final decision of moving forward with the plan:

a. The scores are summed for both forces, giving you an idea of which side is stronger. You may simply accept the higher overall score to make the decision for you.

b. High-light the strong forces (scored “5”) from the driving side. See if they overcome or eliminate any of the restraining forces. Cross out the restraints that are eliminated by the driving forces. Review the remaining restricting drivers to see if you can manage these forces were you to move forward with the plan.

c. You may have no choice but to proceed with the plan because of the pressures at work. In this case, this technique does give insight on possible negative impacts that you will need to manage to succeed. A suggestion is turning the restraining forces into possible failures in your risk log and turning the driving forces into actions for your plan to work.

Keep in mind that though the Forcefield Technique can be used for any type of plan you are having at work, the more complex the plan is, the more time it will take to collect your factors. Remember this is a subjective tool, so you may want to tie it to a business case or cost-benefit analysis when looking into more complex plans. Keep the forces as factual as possible and if you need assistance, you may want to bring in a third party to facilitate the exercise.

Just like any other tool & technique in your toolkit, you can only gain experience if you use it. So, try it out and let us know how it helped you at your workplace!

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