Problem solving can be a tricky and complicated process. Often times the initial step of identifying the problem and coming up with possible solutions is the hardest part. Businesses, schools, and any team settings around the world use many established problem solving tools and techniques. These range from brainstorming, mind mapping, imagining, and many others. Groups use these techniques to add some order to a potential chaotic experience.
One popular tool is known as Force Field Analysis.
Force Field Analysis is a technique developed my Kurt Lewin (Team Building, 2005). Force Field Analysis is the act of taking a proposed plan or solution and weighing the pros and cons (Force Field, 2005). The two forces in this analysis are the driving forces and the restraining forces. The driving forces are the forces which are affecting the situation in a positive way. They help the plan move forward.
Restraining forces decrease the driving forces. Restraining forces are usually obstacles which would prevent the project from moving forward. Force Field Analysis is often used in conjunction with brainstorming.
Force Field Analysis, if done correctly, is a simple technique to use. The first step in completing this technique is having a decision, plan, or solution. Every member of the team brainstorms forces for and against the change, and then those forces are listed in their respected columns.
Then the team decides on a score for each of these forces. Scores may range from one to five, one being week and five being strong. For example, if one of the driving forces was a twenty percent increase in profits, that would more than likely get a score of four or five. The greater the force, the higher the score. After all the forces are scored the scores from each column are totaled. If the restraining forces far outscore the driving forces, the project may be better left undone.
After the tallying of scores is done, and a decision is made to go forward with the project, the Force Field Analysis can help increase the likelihood of success. Steps may be taken to reduce the strength of the restraining forces or to increase the strength of the driving forces or a combination of both (Force Field, 2005). For example, if one of the restraining forces was fear of technology then a training program could be implemented to reduce or completely eliminate that force.
Force Field Analysis has been used in my career in the past on potential projects. While working for a small business we were contemplating upgrading all our computer systems. There were a total of four workstations and all were outdated, running outdated operating systems and software.
The owner and I sat down and came up with a list of pros and cons to completing the project. Some of the cons were the cost of upgrading, software compatibility with our current programs, and the down time while upgrading. Some of the pros were faster, more workstations, the ability to use current software that was not compatible with our operating system, and more stable workstations. The cost of upgrading was partly solved by shopping around for the best deal and the justification that the new systems would allow us to use state of the art software and decrease our work time and increase our productivity. Down time was solved by doing the work over a weekend and keeping two old workstations running while the transition was made. In the end it turned out to be a wise investment and the Force Field Analysis helped ensure a successful outcome.
The Force Field Analysis technique can be used in a wide variety of settings. There is really no situation where the Force Field Analysis would not be at least a little useful. Even if the project is one that must be carried out and there is no discussion about whether or not to go forward with it, this technique can still be useful. It can help identify some of the hurdles that may arise while completing the project and how to overcome those hurdles. Force Field analysis is a very versatile decision making technique and can always be used to help make a project .