Force field analysis modifies and improves upon a similar approach called “pros & cons.”  Force field analysis helps groups identify and prioritize actions and opportunities for improvement, especially among project teams.

Force field analysis makes it easier for groups to organize their thinking while encouraging thoughtful exploration.  Once supportive and hindering forces are identified, the group analyzes impact, leading to actions that reinforce the positive and mitigate the negative forces.

Method to Facilitate Force Field Analysis

Force field analysis begins by identifying the objectives, or CTQs (Critical to Quality), or targets.  First facilitate clear understanding about WHAT needs to change.  Next, for each discrete objective (typically built in advance of a meeting or workshop and provided in a pre-read as a slide or hand out), ask the following questions, ONE AT A TIME:

  • What is hindering us from reaching this target (negative)?
  • What is helping us move toward this target (positive)?

The responses will generate two new lists (ie, positive and negative forces). Adapt the Peter Senge philosophy that it is easier to remove obstacles (the hindrances) than to push harder (supportive forces).  Focus discussion on what we can do different to overcome the hindrances or obstacles. Facilitate the discussion on one obstacle at a time. For each obstacle, consider at least one action and perhaps more.

Once all actions have been clarified and understood, it may be necessary to prioritize them.  When you have more than a one dozen actions, consider the Pareto Principle (ie, 80-20 Rule).  If so, use the FAST technique’s PowerBall, Perceptual Mapping, or Decision-Matrix tool to facilitate consensual prioritization.

Notes about Force Field Analysis

See how the first list of objectives generates two lists (ie, supports and hindrances) that lead to one consolidated action list, as shown in the following diagram:

Transform Force-Field Analysis into Actions

Transform Force Field Analysis into Actions

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Finally, don’t forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. Change or Die provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous tools. It will make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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