What Is It?
Force field analysis is a tool which can be used to analyze the forces helping or obstructing change or the realization of a specific outcome. It can be useful, as part of developing a strategic change plan, in examining how feasible a strategic objective is and what areas should be targeted in any associated action plan.
To clearly identify forces that are impeding governance reform for a particular problem or issue, as well as those forces that are contributing or could contribute positively to reform.
Clear documentation of driving (positive) forces that need to be strengthened through enhancing capacity, and restraining (negative) forces where capacity may have to be strengthened to overcome these forces.
Flip chart and marker pens.
High; key external stakeholders should be invited.
- Draw two columns on a flip chart. The left column will be for listing driving (positive) forces and the right column for restraining (negative) forces.
- Write at the top of the flip chart a brief, but specific and clear, description of the problem or issue preventing you from achieving your vision. You must state this problem precisely.
- Make sure you have stated only one problem or objective – deal with other ones on a separate sheet.
- If you are having difficulty describing the key problems impeding you, a problem tree analysis can help.
- Converting the problem into a goal statement also helps to focus analysis.
- List the driving (positive) forces you can think of in the left column. Be specific, i.e. what, who, where, when, how much, how many, etc. Indicate how the force will contribute to meeting the objective.
- List the restraining forces in the right column. Again, be specific. Indicate what effect each force is likely to have on your achieving your objective.
- Analyze the forces. Identify which forces are most important (make sure they are real, not assumed). These are the ones that will have a substantial impact on whether or not you can achieve your objective or vision.
- Circle all the important forces on your list and if necessary rate each force according to its influence, e.g. on a scale of 1–10, where 1 indicates a very weak influence and 10 a very strong influence.
- Obtain any additional information about a particular force that may be lacking.
- Strengthen the driving forces – weaken the restraining forces (reducing a restraining force is generally more effective than increasing a driving force):
- Work on each influential force in turn. Identify ways in which you can increase, strengthen or maximize each driving force.
- Identify ways in which you can reduce, minimize or eliminate each force working against you.
- If you really cannot identify a way to reduce a restraining force, write "no action possible" against it.
- The secret of this technique is to address the forces most likely to tip the balance.
- It is often useful to get other people's ideas and suggestions to help here.
- An important additional step is to convert these strategies and ideas into clear action statements.
- A realistic assessment of feasibility: Do the driving forces now clearly outweigh the restraining forces?
- If yes, ask yourself: Do I really want to achieve this? If the answer is another yes, then adopt your objective and begin work on the forces.
- If the answer is no to either question, revisit the original vision and key problems or issues impeding you. It may be that strengthening human capacity alone is not enough to overcome the restraining (negative) forces.
DFID (2003) Promoting Institutional and Organizational Development: A Source Book of Tools and Techniques. Department for International Development, London.
ECDPM and DSI/AI (nd) Institutional Development: Learning by Doing and Sharing. European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poverty Policy and Institutional Development Division, Maastricht.