May The Force (Field) Be With You: A Strategy For Identifying Desired Change

Image credit: Tobias Cornille

Image credit: Tobias Cornille

May the Force be with you school leaders!  You are the Obi-Wan Kenobis of the educational Jedi, proven adept strategists. Like the Jedi, you utilize tools such as the Force Field Analysis to help, protect, defend and strive for peaceful and non-combative solutions to any challenge, problem, situation or project you encounter.

Another famous user of the Force Field Analysis, Kurt Lewin, originator of the Force Field analysis, viewed culture as being in a state of equilibrium. He wrote: "To bring about any change, the balance between the forces which maintain the social self-regulation at a given level has to be upset" (Lewin, K. 1948. Resolving Social Conflicts, p.47.)  Lewin proposed that whenever driving forces are stronger than restraining forces, the status quo or equilibrium will change. Acknowledging these forces is especially useful when understanding how people move through change and why they resist change. Successful change is achieved by either strengthening the driving forces or weakening the restraining forces.

Lewin's Force Field Analysis is used to distinguish which factors within a challenge, problem situation or project drive a person towards or away from a desired state, and which factors oppose the driving forces. The weight of each force shows the strength of the individual item, either proactively or as a barrier. Kruglanski et al. (2012) reported that a force field analysis is a purposeful cognitive activity how to best meet a systems goal or desired state (The Energetic of motivated cognition: A force-field analysis. Psychological Review, 119(1), 1-20).

Whether you are a Youngling, Padawan, Knight, or Jedi Master consider using this systems thinking tool, the Force Field Analysis, during your next meeting when talking about change and working towards a desired outcome.  You can now exercise Jedi strategy by engaging the Force Field Analysis. An example of a Force Field Analysis template appears below:

This Force Field Analysis (FFA) template can be found at  https://www.toolshero.com/decision-making/force-field-analysis/.

This Force Field Analysis (FFA) template can be found at https://www.toolshero.com/decision-making/force-field-analysis/.

To construct a force-field chart follow these eight easy steps:

  1. Describe the current situation. Present the current status quo or equilibrium. Where are you now?

  2. Identify the ideal/desired situation. Write down the goal or vision of a future ideal or desired state. Where would you like to be?

  3. Identify the driving forces that are pushing toward the desired outcome. Record these forces on a force field diagram. What forces are supporting change?

  4. Identify the restraining forces that are resisting change to the desired outcome. Record these forces on the force field diagram.  What forces are preventing the desired outcome?

  5. Analyze the strength of each driving and restraining force. Rate each force, from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong). Associate each force with a score and separately total the driving and restraining forces - see above!

  6. Review the forces. Decide which of the forces are fixed and which forces could potentially be influenced to create more support for change.

  7. Determine whether change is possible. Analyze the individual scores of the driving forces and restraining forces to conclude if change can occur.

  8. Prioritize action steps. Determine how to minimize restraining forces and maximize driving forces.

These are your first steps to activating the Force Field Analysis,  fellow school leaders. Share your Force Field Analysis results once you try it!

Dr. Cathy Keegan

Dr. Cathy S. Keegan, practitioner and author, currently serves as the Superintendent of the Milton Area

School District, Milton, PA, after taking the helm in June 2010. Working with Systems Thinking and Systems

Thinking Tools since 2005, she believes that everyday school leaders face messy and chaotic challenges,

situations, events, and problems. All school leaders need a decision-making framework and tools to

navigate confidently through these complex situations to reach an effective resolution.