6.3 Analysing tension
A way of analysing the tension between opposing forces (those that drive a change forward – driving forces – and those that offer resistance to change – restraining forces) was devised by Lewin in 1951 (Senior, Swailes, & Carnall, 2020, pp. 259-261). A simple example of an output of a force field analysis exercise can be seen in Figure 12 below.
Driving forces – are those forces affecting a situation that are pushing in a particular direction; they tend to initiate a change and keep it going – such as pressure from a leader, incentive earnings or a compelling vision.
Restraining forces – are forces acting to restrain or decrease the driving forces. Apathy, hostility and poor communication may be examples of restraining forces against change. Equilibrium is reached when the sum of the driving forces equals the sum of the restraining forces.
This model is usually used as follows:
- Step 1 – take some time to consider what status quo will change and write this in the middle column.
- Step 2 – now think about what is forcing the change and what will block it; write these things in the columns either side of the status quo.
- Step 3 – consider the strength of these forces and give each reason or restraint a score out of 5.
Some of the forces will be out of your control, so using a stakeholder analysis in conjunction with this mode can help you understand how you can work with influential stakeholders to move the forces.
Sometimes it’s easier to reduce the strength of one force rather than strengthening another.
Activity 9 Analysing tension in your context
Read the short description of Lewin’s force field analysis in this Force field analysis guide [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Visual Paradigm Online, 2022).
Then use one of the templates offered on that website to document the driving and restraining forces on your change initiative, or you may wish to use one of the ‘simple changes’ from the Future Generations Commissioners for Wales (2022) website.
If you would like more information on Lewin’s model and factors that may impact the take-up of the change, take a look at the video Lewin’s model of force field analysis (2018) on the Tutor2u website.
In the next section we explore managing change and its connection with project management.