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Using Force Field Analysis for Project Selection

written by: Heidi Wiesenfelder • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 1/2/2011

In most organizations many things could be changed and many potential projects could be undertaken. A means of assessing the likelihood of success can help leadership decide which projects to pursue. Force Field Analysis accomplishes just this, by evaluating forces for and against change.

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    Overview

    Often leadership must choose among several potential projects to determine which should actually be chartered. Several factors come into play, including financial and human resources, complexity, and general buy-in. Since any project is actually a change initiative, change management principles come into play.

    The Force Field Analysis (FFA) is a tool which can be used to assess the forces for change and the forces against change, and evaluate whether a given change initiative is feasible in the current climate. Use it to assess several project ideas and determine which have the greatest potential for success.

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    Forces For & Against Change

    The first step in using the FFA is to list the forces that are driving the change that the project represents. Brainstorming, focus groups, surveys, and interviews can be used to clarify the reasons that the change is wanted or needed. It is important to include the people who will be most affected by the change as well as those who are driving the change. Consider factors such as cost savings, increased revenue, improved efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and improved employee satisfaction.

    Similarly, it is important to get input from those affected by the proposed change to understand reasons for resistance. Look for factors such as increased learning curve, increased complexity, insufficient technology, and limited budget. Often the reasons are below the surface. People may cite issues such as time and money limitations, when the real issue is a struggle over ownership, a personality conflict, or a general fear of change. The project team needs to uncover the true forces that are working to prevent successful change.

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    Creating the Force Field Analysis

    The actual Force Field Analysis diagram can be created easily using software or even pen and paper. In the middle of the paper, state the intended change in a short phrase. To the left, list the identified driving forces and assign an estimate of each force’s strength on a scale of 1-5. It is the relative strengths that are important, so do not worry about being precise with the numbers. Do the same on the right side for the forces against change. At the bottom of the page, sum up the strength ratings on each side.

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    Evaluating the Force Field Analysis

    For a change initiative to be effective, the strength of the forces for change must exceed that of the forces against change. When this is the case, the potential project is a good one to consider implementing. When the forces against change are stronger, or even when they are nearly equal, extra effort would be required to make a project successful.

    When used in managing a project that is underway, the next step in FFA would be to determine which of the forces for change can be leveraged and enhanced, and which of the forces resisting change can be weakened. Then a plan would be created to accomplish this so that the climate would be appropriate for the change initiative.

    For use in project selection, the results of the FFAs for the project candidates should be compared. Determine which of the projects are likely to succeed given what is known about the change environment, and which would most likely require additional effort to successfully introduce a change.