Six Sigma Green Belt: Define—Team Tool #3 Force Field Analysis


Force field analysis is a tool in analyzing the forces that are for and against a proposed decision or change that management wants to have implemented in the organization.

When I read about this tool in my Six Sigma Green Belt class, I wanted to learn more about it looked up the history of it on an excellent website called Mindtools.com. It was developed in the 1940s by an American social psychologist named Kurt Lewin. But the more I read about the technique, the more it reminded me of a technique Ben Franklin described in his autobiography which he used whenever it came time to make a tough decision. He described it as follows:

.. my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

Let’s see in contrast what the force field analysis entails.   In the force field analysis, you divide your paper into three areas, a central rectangle for the central decision or change being proposed, a space on the left-hand side for the forces for the change and a space on the right-hand side for the forces against the change. 

 Then you estimate the impact of each of the forces on either side, with one common scale being suggested of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not very impactful” to 5 being “very impactful”. Then you make the height of each arrow correspond to the number on the scale, like in the schematic example below.

This gives a visual representation of the forces for and against the change. These could be internal forces (technology, training, organization, etc.) or external (customer demand, regulatory) as long as they impact in some way on the change being considered.

Then you have two levels of decision to make: First of all, do we go ahead with this change or decision? If most of the arrows are creating a “headwind” against the change, then it may be best to think of another project, unless you want to devote the resources to overcoming most of the barriers. The way to do this is to add up the ratings you have given each of the forces (1 through 5) and see if the balance of them lie on the “for” or “against” side.

If the organization IS going to go ahead with the decision, then you have to develop a plan to initiate countermeasures against the forces that oppose the project, and to strengthen those forces that are for the project.

Here are the steps described above, but listed in a flowchart format with the basic set up of the change and the forces for and against in blue, the estimate of the impact of the forces in green, and the final discussion based on the results in red.

I think if you compare the process above and read the description of Ben Franklin’s decision-making method, you can probably see some similarities.

The force field analysis is the last of the team tools listed in the Green Belt Body of Knowledge.

With this I conclude the last of the posts on the Define portion of the DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) process of Six Sigma. Starting in January, I will move on to posts that discuss the next part of the DMAIC process, that of Measure.

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