Make Better Decisions? Use Force Field Analysis – It Works

Force Field Analysis for decision making

Sometimes decision makers (all of us) need a way to assess a decision in a quick fashion when the stakes are high but we don’t have time. Forcefield analysis is such a tool. In this article we will define what force field analysis is, and look at the top 5 ways to use it.

What is Force Field Analysis?

Back in the 1940’s a social scientist named Kurt Lewin popularized force field analysis in doing field work. Dr. Lewin was a great contributor to the social sciences through work he did at MIT as Director for Center for Group Dynamics. He also laid the foundation for work popularized as Sensitivity Training which some leaders believe was some of “the most important inventions” in the last century.   Basically Lewin set up a structure to measure the driving and limiting forces behind any decision. Imagine a piece of paper with a line down the middle. On the left are a list of all the driving forces, things that are motivating you to make a particular decision. On the right side are the limiting forces, a list of the attributes that are stopping you from making a decision.

To evaluate each attribute on left and right you would then place an arrow/numbered weight on how important that attribute is. The length of the arrow would symbolize its value. After you have listed all of the attributes and weighed them you would assign them a total score at the bottom of the columns. The highest value determines the direction to go in.

In summary:

  1. Place what is motivating you on the left of the 2-column grid
  2. Place all the attributes that are stopping you on the right
  3. Give each attribute a weight (number, arrow or both)
  4. Total the score at the bottom of each column.
  5. Determine your direction.

Benefits of Force Field Analysis

One of the beauties of this approach is it allow you to get all the thoughts or influencing forces in front of you so you can see them. Another benefit to this approach is that you can adjust weights after you’ve pondered any attribute in relationship to the others. Basically you are getting more in touch with what matters most to you in life which will influence future decisions. The last benefit is you can return to your decision later when there are other similar decisions that would reflect similar attributes.

Where to Use Force Field Analysis

You may be interested in a few places force field analysis could be used. Here is a list:

  • Any purchase that has significant cost involved
  • Time of year to implement a new strategy
  • When you want a good discussion including visuals amongst team members
  • When you get confused because there are too many variables to track
  • When you need a quick assessment on med-low risk decisions
  • When you involve others in a decision and want to track more forces at play than your own
  • When you want to justify your reasoning to others

For more information about Force Field Analysis you can go to these sources:


Relationship expert, Ed Ferrigan, M.A., CPCC, has been helping singles, couples, managers, and teams in organizations communicate more effectively for over 20 years. Ed is author of the book 100+ Ways To Get Back On The Horse, facilitates workshops on communication skills and provides relationship coaching all over the world using web technology. Ed is a local resident of Salt Lake City, Ut, is an avid dancer, and loves fly-fishing.