Recently, one of our consultants facilitated a high-stakes meeting of a joint venture’s leadership team. The goal was to improve collaboration among the leadership team to drive business results.
The challenges and opportunities for this venture were staggering and complicated. On both sides, the leaders had been working extremely hard to work together in securing market advantage. Despite their hard work, they were frustrated. Given the opportunity to lead a meeting under these circumstances, we turned to a change management tool that has been around longer than anyone in the room: force field analysis.
The leadership team immersed themselves in understanding the forces that were working for and against change in their joint venture. Much to everyone’s astonishment, the group was able to almost immediately identify—and eliminate—two significant forces that were hindering progress. They emerged from the session with a long to-do list of actions that could be taken to move the ball much farther down the field with regard to leading through change.
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin came up with Force Field Analysis back in the 1940s. However, this age-old tool is more relevant than ever today, given the complexity of contemporary change initiatives. As organizations wrestle with large-scale technology implementations or the restructuring of an organizational matrix, it can be an invaluable tool that helps people see the big picture when it comes to managing change.
An inability to maintain focus on the big picture is one of the biggest challenges we see facing leaders today. Most of us have a tendency to concentrate on the task or meeting or email that is right in front of us today. We often don’t build in time to take a 30,000-feet view of our enterprise, and we typically lack a framework for making sense of it when we do. This is where Lewin’s tool can be invaluable. Lewin’s concept can be seen in the visual below. The idea is that you are where you are as an organization because of two opposing forces. If your gross profit margin is 15 percent, for example, there are driving forces that are pushing it higher and restraining forces that are keeping it from reaching 25 percent or more. The two forces reach an equilibrium that we can refer to as the status quo.
The goal is to move that status quo line to the right—ideally all the way to the desired state. You can only do that in two ways—eliminating or decreasing the restraining forces, or adding to or increasing the power of the driving forces. Whether the transformational change you’re facing is small or large, force field analysis will force you to bring the big picture into sharp focus.
Download the full special report on Collaborative Change and Force Field Analysis: