Cover Image
close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Force field analysis

Learning Emphasis

Organization Focus

If you row against the current, you might end up swimming to shore.

- Indonesian Proverb

Much of the potential for people in training to apply what they have learned back home is lost when the forces affecting them are more constraining than encouraging. More than 40 years ago, a social psychologist named Kurt Lewin became interested in the forces that influence change in people. In developing his field theory, Lewin came up with the idea of force-field analysis.

Force-field analysis is a powerful tool that helps people in training understand the factors at work that affect their ability to apply new learnings and to plan strategies that will alter these factors in a positive way. Lewin believed change involves three steps: (a) unfreezing, (b) exploration and (c) refreezing.

Unfreezing begins in the training session when participants discover a new skill or behaviour they wish to begin using at work. Exposure to a new way of doing things motivates the participants, at least for the time being, to want to change - to want to incorporate the new skill or behaviour in the way they perform on the job. This exploration of the possibility of change is called “unfreezing.”

The state of being unfrozen, however, is a temporary one. As Lewin saw it, there are forces in the workplace that strive to restore the old equilibrium; to discourage application of the new behaviour or skill. “Uh-huh! very interesting; but, you see, that’s not the way we do things around here.” If this way of thinking prevails, participants will be persuaded to abandon the quest to explore new skills and behaviours and retreat to or “refreeze” at the status quo.

On the other hand, there are forces in the workplace that strive to create a new equilibrium - to support the further exploration of new skills and behaviours. “That is exactly what we hoped you would learn at this workshop; what can we do to help.” If this way of thinking prevails, participants will be encouraged to move ahead to “refreeze” at a new skill or behavioural equilibrium.

The figure below shows what participants who wish to adopt and use new skills and behaviours are up against. The top and bottom of the figure represent opposite ends of a force field with respect to utilization or non-utilization of newly acquired skills and behaviours on the job. The vectors pushing upward are environmental forces supportive of further exploration with new skills and behaviours. These are labelled “driving forces.” The vectors pushing downward represent the “restraining forces” within the environment that act to keep participants from making use of the new skills and behaviours.


By introducing force-field analysis at a late stage in a training programme, the trainer encourages participants to think about and plan for the challenges of re-entry to their work environments. Various present states can be viewed as the result of a balance of organizational and individual needs and forces. Therefore, change can occur only if the forces are modified so that conditions surrounding the use of new skills and behaviours on the job move to and stabilize at a different level where the driving and restraining forces are again equal. The equilibrium can be changed in the direction of successful application of new skills and behaviours by three means (strategies):

1. Strengthening or adding forces in the direction of change,
2. Reducing or removing some of the restraining forces, and
3. Changing the direction of the forces.

Any of the three strategies could be successful, but the secondary effects will be different in each case. If a change in the equilibrium is brought about only by strengthening the driving forces, the new level may be accomplished by a relatively high degree of tension. This may, in itself, reduce job effectiveness. For example, a participant might say to a supervisor, “Well, I’m going to do it this way from now on whether you like it or not.” This seemingly uncompromising position might create hard feelings or even jeopardize the participant’s continued employment.

Attempts to bring about change by removing or diminishing resisting forces generally will produce a low level of tension. For example, by offering productivity in exchange for permission to use new skills and behaviours, participants might find their supervisors and colleagues more than ready to cooperate.

One of the most efficient ways to get change is to alter the direction of one of the forces. For example, if participants were to plan a strategy aimed at testing management’s support for job experimentation with new behaviours, they might find more encouragement than was previously thought to exist. Thus, the removal of a restraining force becomes an additional and powerful driving force for change.

A worksheet designed to assist participants in a training programme that uses force-field analysis to plan the transfer of new learnings from the learning environment to the working environment is shown on the next page.

Force-field Analysis Worksheet (Learning Transfer)

In the space below, write some learnings (new skills or behaviours) from this programme that are important enough for you to invest some of your time, energy and thought in putting them to use in your own work environment.

1. The new skills or behaviours I see myself using on the job are:

a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

2. From my best judgement at this time, I believe I can get results applying the new skills and behaviours by: _____________ (target date)

I can see several forces working in my favour - helping forces that will support me in making full use of these new skills and behaviours.

Forces Helping Me

a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

3. I can also see several forces working against me - forces holding me back and restraining my efforts to make use of new skills and behaviours by: __________ (target date)

Forces Holding Me Back

a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

5. Looking at the list of forces holding me back, some actions I might take to reduce or redirect the forces preventing me from making full use of new skills and behaviours by my target date are:

a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

6. Resources that I need or that would help me implement the above actions are:

a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

7. People who could assist me in obtaining these resources or otherwise facilitate the full use of new skills and behaviours by my target date are:


a. ____________________________________________________
b. ____________________________________________________
c. ____________________________________________________

8. What I want from these people is:



Force-field analysis can provide the trainer with an effective tool for helping training participants examine the constraints to the application of new skills and behaviours and planning workable change strategies. In fact, using the process can become an unfreezing, learning experience in itself.