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Force Field Analysis is a useful technique for looking at all the forces for and against a decision. In effect, it is a specialized method of weighing pros and cons. By carrying out the analysis you can plan to strengthen the forces supporting a decision, and reduce the impact of opposition to it.

Imagine that you are a project manager deciding whether to undertake a new project for your company. Develop a force field analysis to decide whether your project is viable or not. At the same time, develop a plan on how to improve its probability of success using force field analysis.

What is Force Field Analysis?

Any project demands the maintenance of a particular quality standard that must be fulfilled at any cost. During the planning phase of most of the projects, the project manager develops certain guidelines regarding the project standard or quality required. Again, these guidelines are mainly derived from the client requirements and irrespective of schedule and budget, these standards have to be followed. In small and medium case projects, the project managers as well as the project stakeholders have generally clear idea about the quality requirements of the project. However, mostly in case of complex projects, in spite of setting suitable quality standards, the project stakeholders may not have clear idea regarding the same and also what to achieve in the project. Again, there arises a situation when, although the project requirements and the quality standards are clear to the stakeholders, the project starts to move out of scope and beyond control of the project manager. In this case, the project manager introduces certain changes in order to bring back the project under control. These changes may include termination of contract and hiring new contractor, reallocation of budget, extension of final time, recruitment of new workers and others. While some of the changes work perfectly, others do not and the project continues to go out of control of the project manager. This is mainly because the project manager fails to determine whether the changes were applicable to the project or whether the changes actually aided the restraining forces on the project. Again, this happens because these project managers rely on their own knowledge and instincts to propose and implement the changes to immediately address the highlighted issues. However, this does not ensure high percentage of success and often leads the project to failure. One technique that can aid the project managers in this case is the force field analysis technique. This technique allows the project manager to accurately identify the actual driving and restraining forces of the project and take suitable actions accordingly. Additionally, the project managers can monitor the progress of the progress and at certain intervals, they determine whether the quality is maintained or changes are required. Based on the analysis, the project is controlled and change management is introduced if the project manager determines that the project is not maintaining a sufficient quality standard. The project managers can also determine the quality standard of the ongoing project or a particular operational system by determining the driving and restraining forces that are associated with the project and prepare suitable strategy following the priorities of the changes of forces as determined from the force field analysis. Again, in order to determine whether equilibrium is reached, the project manager can use statistical data regarding the driving and restraining forces that he can easily gather from the project itself.

The Importance of Equilibrium in a System

This report has been developed in order to conduct a detailed literature review on force field analysis and its impact on the project and additionally apply the technique on the ongoing light rail project in Malaysia in order to determine the driving and restraining forces that are acting on the project.

Force field analysis is a decision making tool that is mainly utilized for taking major decisions after considerations of both driving and restricting forces. In other words, this analysis is utilized to determine what factors will be there to ensure success and what factors will act against the progress of a particular action. Although this analysis tool was first utilized in the field of psychology by Kurt Lewin, it finds use in various fields like research project, construction project and other common activities.

According to Emmrich et al. (2015), force field analysis is an important tool in determining all the positive and negative forces acting on a particular system or activity. The main focus of an observant is to ensure that the driving forces and restraining forces affect the system in such a way that a balance or equilibrium is generated on the system.

Arnott and Pervan (2016) discussed the tool with the help of a single and simple example. As per the authors, let a boy sits on a chair. With the help of force field analysis, it needs to be determined what forces are there to keep the boy seated and not make him fall. As per the results of force analysis, it can be said that there is one driving force and one restraining force acting on him. Gravity (driving force) lets the boy sit on the chair and not drift away and the opposing force of the chair (restraining force) lets the boy to remain in the sitting position. These two forces are so well balanced that the boy perfectly sits on the chair without any other major impacts of forces. It is important for the systems to maintain equilibrium and establish balance between the driving and restraining forces. However, as per the authors, although this case is an equilibrium, this might not be same in all systems i.e. the driving and restraining forces are not equal in nature and thus the desired equilibrium is not achieved. Considering similar example of sitting on a chair, let the weight of the boy be such that the pull of gravity is much higher than the restraining force of the chair. As a result, the chair breaks and the boy falls on the ground.

Force Field Analysis in Business and Project Management

Kaiser and Schulze (2018) used the same technique in systems of much larger scale, for instance, a business. According to the authors, a business is also a system that is formed by the equilibrium between driving and restraining forces. While business is benefitted from the greater driving force than the restraining force, it faces obstacle when the restraining forces are high. Some examples of driving forces in business are quality of product or service, low manufacturing or service cost and others while some restraining forces are low market demand, unavailability of raw materials and others. While some of the forces are unavoidable, the effects of some forces can be managed in order to bring the system towards equilibrium.

On the other hand, Mainzer and Luloff (2017) applied this force field analysis technique in the field of project management for the purpose of quality and change management. According to the works of these authors, quality management is an important aspect of any project and the top priority of project managements should always be to ensure the desired quality is maintained in the system. The authors also reported that there are several methods of ensuring the quality of the project of which, the most popular and widely used is by monitoring and controlling of the project on a regular basis. The project managers monitor the progress of the progress and at certain intervals, they determine whether the quality is maintained or changes are required. Accordingly, the project is controlled and change management is introduced if the project manager determines that the project is not maintaining a sufficient quality standard. As per the authors, this is quite a long and error-prone process that may not be always accurate and often relies on the personal points of views of the project managers rather than a more realistic approach. Hence, the authors suggested the use of force field analysis in order to conduct the quality management process. According to this analysis process, the project managers can determine the quality standard of the ongoing project or a particular operational system by determining the driving and restraining forces. Again, in order to determine whether equilibrium is reached, the project manager can use statistical data regarding the driving and restraining forces. From the statistical data, if it is found that the one of the forces is higher than the other, he will be able to take suitable actions to bring the system back to equilibrium. This is a far more realistic approach and does not depend on the personal point of view of the project manager.

Using Force Field Analysis for Quality and Change Management

According to the project management researcher Van der Hoorn (2016), force field analysis can also be utilized to undertake change management process in a project once it is evident that the project requires change to be brought back to its original path or to remain within the overall scope. The author suggested a step by step process that will ensure force field analysis is appropriately used for the introduction of change management in the project. The steps are discussed as follows.

Define the Change – While bringing the change in a project, many project managers often fail to define the exact target for which the project is to be changed. There have been many cases where changes were introduced in the project by the project manager but he had no idea what would be achieved after the implementation of the changes except only solving the initial issue faced (Capatina et al., 2017). Hence, it is important to define the change and what will be achieved through making the changes before they are actually implemented in the project. Moreover, force field analysis also requires a clear idea of the system and the implications of the driving and restraining forces on the system once some significant changes are introduced else the analysis will provide inaccurate results.

Mind Map / Brainstorm – Mind map is an essential tool in project management that helps to identify the driving and restraining forces acting on a particular project and hence, it finds significant use in the force field analysis of a project. First, using brainstorm or mind map, the favorable driving forces are identified. The identification of these forces is important so that through change process, these forces are enhanced or at least kept intact. Second, again using brainstorm or mind map, the restraining forces are to be identified (Greenwood, 2015). The focus of the project managers will be to reduce these restraining forces to as much as possible through the introduction of the changes. While some systems require equilibrium and balance between driving and restraining forces, systems like business and projects require greater driving force and restraining force and it is the duty of the project manager to ensure the same.

Evaluation of the Forces – After determination of the driving and restraining forces, it is important to determine the magnitude or extent of the effects of the forces on the project. This can be done by rating the forces with some specific magnitudes and prioritizing them accordingly.

The Process of Change Management with Force Field Analysis

Review of the Forces – There are some forces that are out of control and cannot be changed (for example, market condition). While the target of the project manager is to reduce the restraining forces to as much as possible, the out of control forces cannot be reduced and hence, the project manager should target other restraining forces to be reduced. Hence, it is important to review and identify the forces that can be changed using the change management process.

Strategy – The success of change management in a project often depends on the strategy implemented by the project manager after determining the driving and restraining forces. While some project managers prefer to enhance the driving forces, some other project managers prefer to reduce the restraining forces first and some others prefer to do both simultaneously (Brand & Ekkekakis, 2018). However, to suit the requirements of the project, the project manager needs to make the most appropriate strategy for the project.

Prioritization – During change management processes, there are often a number of steps needed to be taken to achieve the desired result. However, these steps need to be taken priority wise in order to ensure the desired goal is achieved. Hence, after force field analysis, the project manager needs to arrange the proposed changes according to the priorities and then implement them accordingly.

According to the researchers Berthaume et al. (2014), other than the project itself, force field also significantly affects the change management itself. While in the previous section, force field analysis is proposed to be undertaken on the project, here, the researchers focus on how the force field affects the change management process during its proposal, management and implementation. As an example, the researchers said that let there be a particular business that requires some changes due to lack of progress (increase in the resistive / restraining forces). Accordingly, the project manager, with discussion with the stakeholders of the business and using force field analysis on the business, decides to introduce a number of changes in the business itself. In this particular change management process, there are a number of actions or entities as well that act as driving and restraining forces. Instant need for change, business performance and operational requirements are driving forces in this change management while customer feedback, market condition and employee dissent may act as restraining forces. Hence again, force field analysis will play an important role to determine whether a particular has to be applied in a project or the project manager should look for other alternative changes due to extreme restraining forces in the already proposed change.

Yager and Stichler (2015) said that people often mistake driving and restraining forces as pros and cons i.e. many of the people believe that force field analysis is simply the process to determine the pros and cons of a particular system. However, it is a general and common mistake and this needs to be resolved or else the project managers will be driven towards the wrong goal and target while working on a project or on the change management of the project. This is because these project managers believe changes are required regarding the project pros and cons so that only the pros remain and the cons are solved or mitigated. However, it is to be noted that every project has its own pros and cons that remain constant in spite of repeated changes for improvement. On the other hand, every project may not have driving force, restraining force or both and may require additional control, management or changes to bring the same. Driving and restraining forces are not constant and are subjected to change based on various external and internal conditions. As a result, the project managers need to ensure they are working on actual driving and restraining forces and not wasting time on constant pros and cons that need not be addressed in the project.

Hence, from the entire literature review and analysis, it can be said that force field analysis is a very useful and important tool in order to determine the equilibrium state of a system. Although this analysis was first applied in the field of psychology, it now finds extensive use in almost every field like business, construction, project and others. If not confused with other aspects, force field analysis is a very simple tool and can be used to determine the driving and restraining forces on any system and make suitable changes accordingly. While some systems require equilibrium state i.e. equal driving and restraining force while some systems like business require greater driving force than restraining force. Force field analysis can help to identify these forces, analyze, review and prioritize them and then allow the actor (project manager is case of projects) to make suitable changes to achieve the desired state of the system.

The company is interested to design Klang Light Rail system within a cut of cost of almost $4 Billion in Malaysia. This light rail system will be able to link the port of Klang and Kuala Lumpur altogether. The Government of Malaysia is expecting to obtain high commercial revenue and competitive advantages through the appropriate application of the Force field analysis. In order to undertake this specific project the sponsor and developing company both are required to take proper decisions on the project management components. Due to lack of proper decision making most of the times the companies have to struggle. In order to resolve the decision making level issues it is necessary for the project undertaking companies to adopt all suitable components (Nazarko et al., 2017). It is defined that id all the possible components and factors from the business perspectives are undertaken then the company will be successfully able to deliver a successful Light rail project for the Malaysia country. Whenever the companies have to make challenging decision that times that project managers requires paying effective attention on their decision making techniques.

The Light Rail Project covers a 37 kilometers light rail transit of 3 separate lines (3LRT) that connects the Bandar Utama in the outskirts area of Klang. The actual budget estimated for the Light Rail project is $2.2 Billion and the cost has rise up to $7.8 Billion though the current budget estimated for the project is around $4.1Billion. The scope of the project is reduced and thus the budget has also been reduced from $7.0 Billion to $4.1 Billion (DePorres & Livingston, 2016). In the previous planning a 2 kilometer of Tunnel was incorporated and that was dropped in the current project along with a 5 stations. The total numbers of stations are also reduced from 26 to 21 now. No such network level security was available in the previous project plan whereas, according to the change project details above are the mentioned changes will be incorporated eventually. The reasons behind the total budget cut off are the above mentioned factors.

Force Filed analysis is one of the most widely used technique of organizational decision making. It helps to improve the quality of the organizational decision and also increases the overall chances of success. In order to incorporate changes in the existing projects with proper rearrangements of necessary components the project can be implemented as successfully as the Malaysian Government is expecting.

With the proper application of Force Field Analysis technique, the driving forces can be identified and applied at the same time. It also defines certain restraining forces also however the driving forces are much stronger than the restraining forces. In order to make movements towards and changes and resists changes the application of the Force Field Analysis is necessary in the business organizations (Tröster et al., 2018). Either by strengthening the driving forces the change management plan incorporated in the Light Rail projects can be implemented or through weakening the restraining forces the change management programs associated to the project can be easily incorporated.

Identification of the way through which improvement is possible using the Force field analysis

The factors associated to the Force Field Analysis include forces for changing and forces for resisting changes. Based on the requested changes which one from the defined forces are needed to change include usability of proper driving forces. Certain steps are there to be followed by the project undertaken company to make sure that the project objectives are being met by the developers with all the necessary features. First of all, the set of changes should be defined by the project manager considering mind map driving forces, mind map for the restraining forces, review of the forces and development of proper strategies (Balter, 2017). The force driven factors are needed to be prioritized and accordingly proper actions are needed to be undertaken. At the end of the day it is necessary for the project manager to apply Force Field Analysis tools for implementing the light Rail project in Malaysia. This tool is useful to make decision making through analyzing the forces for and also against the changes. Behind these decisions communicating over the reasoning are very important.

The required changes are being identified in the above section and if those changes are considered then only the cut of cost of the project will drastically reduce. The followings are the changes require to be implemented by the project executives and those are as follow:

Proper description of the panning and proposal for the changes: The main aim or goal of the project should be identified at the initiation phase of the Force Field Analysis. Both the driving forces and the restraining will be developed based on the goal of the project,

Identification of the forces for the changes: In order to drive the project both internally and externally the driving changes those are being identified include the followings:

  • The outdated machineries and products lines should be changed
  • The declining team morale must be improved
  • Identification of the factors for increasing the commercial profitability

On the other hand, the external drivers for the Force Field Analysis are as follows:

  • A volatile, uncertain as well s operating environment
  • Disruptive technologies
  • Changes in the demographic trends

The third step is the identification of forces against the changes identified for the Light Rail project of Malaysia. The internal resistors and the restrainers include the below factors:

  • Fears generated from the unknown
  • Current analysis of the existing organizational structure
  • Commitment to the partner business organization
  • Detail government legislation
  • Commercial obligation towards the consumers

After complete analysis of the required change management the identified factors are as follows:

Forces for changes:

  • Reducing of total number of stations
  • Production speed of the project
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Reduction of training time

Forces against changes:

  • Loss of project development team members over changing time period
  • Fearful staffs for the implementation of new technologies
  • Disruption and cost with the impact of the environment

Conclusion

Finally, it can be concluded hereby that force field analysis is a very important tool that can be sufficiently utilized for almost every field that also includes business and projects. Force field analysis ensures the driving and restraining forces are identified and determined whether there is system equilibrium or that equilibrium is to be brought about by making suitable changes. Force field analysis assists the project managers who wish to introduce significant changes in a project in order to bring it under control or fulfilling changed requirements and using this particular technique, the project manager can determine whether the changes will be suitable for the project or not. The process can be initiated using the set of changes that should be defined by the project manager considering mind map driving forces, mind map for the restraining forces, review of the forces and development of proper strategies. The force driven factors are needed to be prioritized and accordingly proper actions are needed to be undertaken. The success of change management in a project often depends on the strategy implemented by the project manager after determining the driving and restraining forces. While some project managers prefer to enhance the driving forces, some other project managers prefer to reduce the restraining forces first and some others prefer to do both simultaneously. In order to explain the use of force field analysis in the project, a specific case study is considered i.e. the ongoing light rail project in Malaysia where this particular technique is implemented in order to determine the driving and restraining forces acting on the project. From the statistical survey of the project, the Light Rail Project is required to cover a 37 kilometers distance through the proposed light rail transit of 3 separate lines (3LRT) and will run in the Bandar Utama area in the outskirts area of Klang. As per the initial estimations, the actual budget estimated for the Light Rail project was $2.2 Billion and the cost has rise up to $7.8 Billion as per the most recent estimations and requirements. In spite of this, the overall budget has been cut down to $4.1Billion. This results in considerable restriction of project scope that in turn acts as a restraining force on the project. On the other hand, the projected advantages of the light rail transit after the project is complete, the demands from the commuters for the new light rail and some other factors act as the driving forces in the project. However, it is also evident that the restraining forces are much stronger than the driving forces in this project and the project authority needs to determine suitable changes that will help it to get rid of the restraining forces.

References

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