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Force Field Analysis

Quality Glossary Definition: Force field analysis

Force field analysis is a basic tool for root cause analysis that can help you take action once the root cause has been identified. The technique is based on the assumption that any situation is the result of forces for and against the current state being in equilibrium. Countering the opposing forces and/or increasing the favorable forces will help induce a change by reinforcing positives and eliminating or reducing negatives.

Force field analysis does the following:

  • Presents the positives and negatives of a situation so they are easily comparable.
  • Considers all aspects of making the desired change.
  • Encourages agreement about the relative priority of factors on each side of the balance sheet.
  • Encourages honest reflection on the underlying roots of a problem and its solution.

Force Field Analysis Process

Conduct a force field analysis through the following steps:

  1. Brainstorm all possible forces inside and outside the organization that could work for or against the solution.
  2. Assess the strength of each of the forces.
  3. Place the forces in a force field diagram, with the length of each arrow in the diagram proportional to the strength of the force it represents.
  4. For each force, but especially the stronger ones, discuss how to increase the forces for the change and reduce those against it.


An office-based surgery center needed to uncover patients’ use of herbal supplements and instruct them to cease use some time before surgery. The center decided upon a number of different actions. Some revolved around the preoperative telephone interview conducted days in advance of the procedure:

  • Allocating two “silent rooms” in which to conduct these interviews.
  • Instructing the interviewers to press for clear answers to questions regarding patients’ use of supplements.
  • Developing an interview guide/checklist where the interviewer can check off responses obtained to record the answers.
  • In the longer run, employing at least one nurse with language skills beyond English.

Realizing that some of these remedies might meet with resistance from staff or patients, the analysis team decided to assess the implementation situation using force field analysis. The analysis is shown in Figure 1, identifying patients’ embarrassment or reluctance to answer honestly as the most serious obstacle. In favor of implementation, the much higher likelihood
of avoiding supplement-related complications should induce interviewers to be more persistent in obtaining answers. 

Figure 1: Force Field Analysis Example
Force field analysis example

Force Field Analysis Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for force field analysis resources.

DMADV Project Saves $2 Million For Brazilian Mining Company (PDF) Using the DMADV methodology and a variety of quality tools, including force field analysis, a team helped Samarco Mining realize more than $2 million in savings annually through the development of a low-energy iron ore pellet to meet customer needs and internal goals. The team was named a finalist in ASQ’s 2015 International Team Excellence Awards competition.

Solve Problems With Open Communication (Quality Progress) This article discusses how force field analysis is a versatile tool that can help employees resolve issues to meet the goals of their organizations.

An Integrated Perspective Leads To Simultaneous Improvement (Journal for Quality and Participation) Is quality bigger than social responsibility? Is it a subcomponent of risk management? Is it a cost or benefit in fiscal management? Force field analysis is used to portray the relationships among different perspectives on quality.

Sea Change (Quality Progress) Change is constant in today’s business landscape because technologies and consumer demands are accelerating. A new five-point framework, including force field analysis, that is focused on the psychological well-being of employees and business needs will assist those leading their organizations through disruptive change.

Tribal Quest (Quality Progress) Many quality failures can be attributed to the fact that most organizations function as tribal cultures where knowledge isn’t shared, power is hoarded, and formal rules aren’t enforced. Random attempts to introduce quality methods into a tribal culture are bound to fail, but using force field analysis to create change within the system has been effective for changing organizational cultures.

Excerpted from Root Cause Analysis and Improvement in the Healthcare Sector: A Step-by-Step Guide, ASQ Quality Press.

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