Friday, July 8, 2011

Practical Decision Making: Force Field Analysis


“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”

Professor Stephen Hawking

This is a framework for looking at the forces that influence a decision. There are two types of forces:

  • Helping forces: Drive movement towards the decision

  • Hindering forces: Resist movement towards the decision

using the technique

The first step is to draw a box within which you write the decision. Then you list all the helping and hindering forces. The example I will use here is whether I should buy a new car:

Having spent some time trying to think of all the forces in play you then assign a strength to each force between 1 and 5 where 1 is weak and 5 is strong:

We can then add up the strengths of the forces to give a helping:hindering ratio. In this case it is 7:11 so initially it looks like the decision to buy a new car will not be made because the hindering forces outweigh the helping forces.


The forces in a force field analysis are dynamic and will change over time. Doing the same analysis in a months or a years time will usually produce a different result.

If we do want the decision to go ahead we can now look for ways to increase the helping forces and decrease the hindering forces.

Looking at the hindering forces:

  • Cost: If I leased a car then I could change this from 4 to 2.

  • Time: As I don't have much time to look at other models I could always just buy the same model which would change this score from 4 to 1.

  • Which model: Would therefore also decrease from 3 to 1.

So by decreasing the hindering forces the analysis now gives 7:4, much more promising.

In my example the helping forces will mostly increase with time as reliability, decreased maintenance and fuel economy become more significant. We might say that in a few months time that these will change to 4, 3 and 3 respectively. (It is unlikely in a few months time that I will care any more about my car looking new, so that score would stay the same.) So in a few months time this may change to 11:4, even more promising.

My conclusion from this analysis is therefore that I should lease the same model of car as I have already either now or in a few months time.