Lewin’s Forces at Work

What is it?

This framework is based on the theory of change from Kurt Lewin (an American psychologist). According to Kurt Lewin, “an issue is held in balance by the interaction of two opposing sets of forces – those seeking to promote change (driving forces) and those attempting to maintain the status quo (restraining forces).




When is it useful?

This is a very simple tool that can be used by any team to generate commitment to how to achieve a goal.

An Example?

How do you do the analysis?

This is an appropriate tool to be used in a workshop so that everyone’s perspectives can be gathered and a joint commitment made to progress.

To start with, ask the question if the vision is clear? Does everyone have a shared understanding of the goal we are trying to reach? If not, creating that shared vision of a preferable future will be one of the actions we take away.

Secondly, ask the team what are the forces that are driving us to change. They can be forces that are internal to the organisation (e.g. profit pressure, individual commitment to excellence, desire to achieve for the team) or they can be imposed from the business environment (e.g. demands of customers, competitive pressure, changing technology)

Lastly, consider the forces that are opposing the change. Again, they may be internal to the organisation (e.g. centralised decision-making structure, inadequate IT systems, lack of key functional skills) or they may be external (e.g. competitor reactions, regulatory barriers, lack of credibility with customers)

When we have mapped these forces, we can turn the team’s attention to brainstorming how to counter them.

  • Can we switch any restraining forces to become driving forces?
  • Are there any restraining forces that we can eliminate?
  • How can we reduce the power of restraining forces?
  • Can we harness the driving forces more effectively?

These questions are biased in favour of achieving the goal through attacking the restraining forces. Otherwise, driving harder will just encounter more and more resistance.

I want to know more

How can you adapt this concept?