Force Field Analysis

Force field analysis is a basic analytic technique that relies on the model of tension systems. Its essence is very simple: list both positive forces and negative forces, and then analyze their intensity and relations. If you see that the negative force field is stronger, then try to think of various ways to add positive forces or eliminate negative forces.

For example, if you wanted to analyze whether in negotiation the other party would accept your proposal, you would list all the positive forces (everything that is driving them to say yes), such as:

  • Short-term monetary incentives (your offer guarantees them most profit in the short-term)
  • Personal liking (you have a good relationship with their people)
  • Timing (you made the first offer and cleverly anchored the price)

And you would also list all the negative forces (everything that is driving them to say no), such as:

  • Long-term monetary incentives (in the long-term, your offer will bring them less profits than competing offers)
  • Poor institutional credibility (while they like you personally, they don’t have as much faith in your organization)
  • Inertia (they are tempted to stay with their existing partners simply because it requires less effort)

It is very useful to have some visualization of the force field. Traditionally, the force field analysis is visualized with counterpoised arrows, such as here. I’ve modified the typical visualization to this one, which I find simpler and more intuitive:

Visualization of the Force Field Analysis