Force Field Analysis

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Project managers must live in a dynamic environment in which constant and rapid change becomes a way of life. To operate effectively under these circumstances, the project manager must be able to diagnose the situation, design alternatives that will remedy it, provide the necessary leadership so that these changes can be implemented, and develop an atmosphere that helps the employees to adapt readily to these changes.

One of the early pioneers in developing theories for managing change was Kurt Lewin.3 Lewin believed that at any point in time during the life cycle of a project there will exist driving forces that will push the project toward success and restraining forces that may induce failure. In a steady-state environment, the driving and restraining forces are in balance. However, if the driving forces increase or the restraining forces decrease, whether they act independently or together, change is likely to take place. The formal analysis of these forces is commonly referred to as force field analysis. This type of analysis can be used to:4

• Monitor the project team and measure potential

• Audit the project on an ongoing basis

• Involve project personnel, which can be conducive to team building

• Measure the sensitivity of proposed changes

3 Kurt Lewin, "Frontiers in Group Dynamics," Human Relations, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1947; Also, Field Theory in Social Science (New York: Harper, 1951).

Current studies in force field analysis have been conducted by Dugan et al.,5 whose research involved 125 project managers in approximately seventy different technology-oriented companies. The research study and questionnaire were personally explained to the participating project managers to minimize potential communications problems.

The researchers obtained information in several areas, including:

• Personal drive, motivation, and leadership

• Team motivation

• Management support

• Functional support

• Technical expertise

• Project objectives

• Financial resources

• Client support and commitment

The research study categorized each of the above areas according to project life-cycle phase. However, for simplicity's sake, only a brief synopsis of each of these areas will be presented. The reader is directed to the reference article for a more detailed description.

Personal drive, motivation, and leadership were found to provide the stron-gest driving forces, and were important attributes of the project manager and team members and important in all project life-cycle phases. The lack of personal drive, motivation, and leadership was found to result in strong restraining forces. The force field analysis gave the following results for personal drive, motivation, and leadership:

• Driving forces

• Desire for accomplishment

• Interest in project

• Work challenge

• Group acceptance

• Common objectives

• Experience in task management

• Providing proper direction

• Assistance in problem-solving

• Effective communications

• Restraining forces

• Inexperienced project leader

• Uncertain roles

• Lack of technical knowledge

• Personality problems

5 H. S. Dugan, H. J. Thamhain, and D. L. Wilemon, "Managing Change in Project Management," Proceedings of the Ninth Annual International Seminar/Symposium on Project Management, The Project Management Institute, 1977, pp. 178-188.

• Lack of self-confidence and credibility

• Poor project control

• First project management experience

Team motivation was identified as having the strongest overall influence on project success, and as an important factor in all phases of the project. Team motivation was a strong driver and, if lacking, became a strong restraint. The following results for team motivation were found:

• Driving forces

• Good interpersonal relations

• Desire to achieve

• Integration of team and project objectives

• Agreement and distribution of work

• Clear role definition

• Professional interest in project

• Challenge of project

• Project visibility and rewards

• Restraining forces

• Poor team organization

• Communication barriers

• Poor leadership

• Uncertain rewards

• Uncertain objectives

• Resistance to project management approach

• Little commitment or ownership in project

• Team members overloaded

• Limited prior team experience

• Unequal talent distribution

Management support was found to have important driving and restraining qualities, and was associated with all project phases. The following results were obtained:

• Driving forces

• Sufficient resources

• Proper priorities

• Authority delegation

• Management interest • Restraining forces

• Unclear objectives

• Insufficient resources

• Changing priorities

• Insufficient authority/charter

• Management indifference

• Poor direction

• Excessive preoccupation with minor details

• Wanting support

• Unresponsive management

• Continuous change in scope

• Poor project organization

Functional support was identified as important during project buildup, main phase, and phaseout, as well as being a must for successful project completion. Functional support was affected by topmanagement support, funding, and organizational structure. The forces behind functional support were found to be:

• Driving forces

• Clear goals and priorities

• Proper planning

• Adequate task integrators

• Restraining forces

• Priority conflicts

• Funding restraints

• Poor project organization

• Resistance to project objectives

• Unclear roles

Technical expertise was particularly important during project formation and buildup. The forces identified were:

• Driving forces

• Ability to manage technology

• Prior track record

• Low-risk project

• Restraining forces

• Lack of technical information

• Unexpected technical problems

• Inability to cope with change

Project objectives were most important during project formation and start-up. The forces identified were:

• Driving forces

• Clear expectations/responsibilities

• Clear interface relationships

• Clear specifications

• Workable project plan • Restraining forces

• Conflict over objectives (i.e., no project plan)

• Customer uncertainties

• Technical problems

The last two items are financial resources and client support and commitment. Under financial resources are:

• Driving forces

• Necessary financial resources

• Financial control capability

• Restraining forces

• Budget restraints

• Lack of authority to commit funds

• Manpower problems

• Facilities unavailable

• Insufficient planning

Under client support and commitment are:

• Driving forces

• Good working relations

• Clear objectives

• Timely client feedback

• Client support and commitment

• Regular meetings/reviews

• Help and concern

• Restraining forces

• Lack of information on client needs

• Lack of sustained interest

• Conflict within client organization

• Changing requirements

• Funding problems

The authors then summarized their results as follows:

• Implications for project managers

• Understand interaction of organizational and behavioral elements to build an effective team.

• Show concern for team members—know their needs.

• Provide work challenge.

• Communicate objectives clearly.

• Plan effectively and early in the project cycle.

• Establish a contingency plan.

• Implications for top management

• Poor organizational climate has a negative effect on project performance.

• Project leader abilities are crucial to effective project management. Program management selection should be carefully considered. Formal training and development may be necessary.

• Senior management support is important.

• Clearly defined decision channels and priorities may improve operating effectiveness with functional departments.

• Smooth project start-up and phaseout procedures help to ease personnel problems and power plays.

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