In Extension, and especially in life, we have decisions that we need to make. Many of us typically embrace change or loathe change. Regardless if it is tough or easy, it involves a process of weighing our options (good and bad). I think that we are all familiar with the Pros and Cons model: Putting a “T” in the middle of the paper and writing down the positives on one side and the negatives on the other. Once that is done, we look at our list and try to decide what to do. Or some of us may just put different options on a dartboard and take a chance!
During one of my professional development workshops, a new style of decision making was introduced and was definitely helpful – The Force Field Analysis (and no, this is nothing involving Star Wars – well, kind of). This method was created by Kurt Lewin and has been around for quite some time. Allow me to explain.
The Force Field Analysis is a simple, but effective method to decide if change will happen by forces for or forces against. Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton! Newton in his Third Law of Motion described that forces always occur in pairs: Gravity pulls you into that comfy desk chair while the chair is pushing up against you, pushing water behind you while paddling a boat pulls the boat forward, and on and on. The more force on one side or another, the “other” will often give way.
Knowing that description, these forces are assigned a number from one to five: One representing a force that is not too important; Five representing a force that is very important. Once finished, you add up the columns and make a decision. This method also uses arrows that point to the prospective change, which are drawn representative to the number given. Of course, there are instances where the numbers are equal or closely aligned. At this time, you can see which forces you could strengthen to determine if you are ready (or not) for change.
I created this picture as an example to illustrate this process. The change would be to try and add a new Extension Agent in the local office. You will see there are forces for and forces against. This is a basic example, but hopefully it gives you a picture of how this technique works to determine if you are ready for change OR if you can look at the data and see if you can increase the forces that support change. Try it out and …may the force be with you!