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Deploying an IT Solution – Force Field Analysis

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As IT professionals we frequently face the fact that the software we create is resisted by the users of the solution we designed and created. I for one have a particular sad experience in a previous employment, from which I learned a lot, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there to have had this experience.

The force field analysis is a tool that can help us understand the social dynamics of such a situation. This tool is rather a framework for looking at factors (forces) that influence a situation. Forces can either drive you towards a goal (helping forces), or block you from reaching a goal (restraining forces).

This principle/framework was developed by Kurt Lewin for the study of social sciences; however the development was rendered influential as well in other fields of study such as organisational development, process management and change management. Deploying an IT Solution is a change in itself that should be managed by any professional who is worth his salt.

In the force field analysis model Kurt Lewin described any current level of performance or being to be in a state of equilibrium between the driving forces that encourage progress and the restraining forces that discourage progress. Driving forces are generally positive, reasonable, and logical while restraining forces are generally negative, unreasonable and illogical. Both forces have to be taken into account when dealing with a change, such as when we deploy or are planning to deploy an IT Solution.

Increasing driving forces will only do so much. The restraining forces will act like pushing against a spring, the more you push the harder it becomes until they thrust the driving forces back down to the previous point of equilibrium. I admit I experienced that too; I pushed harder and harder. More demos, more one to one sessions, more training, more advertising, more quick fixes, more answers to questions raised but still after a while the restraining forces just push back.

To reach certain goals rather than pushing forward, a different approach is required; the approach of synergy to reduce or eliminate the restraining forces. This can be achieved by approaching the goal, (in this case the deployment of the IT Solution) with win/win thinking and the ability to seek to understand first. We need to understand that the restraining forces in most of our cases act on a human level rather than the technological level, providing technical solutions will not cut it. Our IT Solution however good as it might be, could be affecting stakeholders in different ways; from just being a new thing to be learned to for example the thought that the improved functionality could make one redundant. To be successful in our endeavour we need to act on the human level too. We have to create a conductive environment where such restraining forces can be discussed. When we make it safe for stakeholders to talk about these restraining forces, we manage to loosen them up; un-freeze them.

By encouraging communication between all the stakeholders we can identify and analyse the restraining forces. Just by being nice and seeking to listen first, we set ourselves up for success. As stakeholders communicate with us and between themselves, we’ve opened up creative channels on the human level, which will put the stakeholders on our side. That synergy will surely lead to problem resolution that benefits both us in terms or reaching our goals and the stakeholder who can now take up our software with lower concern and higher sense of security that the IT Solution that we are providing will be a positive change on the human level as well.

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