Stephen Covey: Force Field Analysis – Restraining Forces vs. Driving Forces

Sociologist Kurt Lewin developed a “Force Field Analysis” model in which he described any current level of performance or being as a state of equilibrium between the driving forces that encourage upward movement and the restraining forces that discourse it.

So, in dumb English, driving forces are generally positive, reasonable, logical, conscious, and economic.

Restraining forces are often negative, emotional, illogical, unconscious, and social/psychological.  Most need to be taken into account when dealing with change.

In a family, you have a climate at home.  What does that mean? Well, look at your family, for instance.  Are they generally happy or constantly complaining? The examples I’ve used in the past about my family have been spot on.  It’s terrifying to even read this part of Stephen Covey’s book, cringing at every sentence and face-palming myself because of the super negative environment I was in.

Some of you might feel safe or unsafe when expressing feelings.  Kind of like that stern father in the movie Fences who was just so bold, strong, and assertive.

Going back to my family, there could be a level of respect; me always showing respect to my mother and never talking back, or disrespect – my brother constantly disrespecting my mother verbally.

You’re going to have to change that level.  You may want to create a climate that’s more positive in general…..respectful.  Something that’s more open and trusting.

Increasing the driving forces, however, are not enough.  Your efforts are opposed by restraining forces – by the competitive spirit between children in the family…as Stephen Covey says.

It could also be habits, demands by work, or anything that requires a lot of energy.

Increasing the driving forces could absolutely bring results – for a while.  However, restraining forces are still there and it’s just going to get harder.

So, Stephen Covey talks about creating Synergy.  This creates an atmosphere where you feel safe about talking about these forces.  You can create insights.  You can involve people in a problem, immerse them in it, so that they soak and feel it as their problem and they tend to become an important part of the solution.

When you do all of this, new goals and shared goals are created.  Everything begins to move in a positive directions.  It can ultimately create a new culture in your house.


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