Force-Field Analysis (General)
Force-field analysis (similar to S.W.O.T. analysis) is a simple, yet powerful technique, useful at the beginning of a safety project to define the nature of the beast you are dealing with. It is particularly useful when seeking to develop new Safety Management Systems or revise old ones.
If you are new to an organisation it is an excellent way to get to know the people and the issues, it is also an excellent way to have others get to know you and get the message across that you are interested in their issues.
A group of much more than 15 gets difficult to facilitate .Often a mixture of managers, supervisors and workers is appropriate but be conscious that the presence of senior people may inhibit the workers, if this is the case it is better to have a separate worker session as well.
Defining the scope of your deliberations is important-Put some boundaries around your discussions. In larger organisations a number of facilitation sessions will be appropriate.
The process goes something like this-
1 Revise the brainstorming rules
Say the first thing that pops into your mind
Do not be judgemental of your or others ideas
Contributors do not have to justify their ideas
Do not interrupt the other person
The wilder the idea the better the idea
Do not be constrained by convention
Think out of the square
Quantity not necessarily quality initially
Every person and every idea has equal worth
Build on the ideas put forward by others
Sometimes you may wish to have a fun exercise to practice the brainstorming technique to start with. One exercise I did had a number of OHS professionals one of whom ran a take-away shop as an extra business. We brainstormed how to increase the sales of fish & chips at “Buck’s Greasy Spoon” (That was the name the group came up with for the take-away shop, the owner took this in his stride) One of your members may have a hobby or activity they are trying to improve and you can brainstorm how to help them improve. Main thing is light-hearted & not too serious.
2 Brainstorm an objective or objectives for the Management System .
3 Brainstorm the promoting / facilitating forces acting towards the objective
4 Brainstorm the constraining / restraining forces acting against the objective
5 Develop an action plan to boost the facilitating / promoting forces and negate the constraining / restraining forces.
Discussion needs to be recorded on butchers paper, on a recording whiteboard (( Check before hand that it is working and there is an adequate supply of paper) or on the fly with a lap-top & data projector. Always have butchers paper, black & blue markers and blu-tac available in case the technology fails or the power goes out. One of the outcomes of the above discussion is that you will define a number of the good things you are already doing in the area being considered, in itself, not a bad thing.
Always make sure you feedback the results of the discussions to the participants and, once decided, what actions resulted from the discussions.
Required actions may need dividing into those the business unit has responsibility for and those corporate has responsibility for.
The deliberations above may assist in the development of strategic and operational management plans.
Advantages of force-field analysis
Involves a wide cross-section of stakeholders in meaningful discussions about the topic
Places a high profile on the topic
Helps with defining and documenting the things you are already doing in the area
Helps to identify the deficiencies in the current Management System
With a highly skilled facilitator helps to develop innovative solutions and improvements
Requires a highly skilled facilitator to develop trust with the participants and “surface” the issues, people often “spill their guts” on a whole range of previously unsurfaced issues. It can, to a certain extent, be a healing process where those aggrieved get a chance to unload their problems.
The real danger is people with hobby horses, it requires some skill to be seen to be interested without having particular issues take over.
For complex issues and / or a large group 2.5-3 hours may be required. The process can be hard work and tiring, monitor how people are going and possibly schedule a second session. Have regular short, sharp breaks.
Very important-Have water & glasses on the table, fruit if possible, aids concentration