• Read Time 10 min
How Customer Success can use a force field analysis to drive change (in 5 steps)
If you’ve clicked through to read this article, then you’re probably wondering, “what the heck is a force field analysis, anyway?” Though it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, we can assure you that a force field analysis has many practical applications that are firmly based in our current reality.
So, while this article won’t tell you how to build a force field – sorry to disappoint, there’s a reason we’re in the SaaS business and not modern physics after all – it does share how Amy Manning, a decade-long Customer Success leader and current vice president of Customer Success at Lawgeex, uses this framework to improve processes, make tough decisions, and change customer behavior.
In this article, we cover:
- What is a force field analysis?
- When should you use a force field analysis?
- How to conduct a force field analysis
- Define your objective
- Identify driving forces
- Identify restraining forces
- Score all the forces
- Create an action plan
Let’s get started.
*This article is adapted from a session presented by Amy Manning, vice president of Customer Success at Lawgeex from BIG RYG, ChurnZero’s annual Customer Success leadership summit. You can watch Amy’s session on-demand, along with all other BIG RYG Virtual sessions.
What is a force field analysis?
A force field analysis provides a framework for looking at the factors (forces) that influence a situation or process. By offsetting the opposing forces and/or increasing the driving forces, you can generate change. This analysis was first developed by Kurt Lewin who is often recognized as the founder of social psychology.
A force field analysis helps you:
- Compare the positives and negatives of a process
- Weigh the importance of individual forces on both sides
- Identify the root cause of a problem
To help illustrate this theory at a fundamental level, Amy suggests conducting a simple science experiment. First, you need to be sitting down. (See, you’re already crushing this.) Now, pause to consider what’s keeping you in the chair (hint: there are two answers). One is gravity which is pushing you down into the chair – a driving force. The second is the chair itself – the opposing force – which is pushing against gravity to stop you from falling to the floor. While you’re sitting in the chair, you’re in equilibrium thanks to these two forces working together to keep you there.
Now, let’s say you want to remove this equilibrium and fall to the floor because it’s time for your lunchtime nap (no judgment). What could you do? One option is to increase the amount of gravity (the driving force). The chair will eventually give way and you will fall. Alternatively, you could weaken the chair (the restraining force) to achieve the same result.
If you’ve read this far, then congrats, you’ve just completed a force field analysis. You might be wondering how this experiment is relevant to your day-to-day work and life. But Kurt Lewin applied this exact methodology to social situations to change people and processes alike. Next, we explain when and how you can use it too.
When should you use a force field analysis?
By looking at the foundational principles of a force field analysis through the lens of business processes, you can identify the root causes of issues and opportunities for change. There are many ways you can use a force field analysis in both your professional and personal life, including when you need to:
- Improve a process like onboarding
- Remove barriers to adoption
- Manage customer feedback
- Make a change or difficult decision
- Help your team resolve issues and focus on broader goals
- Assist your sales organization in closing deals faster
Let’s pick one use case – managing customer feedback – to examine a bit closer. Customer Success teams receive a constant flow of customer feedback. Typically, Customer Success teams submit that feedback to their product team. Then, they sit tight until their colleagues assign a priority. But instead of playing a game of wait and see, CSMs can take the proactive step of doing their own priority assessment based on what’s important to the business. Whether that’s driving greater adoption, reducing time to value, or whatever goal is central to them and their business, CSMs can use a force field analysis to weigh the value of related feedback. This type of analysis helps you identify both the physical and psychological barriers to achieving an objective so you can adjust or remove them.
Next up, Amy walks us through how we can use this framework to uncover the hidden causes of our problems and shares her personal experience applying this analysis to her work in Customer Success.
How to conduct a force field analysis
Before you begin your force field analysis, it’s helpful to have a whiteboard on hand to map out your forces. If you prefer to do this digitally, Amy recommends an online whiteboarding tool called Miro. They offer a free version to get started with ready-made templates or the option to build your own.
To conduct a force field analysis, follow these five steps:
- Define your objective
- Identify driving forces
- Identify restraining forces
- Score all the forces
- Create an action plan
Let’s dive into each step.
1. Define your objective
First, you need to define your change objective. Write it down in a rectangular box in the middle of your page. It’s important to use clear and precise language when defining your objective.
To give you an example, Amy shares that went she first started at Lawgeex, about half of their customers were stuck in onboarding. Amy’s objective was to figure out how to reduce the team’s onboarding time from 140 days to 30 days.
But before Amy could use a force field analysis to identify the underlying problems, she needed to become an expert in the process itself. If you’re new to a role, mapping out existing processes is extremely helpful when trying to understand the status quo. If you’re already well-versed in the process you’re looking to analyze, then you can skip to step two.
Map out your processes
The best way to map out a workflow is to do just that: map it out. In the example below, Amy maps out an onboarding journey, but you can perform this exercise using any customer journey.
Source: “Using a force field analysis to optimize the critical path of any process” presented by Amy Manning, vice president of Customer Success at Lawgeex
When charting your workflow or process, you want to:
- Map out internal and external actions
- Highlight possible pain points
- Call out points for discussion
- Note internal owners and stakeholders
- Break down sub-processes, if needed
Now, let’s get back to our force field analysis.
2. Identify driving forces
To identify all the forces, both internal and external, that drive toward your objective, it’s helpful to discuss and brainstorm ideas with your team, explore data, and surface facts. You can think of this exercise as similar to using a SWOT analysis to find strengths and opportunities.
To pick back up with our onboarding example from earlier, after Amy set the objective, she now needed to identify the actions and events that push customers forward in their onboarding journey. She gathered her team for a brainstorming session where they identified three primary driving forces:
- Executive involvement – engaging executives who can use their authority and sway to help corral their team accelerates onboarding
- Policy setter identification – recognizing and including this customer role type eases the facilitation of onboarding
- Baseline establishment – encouraging customers to enter onboarding with baselines positions Amy’s team for success as it gives them a starting point to build from
As Amy advises, don’t hold back when brainstorming. Your driving forces can be emotions, people, processes, or documents – anything goes. There are no bad ideas.
3. Identify restraining forces
Next, repeat the same exercise as above, only this time you want to identify the forces that are working against your objective. Again, your forces don’t have to be deliverables or concrete steps. Oftentimes, feelings, especially fears, can be a huge restraining force in a customer’s product adoption.
At Lawgeex, Amy says they must contend with their customers’ fear of being replaced. “We work with lawyers and they’re worried that our technology is going to replace them,” says Amy. “That’s absolutely a blocker towards the goal of onboarding.” Restraining forces can add time or hurdles, and even stop a process altogether.
“This exercise gets people talking about things in a different way and seeing their customers in a different way,” says Amy. “You get a million different ideas.”
With your ideas in hand, it’s now time to prioritize them.
4. Score all the forces
As you go through this exercise, you’ll realize that forces are not all of equal strength. Once you’ve identified your forces, you need to rank them. Assign a weight or score to each force based on its strength. What that means, as Amy explains, is you want to rate forces on their ability to impact change. If you had this force consistently, how impactful would that be? How much change would that drive? Or conversely, if you didn’t have this force consistently, what would happen?
It’s recommended that you use a 5-point rating scale where “5” represents the strongest force. If you have a more complex change scenario, you can use a 10-point rating scale. But this determination will depend on the criticality of the change and the number of driving and opposing forces.
To demonstrate this step, let’s revisit our chair experiment for a moment. When you think about weighing those forces, is it easier to increase gravity or remove the chair? “I have no idea how I’d increase gravity, but I can definitely pull the chair out,” says Amy. “The outcome would be the same, you’re still on the floor, but the level of effort is completely different.”
Throughout her years conducting this analysis, Amy’s found that removing the opposing force tends to be more impactful than amping up the driving force because you’re removing actual blockers. However, it’s still a valuable exercise to perform for both sides.
Once you’ve weighed all your forces, you can begin to pare your list down to determine what will have the biggest effect. After that, you’re ready to put your analysis into action.
5. Create an action plan
At this point, you’ve hopefully identified a number of forces or potential fixes. If you have a long list of ideas, that’s great – but don’t try to implement everything at once. An action plan will help you focus on the work that matters most. To create an action plan, you need to:
1. Review the forces. Decide which forces have some flexibility for change or can be influenced. Certain forces, such as a person’s fear of losing their job, will be harder to influence.
2. Strategize! Create a strategy to strengthen the driving forces or weaken the restraining forces, or both. “Sometimes, people get stuck in this mode of thinking where they’re like, ‘We can’t remove this thing. Or I can’t remove someone’s fear.’ But there might be ways to reduce it,” says Amy. For example, you can work with your executive buyer to ensure they tell their team about all the important things they’ll be able to do once they start using your product to automate time-consuming processes.
3. Prioritize action steps. Measure the effort required to implement a step and the impact of that step’s outcome. First, prioritize steps that will have the biggest impact and require minimal effort. Next, consider steps that will take more upfront work but will have a larger payoff at a future date. If a step is going to take a massive amount of effort without a meaningful return, you might want to hold off or opt for a minimum viable product that’s more feasible. Be realistic about the priorities you set and your likelihood of achieving them. Lastly, identify the resources you will need – both inside and outside of your team – and decide how to implement the action steps.
May the force (field analysis) be with you
Completing a force field analysis demonstrates to your leadership team that you’ve done the work required to have an opinion about the strategies you put forward. You’ve substantiated your business case by presenting your main objective, the current barriers to achieving your objective, and the specific projects that will either neutralize or remove said barriers and bolster the positive drivers. And since you’ve already isolated and mapped all your variables, when it comes time to measure the impact of your projects, you can show not only the correlation but also the causation of your action steps and their effect on a particular objective.
So, take comfort in knowing that whatever Customer Success challenges lie ahead of you, the force is on your side.
For more process improvement frameworks, check out our blog, “How to map your customer’s vector path to determine whether they’re heading in a positive trajectory.” Customer Success vectors tell you where your customers are heading relative to where they are today. As a relatively new concept, this article explains what a Customer Success vector is and how you can implement these vectors as part of your Customer Success strategy.
About the presenter
Amy Manning has over a decade of Customer Success experience leading and developing high-performing teams. She’s passionate about learning both professionally and personally along with her colleagues. With every team she manages, she strives to bring enthusiasm, transparency, and integrity.
As the vice president of Customer Success at Lawgeex, she’s a critical part of the executive team – managing a group of Customer Success managers and directors, and working with Fortune 100 companies to adopt contract review automation and achieve their expected outcomes.
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