Force and Effect Chart Guides Team through Addressing Barriers

Teams are very effective for problem solving and decision making. Members of a team often view opportunities for improvement or problem solutions in different ways. This is a normal characteristic of teams. The Force and Effect chart helps teams identify barriers to and resolutions for the transition from the current state to the future state of a problem or redesign situation.

The Force and Effect diagram combines a Force Field and Cause and Effect diagram. Instead of having one box on the Cause and Effect diagram we have a double-headed effect. The far left box is the current state and the far right box is the desired future state. In between are main cause branches that are maintaining the status quo. Too often we focus only on causes of the current state and do not look at what pushes us to make a change. The current state is held in balance by interaction of two opposing forces: those seeking to promote change (driving) and those attempting to maintain the status quo (restraining).

The Force and Effect diagram presents the positives and negatives of a current state so they are easily comparable, considers all aspects of making the desired change to the future state, encourages team agreement about the relative priority of positive and negative factors and encourages honest reflection on the underlying roots of a problem and its solution.

Figure 1 is an example of the Force and Effect chart showing positive and negative forces related to a future state of making data driven decisions. The Force and Effect chart combines well with brainstorming and affinity analysis to develop and organize main causes which become the major bones of the chart and subsequently provide locators for barriers (negative forces) and options for resolution (positive forces).

We construct a Force and Effect diagram as follows:

  1. Draw the Force and Effect diagram
  2. Describe the current state and place it in the box on the far left
  3. Describe the desired future state and place it in the box on the far right
  4. Brainstorm the major cause categories and place them on the diagram as major cause branches
  5. For each major cause branch list the restrainers (right side) and drivers (left side)
  6. Determine the strength of each force as either High (H), Medium (M), or Low (L)
  7. Categorize the major forces impacting the move to the desired future state on each major cause branch
  8. Then determine how to:
    1. Increase the strength of driving forces by asking "Why" it happened and "How" to increase its positive effect
    2. Decrease the strength of restraining forces by asking "Why" it happened and "How" to decrease its negative effect
  9. Once all the major forces, both positive and negative have been analyzed, the team should develop an action plan to move to the desired state. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Figure 1: Force and Effect Chart: Data Driven Decision Making

Note that it is not necessary to have a positive force related to each separate negative force. Multiple forces on one side of a main cause can address a single force on the opposite side. The Force and Effect chart is a tool to encourage team discovery and prioritization related to root cause solutions.