Got a problem? Use a “Forcefield”!

You are clear on your “Business Vision”.

You know what you want your business to look like (say) 3 years ahead. As a consequence you have identified your 2-3 “key strategic thrusts” for the next (say) 12 months.

It is now time to build a “Plan” to address one of your key (“strategic thrust”) problem areas.

How best to go about building such a plan? Answer – start with a “Forcefield” analysis.

Forcefield the problem

First – let us be clear what the problem is that we are trying to solve (or “strategic thrust” focus area that we are attacking).
Next -consider what are the BIG POSITIVE ACTIONS that must happen to solve your problem? List those on the left of the above illustration. It would be normal to expect perhaps 5 or 6 really big positive “action items” in any plan.

Once you have exhausted all the big, positive actions – now consider and list all the BIG NEGATIVE FORCES that are likely to stop the plan happening. First, let’s be very clear – these negative forces are not (usually) the direct opposites of the positives we identified above – usually these are deeply pervasive things like:

- “We don’t have the time to do x”
– “We lack the skills to do y”
– “We don’t have the required resources to do z”
– “We have competing priorities” – “where should I focus my efforts?”
– “Our budget is not clear or just not sufficient” etc.

Again you would normally expect about 5 or 6 big negative forces that are likely to challenge progress or, at best, slow down implementation of a plan. You write those up on the right of the forcefield.

Now – go back to the positive list on the left. Under each of your big postives brainstorm (say) 5 sub-actions required to move the big action forward.
Similarly – go back to your list of big negatives on the right. Under each of those, brainstorm (say) 5 ways you could mitigate (think in terms of at least potentially halving the detrimental impact) of those negatives.

In this way a management team (working as a team is always best when “doing a forcefield”) can quickly (usually within 1-2 hours) build a rough outline plan with about 50-60 agreed actions required (5-6 big actions x 5 sub-actions each for both the positives and the negatives). Here is a “made up” example (written up on a flip chart slide) shown below.

Forcefield Strategic Thrust

Those 50-60 actions will become the outline “bones of your plan”. They will probably not comprise the whole plan – but will cover the “highlights” (more than 80% of whatever it is that is important to do) – and you will have benefitted from a “management team collaborative effort” and achieved a high level of team consensus.

Also, critically, you will have addressed the “negative forces” in advance (these are the reasons that most plans fail in practice).

The next step is to make somebody on the team accountable (with a timescale, resources etc) to put ‘the flesh on the bones’ of your outline “forcefield plan”. Usually this will involve bringing the subsequent “fleshed out plan” back to the management group for the next stage of collaboration and consensus agreement. You are now well into the classic – “PLAN – DO – TEST – ACT” cycle which is a key characteristic of the “Properly Managed Business” – as distinct from the “In-Between-Zone Business” (characterized by “plate-spinning entrepreneurs”). But that is the next stage of the story.


So – next time you have a business problem that is big enough to require a detailed plan – start with a “Forcefield”!