Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of Change

By John Dudovskiy

One of the most popular theories related to the topic of change is Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of change according to which there are two forces affecting to change at the same time (Rickards, 1999). There are driving forces that positively contribute to the change to happen and there are also restraining forces that are obstructions to change. Most of the restraining forces on individual basis have been explained above. Accordingly, in order for the change plan to succeed driving forces should be strong, restraining forces should weaken, or both of these should take place at the same time.

Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of Change


For instance, if a company has proposed a change plan that requires employees to use new software when preparing report instead of old software the workforce is used to there are driving forces, as well as restraining forces that affect the success of this change plan. The main driving force in this case would be the fact that reports prepared with the new software would result in more detailed information for decision making, and thus create competitive edge for the company. However, restraining forces are the facts that employees are used to the old software, more time needs to be spent with the new software and the new software is more complex to use.

The practical implications of this theory are that senior level management of this company should strengthen the driving force for the change which can be achieved through explaining to the workforce the advantages of the new software for decision-making and how this advantage is connected to the long-term growth of the company, and ultimately how it will affect the future of each employees. At the same time company management should minimise restraining forces through organising training for employees and teach them how to use the new software.

According to Pasmore and Woodman (2007) as taken from Piderit (2000) resistance to change has three components: cognitive, emotional and intentional. The cognitive dimension of resistance to change relates to attitudes of individuals about the object of change. In other words, cognitive dimension of resistance to change mainly deals with viewpoints and opinions about various aspects of proposed change including aims of the change, consequences etc.

The emotional dimension to resistance to change, on the other hand, deals with the feelings of individuals regarding the change. Feelings related to change felt by people involved might include fear, anxiety, excitement, betrayal depending on the nature of the change and how the change is perceived by individuals. Intentional dimension of resistance to change is also called behavioural and relates to intentions of individuals regarding the change like intentionally resisting change due to some reasons.

Each above mentioned dimensions of resistance to change has negative impact on the success of implementation of the change plan. When dealing with individual and organisational resistance to change managers have to identify the dimension of resistance due to the fact that strategies used to combat each dimension of resistance differ from each other.


  • Pasmore, WA & Woodman, RW, 2007, Research in Organisational Change and Development, Volume 16, Emerald Group Publishing
  • Rickards, T, 1999, Creativity and Management of Change, Blackwell Publishing

Category: Change