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BSA Solutions

An extract from the 60 tools available in...
Section 1: General tools
This section deals with tools that have general application to individuals, groups, communities and organisations.

Tool # 1.4 Identifying driving forces

• Vital process for acknowledging the most influential elements on an organisation/community's situation.
• Involves both positive and negative factors.
• Allows user-friendly classification of the elements for easy comparison.
• Reduces complex analysis to a 'bare bones' table.
• Helps develop strategies to handle the key factors.

Driving forces are those factors (external and internal) that have the most influence on organisational and community outcomes. So, for example, an internal driving force may be staff satisfaction level, which in turn affects company efficiency, whether staff contribute ideas for improvement and their level of attendance at work. An externally generated driving force may be competitive pressure, which results from the presence and performance of competitors in your marketplace and to which your organisation or community must respond.

This tool is an adaption of the force field analysis developed by Kurt Lewin and explained by Lynn Fossum in Understanding Organisational Change: Converting Theory to Practice (Crisp Publications, 1989).

When staff operating city car parks were asked at a workshop to identify the driving forces in their car parks, the staff thought that this was a stupid question. They stated the obvious - cars were the driving force! Then they were asked to consider why cars come into the city, and the staff concluded that the cars' drivers and passengers worked in the city and/or were seeking entertainment, such as attending movies, restaurants, theatre, or were going shopping. The next question to consider was: 'what is going to influence people to drive into the city?' Some of the influences are the effectiveness of public transport and the cost of fuel. Improved office technology allows more people to work in the suburbs or at home (creating fewer reasons to travel into the city). If more suitable entertainment/shopping facilities, such as cinemas, theatres, restaurants and shopping centres, are available in the suburbs, there are fewer reasons to travel into the city.

These car park staff now have an understanding that the factors influencing cars coming into city car parks are quite complex and don't just involve cars.

This tool involves consideration of two types of driving forces:

• enhancing/successful (positive), i.e. elements which help improve performance

• restraining/unsuccessful (negative), i.e. obstacles to improving performance.

Here are some questions that will help you to understand driving forces and their importance:

• What drives demand/choice/staff/cost?

• What underpins the sustainable competitive advantage?

• What are the current and potential risks?

Here's an example:

The process of identifying driving forces

List both the enhancing (+) and restraining (-) forces in your situation and assign an impact/strength to each of the forces of low (L), medium (M) or high (H). Furthermore, the impact could be sub-divided into short (S), 1 to 6 months; medium (M), 12 to 18 months; and long- term (L), 2 to 5 years.

Key driving forces can be classified into three types: controllable (C), some influence (S) and uncontrollable (U).

Once you have identified all the forces, then classified them (as enhancing or restraining), and assessed their impact (high, medium or low) and determined their controllability (controllable, some influence or uncontrollable), you can then identify strategies to handle the forces.


For example, if your business involves exporting or importing goods or services, foreign exchange risk is a force that could both enhance or restrain performance; its impact could be high on profitability, but it is uncontrollable. Thus, a strategy needs to be developed to handle this factor. One possible strategy is to have forward foreign exchange cover, or hedging, to reduce the risk of the adverse impact of exchange rate fluctuations.

In a tabulated format, the process looks like the table below.

Once the driving forces, and their relative impact/strengths, have been identified, then ways to improve the current situation can be investigated. For the situation to improve, one or more of the following must happen:

• strengthen or add enhancing forces

• remove or reduce restraining forces

• change the direction of some of the forces.

Changing the direction of a restraining force into an enhancing force is one of the most effective ways to obtain improvements. This is best done by testing assumptions underlying the driving force, clarifying outcomes and recognising the resulting benefits.

Sometimes merely adding or strengthening a driving force may result in increased tension. This tension can be minimised by removing or diminishing restraining (opposing) forces.

Sources: Lynn Fossum 1989, Allied Technologies Limited 2005, Land Transport Authority 2005, Xerox Business Centre 2005

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