A force-field analysis helps us with a problem by modeling the factors that drive people toward achieving a particular change (i.e., learning) and the factors that block people from achieving that change. The table below lists forces that commonly drive learning in organizations and the factors that block learning in organizations.

Strategic Goals Limited Resources
Technology Lack of Leadership Support
Competition Work vs. Learning
Compliance Fear of Failure
Need for Agility Lack of Alignment
Hiring Low/Unclear Expectations
Retention Not Role of Managers
Creativity No Opportunity to Apply
Innovation No Accountability

The forces that drive individuals, teams, and whole organizations to learn and, therefore, improve performance, often include: shared commitment to achieving organization’s strategic goals; constant and rapid change brought on by adoption of new technologies; global and relentless competition from old and new players in the marketplace; government and industry regulatory requirements for quality, safety, security, and service; a need to be agile in response to internal and external pressure for change; attracting the right people, getting them in the right jobs, and keeping talent; and being creative and innovative with products and services.

The forces that block individuals, teams, and whole organizations from learning and, therefore, prevent improvement of performance, often include: a mistaken belief that there isn’t enough time, money, and energy for learning; leaders who do not communicate and model their support of learning; a mindset that working and learning are separate activities and that work is more valued; fear of not succeeding at something and, therefore, not taking any risks; not knowing how a learning intervention (training, coaching, etc.) will help the organization achieve its goals; not being clear about what needs to be learned and why; managers who do not involve themselves in the learning process; no opportunity to apply new learning in the workplace; and no accountability on the part of employees and managers for learning and performance improvement.

The usefulness of this force-field analysis of organizational learning is in stimulating action to add and enhance the factors that drive learning and stimulating action to eliminate and reduce the factors that block learning. What are the factors that drive and block learning in your organization? What can you do to increase the drivers and decrease the blockers?