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Taking Advantage of Resistance to Change (and the TOC Thinking Processes) to Improve Improvements (Part 3)

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Addressing Layer 2 – Lack of direction for a solution

—Evaporating the Core Conflict Cloud

One of the tenets of the Theory of Constraints, reflecting its roots in the application of the techniques associated with scientific method to those “soft sciences” like management and organizational behavior, is that in any system that is brought together for a purpose, there is no such thing as real conflict, but only unexamined assumptions. The cloud allows a clear statement of the perceived dilemma and provides a route for the surfacing and scrutiny of those assumptions.

Under every arrow (including the conflict arrow between D and D') lie assumptions. Brainstorming those assumptions is a matter of reading the “in order to, we must” statements, and then adding the word “because...” to it, soliciting reasons why A requires B or C requires D', or why D and D' are mutually exclusive. Once the assumptions are sufficiently spelled out, it's a matter of finding one that seems susceptible to questioning -- a chink in the armor of the conflict.

If stuck on the proverbial desert island of problem solving, the Evaporating Cloud process is a major candidate for the tool to take along, because at the core of almost any problem or decision (either minute and personal or broad and strategic) that one faces is the dilemma of doing one thing or another, pursuing one direction or another, going for D or for D', even when its as simple as doing something or doing nothing. The cloud tells you that there really isn't a choice involved at all; it's only a matter of examining the assumptions that make you think there is a choice.

While this process of assumption raising and replacement can be applied to any conflict cloud, including those associated with the original list of individual problems to come up with a potential solution at the local level, what we are trying to is solve a variety of issues by attacking the deeper conflict coloring the actions and reactions of the larger organizational system. The replacement of at least one of the assumptions perpetuating the Core Conflict Cloud provides the starting point – the direction – for a deeply rooted and therefore powerful, holistic solution to the original diverse problem set.

Using the Evaporating Cloud process to create a powerful first step for a solution can be either an individual or group effort. The straightforward documentation of the cloud, the identified assumptions, and the idea that is injected into this situation and becomes the direction for the solution provides a clear, easily scrutinized communication tool to bring others into agreement on the direction or to offer modifications that will lead to that agreement. Breaking this conflict gets us past layer 2 providing us with the basis for agreement on a direction for the solution.


This article was originally presented at and included in the proceedings of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) Solutions Conference (Dallas, May, 2001) by Francis S. "Frank" Patrick of Focused Performance. It is broken down here into sections for ease of reading on-line. For off-line reading and sharing, it can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format at resistancetext.pdf. The associated presentation handout can also be downloaded at resistanceslides.pdf.

Part 1 -- Abstract, Introduction, and Underlying Concepts of the TOC Thinking Processes

Part 2 -- Layer 1 -- Lack of agreement on the problem
-- The Core Conflict Cloud (CCC) and the Current Reality Tree (CRT)

Part 3 -- Layer 2 -- Lack of direction for a solution
-- Evaporating the Core Conflict Cloud

Part 4 -- Layer 3 -- Lack of agreement that the solution will truly address the problem
-- The Future Reality Tree (FRT)

Part 5 -- Layer 4 -- Concern that the solution will lead to new undesirable side effects
-- The Negative Branch Reservation (NBR)

Part 6 -- Layer 5 -- Lack of a clear path around obstacles to the solution
-- The Prerequisite Tree (PRT) and Transition Tree (TT)

Part 7 -- Layer 6 -- Lack of follow-through even after agreement to proceed with the solution
-- Unverbalized fear or concerns

Part 8 --Summary -- Layers of Resistance and Thinking Process tools to deal with them
-- What to change?
-- To what to change to?
-- How to make the change happen?


The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards. - Arthur Koestler

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