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Taking Advantage of Resistance to Change (and the TOC Thinking Processes) to Improve Improvements (Part 4)

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Addressing Layer 3 – Lack of agreement that the solution will truly address the problem

— The Future Reality Tree (FRT)

As the names suggest, the Future Reality Tree is similar to the Current Reality Tree in structure, but with new proposed actions, policies, and behaviors injected into it to create a vision of the “future reality” of the system that can be logically demonstrated.

The power of the “if…, then…” sufficiency logic construction is that if any one of the lower-level causes are removed or mitigated, everything that is above it is subject to change. If you can develop various “injections” as new causes, then you can, through restatements of the subsequent logic, predict and direct changes to the resultant effects. A simple example of how sufficiency logic works is:

Current Reality Tree (CRT)
Future Reality Tree (FRT)

If any one of the three “ifs” or causes of this sample Current Reality Tree are removed or modified, the “then” or effect (the fire) may be removed from consideration as a problem. We might choose to develop a system in which fuel and sources of ignition are isolated from one another to prevent fires. Or if the problem is that a fire exists, we may choose to remove the oxygen by covering the fire with water, CO2, or a blanket. These are all possible injections. (If only all the “fire-fighting” we do were so clear-cut! But maybe it can be almost so.) Even in more complex real-life issues, a careful analysis of assumptions, which in this kind of construction become more “ifs” arrowed into the “then,” which become more possible sources for things to remove by the “injection” of new actions, policies, or behaviors.

When the CRT is based in a core conflict, the initial injection comes from the “out-of-the-5-sided-box” solution of that conflict -- the idea that stems from addressing questionable assumptions. Additional injections (including new policies and measurements) are developed to flesh out the elimination of the original problems and their replacement with new desirable effects. As in the raising of assumptions in the Evaporating Cloud process, analysis of sufficiency logic can be performed by adding the word “because…” to the “if…, then…” verbalization of the logical links in question. Doing so will help to trigger additional, unstated causal assumptions that will provide additional opportunities for changing the predicted negative outcome.

(Note: Some “systems-thinking” aficionados may see, in this process, similarities to causal loops. Indeed, complete Current and Future Reality Trees for complex systems do often contain loops of causality. In CRTs, these loops most often serve to perpetuate undesirable stuff. In well-designed FRTs, loops will be consciously looked for and strengthened so that they will contribute to getting more and more of the desired outcomes.)

The objective of the Future Reality Tree is to construct and communicate a strategy – a vision of how to change the undesirable effects found in the CRT to desirable effects and to lay the groundwork for addressing higher-level strategic objectives. Again, like the CRT, building an FRT is best done by individuals or by very small groups, while the most effective use of group interaction (and that gains from experienced facilitation) is in scrutiny, clarification, and completion of the solution. The clear, easily interpreted and scrutinized “if…, then…” logic lends itself to open dialogue on the subject, and if presented as such, with a willingness to modify and augment as potential collaborators add additional knowledge and perceptions, is highly useful for getting agreement that the solution will address the problem and its undesirable effects.


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?


Wherever you go, there you are. - Buckaroo Banzai, from the film

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