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Taking Advantage of Resistance to Change (and the TOC Thinking Processes) to Improve Improvements (Part 5)

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Addressing Layer 4 – Concern that the solution will lead to new undesirable side effects

— The Negative Branch Reservation (NBR)

While the various Thinking Processes thus far outlined can be used for the construction of a solution strategy, once identified, that strategy needs to be communicated to others for their buy-in. Using the same tools for initial discussion of the proposal will help get through the first three layers of resistance, as described above. Presenting the proposal in the form of a Future Reality Tree provides enough detailed information to allow open scrutiny of that strategy.

When a proposal to solve a problem is offered by a member of a group, whether in the form of a seemingly complete Future Reality Tree or in the form of a standalone idea thrown out on the table, there are frequently concerns or reservations raised on the part of other members of the group. In the lingo of the Thinking Processes, a RESERVATION exists that if we act on an injection in the Future Reality TREE, there will result a BRANCH in that reality that leads to a new, undesirable, NEGATIVE result – a undesirable side-effect of the solution; hence, the “Negative Branch Reservation” or NBR.

An NBR is essentially a mini-Current Reality Tree, rooted in a particular aspect of the proposal and logically demonstrating through “if…, then…” cause-and-effect logic, why the concern – the new undesirable effect will result. The key to “trimming the negative branch” again lies in the conversion of internalized intuition into logical steps that can be rationally discussed while avoiding the feeling of “constructive criticism” or more blatant “pot-shots” aimed at the proposal.

The “if.., then…” connections must link the proposed action with the suspected negative outcome. We can then again apply assumption searches to the arrows, especially those that are merging arrows, not directly related to the initial proposal, in order to find a new injection - a new idea, arrowed into the logic, that will change the outcome of concern. In the following example, it is determined that by instituting a new policy, we will be able to achieve something good for the organization.

Negative Branch Reservation (NBR)

In this simple negative branch, it's easy to see that to complete the solution, i.e., to get not only the desired good stuff, but to avoid the possible negative consequences of our action we might want to replace the lack of understanding of the policy with another action involving education and explanation of the purpose of the policy, perhaps with even new systems of measurements that support the new policy. By doing so, we avoid the possible misinterpretation and subsequent bad stuff.

In terms of group accomplishment, the NBRs brought up by group members serve to complete the solution developed in a Future Reality Tree. To this end, it behooves the proponent of a solution to swallow his or her pride of authorship and actively solicit concerns or even reasons we shouldn’t implement the proposal as stated. If they’re not identified, they can’t be dealt with. If they’re not dealt with, they could jeopardize the entire initiative. In this mindset, the concerns no longer fall under the category of criticism (constructive or otherwise), but instead serve to complete the solution.

From a buy-in perspective, it is also offers an additional powerful benefit. It provides a route to buy-in for participants as their contribution to the solution (in the form of actions required to trim their NBRs) gives them a sense of ownership of (at least part of) the overall solution. Actually, even if starting with a single proposal without a pre-prepared FRT, the identification and solution of NBRs could result in an FRT built on that proposal as open and unguarded discussion of concerns builds upon it.

Once the Layer 4 concerns of the buy-in targets are dealt with through the trimming of Negative Branch Reservations, adding the solutions of the NBRs to the FRT completes the answer to the objective of determining to what to change to.


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?


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