How to Resolve Conflicts, Part 2

How to Resolve Conflicts, Part 2

By Bob Sproull

Review of How to Resolve Conflicts, Part 1

I began this series by identifying three different types of conflicts, followed by three different types of solutions. In the first type of conflict, a force is pulling us to do one thing, but an equal and opposite force pulls in the opposite direction. The second type of conflict is one in which we are forced to choose between different alternatives. The third type is the hidden agenda conflict, in which there is generally a personality involved with a desire to hold on to some kind of power. I concluded the post by introducing a tool for resolving conflicts known as the “evaporating cloud.”

Introducing the evaporating cloud

Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt developed this tool, otherwise known as the Conflict Resolution diagram (CRD), to identify and demonstrate the relationship between the key elements of a conflict and then to find ways to resolve it. In this post, I will begin discussing the evaporating cloud and how to construct one.[1]

The basic structure of an evaporating cloud includes a common objective (A), necessary conditions (B & C) that lead to it, and the prerequisites (D and D’) needed to satisfy the necessary conditions. Figure 1 shows the basic structure of the evaporating cloud.

The basic structure ofo the evaporating cloud

The evaporating cloud was developed by [1] Dr. Goldratt to achieve at least eight distinct purposes:

  1. To confirm that the conflict exists and that it is real.
  2. To identify the conflict associated with the problem.
  3. To identify all of the assumptions between the problem and conflict.
  4. To provide a comprehensive answer as to why the problem is present.
  5. To create solutions that could result in win-win situations.
  6. To create innovative solutions to problems.
  7. To provide a resolution of the conflict.
  8. To avoid compromising situations.

Figure 2 is an example of an evaporating cloud presented by [2] Debra Smith in her breakthrough book, The Measurement Nightmare.

Example of an evaporating cloud

The evaporating cloud is a logic diagram that is designed to help us sort through and develop a breakthrough solution to our conflict. In Figure 2, we start with the managers’ objective (A), followed by a necessary condition (B) for the production manager to realize the objective. The specific action required by the production manager to achieve the necessary condition (B) is called the prerequisite.

The operation’s portion of the cloud would then be read as: In order to maximize the performance measures (A), the plant must ship on time (B). In order for the plant to ship on-time, all resources must operate at the same pace as the system constraint (D). The assumption that connects B and D is that by running non-constraints at the same pace as the constraint, the result will be maximum throughput in the shortest cycle-time.

Coming in the next post

In the next post, I will present the other side of the evaporating cloud conflict in order to demonstrate why we have a conflict. As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of my posts, leave a message and I will respond.

Until next time.

Bob Sproull


  • [1] Eliyahu M. Goldratt, The Goal, (Great Barrington, Massachusetts, North River Press, 1986)
  • [2] Debra Smith, The Measurement Nightmare—How the Theory of Constraints Can Resolve Conflicting Strategies, Policies, and Measures (CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 2000)
Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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