Review of The Systems Thinking Tools, Part 1
The last post began a new series on the Theory of Constraints-based “systems thinking tools.” I began by explaining the core concepts of systems and systems thinking. Then I presented a listing of the five major systems thinking tools, and explained the first in the list:
- Current reality tree
- Conflict resolution diagram (a.k.a. as the evaporating cloud and/or conflict resolution diagram)
- Future reality tree
- Prerequisite tree
- Transition tree
The current reality tree (continued)
In this post, I will continue to explain how the current reality tree (CRT) can be used, demonstrate the basic structure of the CRT, and then begin discussing the remaining thinking process tools. Much of what I am presenting in this series is taken from the book, Epiphanized: A Novel on Unifying Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma, Second Edition. by Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015.
A snapshot of a system that connects the current state of activities
The CRT is used primarily to analyze, scrutinize, and document current reality as it exists at a single point in time. It’s a snapshot of a system in its current state. As the name implies, the CRT defines things as they currently exist. It is an assemblage of entity statements linked together using sufficiency-based logic. Sufficiency logic is based on “if” and “then” statements and the logic is cause-effect-cause in nature. In other words, If entity A, then entity B. The statement means that entity A is sufficient to cause entity B.
The CRT is the tool of choice for defining and logically connecting the current state of activities within a system. The foundational structure of the CRT is comprised of entities commonly referred to as undesirable effects (UDEs). The UDEs list is populated by asking the question: “In my current reality, what bothers me?” The answer to this question becomes the list of UDEs that currently exist. Usually a list of five to seven UDEs are required to start; however, it is possible that more UDEs will be surfaced during the construction of the CRT. In total, these UDEs become the collection of all the bad things (undesirable effects) that seem to be happening in the current system at the same time, or as perceived random events. These negative events might appear to happen in isolation from each other, but they are actually events that can be linked together using cause-effect-cause relationships. What first appear as random events that don’t seem to be related at all can be logically scrutinized and connected using a CRT. As it turns out, random events are not nearly as random as you may think. Everything that happens usually happens because something else happened just before that.
Getting to “why” with sufficiency-based logic
Using sufficiency logic to determine the cause-effect-cause relationships between events (UDEs) provides a detailed and clear understanding about “why” particular events seem to be happening over and over again. Once the CRT is logically connected and verified, it is possible to identify that a single UDE (core problem) at the bottom or near the bottom of the tree is actually creating all of the other UDEs. The figure below is the graphical representation of a basic CRT.
With the core problem now identified, it becomes clear where to focus the improvement effort. The assumption is that if the core problem (undesirable effect) is changed from the negative to the positive, the other UDEs in the CRT will disappear as well. The ellipse between two arrows is the logical “and” statement, meaning that both entities must exist to cause the stated effect.
Coming in the next post
In my next post, I will continue this discussion on the current reality tree, demonstrate how to construct one, and then begin discussing the remaining thinking process tools.
Until next time,
Epiphanized: A Novel on Unifying Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma, Second Edition, Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2015
Don't miss out!
Stay on top of the latest business acumen by subscribing to the Manufacturing Breakthrough blog.