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The Thinking Processes Part 6

The Thinking Processes Part 6

By Bob Sproull

A Review

In my last post we completed our Current Reality Tree and identified several root causes to attack.  Just to refresh your memory, the figure below is our completed CRT.


Now that the Current Reality Tree is completed and we have identified the core problems to resolve, what’s next?  The real question is, how do you go about attacking and solving a system’s problem or a policy constraint.  You do so by developing simple breakthrough ideas and solutions.  But with every problem, there are conflicts that seem to get in the way of your ideas for problem resolution.  In our CRT, one of the core problems is the use of the performance metric, efficiency, so let’s see how we might address this problem.

Types of Conflicts

There are three primary types of conflicts that you must deal with as you work to resolve problems, or more specifically, the system’s problems and policy constraints.  The first conflict is one where one force is pulling you to do one thing, but an equal and opposite force pulls in the opposite direction.  Dettmer [1] refers to this type of conflict as opposite conditions.  The second type of conflict is one in which you are forced to choose between different alternatives, which Dettmer refers to as, different alternatives.  The third type of conflict is what I refer to as hidden agenda conflicts. In this type of conflict, there is generally a personality involved in which a desire or inherent need to hold onto some kind of power.

When attempting to resolve conflicts, it’s important to recognize that there are three types of resolutions that can be achieved:  win-win, win-lose, or compromise.  Of the three possible outcomes, you should always attempt to achieve a win-win solution, but sometimes this is not possible or practical.  In a win-lose situation, one side typically gets just about everything they wanted while the other side gets very little.  This type of solution only serves to create hostile attitudes which significantly diminish your chance of success simply because the losing side might attempt to sabotage your solution – not openly, but rather covertly or surreptitiously.  In the case of a compromise, generally the solution ends up being sub-optimized because you are attempting to satisfy most of the requirements of both parties engaged in the conflict.  But having said this, a compromise is better than a win-lose or imposed solution, but it too results in a sub-optimized solution.  So just how does one resolve conflicts?

The Conflict Resolution Diagram

Goldratt developed a tool he referred to as a Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD) also known as an evaporating cloud or just simply a conflict cloud.  The CRD’s purpose is to articulate the key elements of a conflict and then suggest ways to resolve the conflict.  The CRD uses necessity based logic and uses the syntax, “In order to have “x” I must have “y” because….”  The CRD includes the common objective, necessary, but not sufficient requirements that lead to it, and the prerequisites needed to satisfy them.  The figure below is a visual of what a CRD looks like.

As stated earlier, the primary purpose of the CRD is to resolve conflicts and it does so by exposing pre-existing assumptions and then developing injections (i.e. ideas) to break and resolve the conflict in order to create win-win solutions.  These win-win solutions require that we come up with new ways of doing things, or as Dettmer explains, “new solutions to old problems that might also be described as “breakthroughs.”  Sometimes these new solutions are obvious, but because they haven’t been exposed, they lie dormant until then.  When the conflict is obvious, the solution many times is obvious as well.  But when the conflict is not obvious, it frequently goes unrecognized.  Because of this, the problem may be very difficult to resolve effectively. 

Next time

Now that we have laid the framework for the CRD, in my next post we’ll present an example of how we can resolve a conflict from our Current Reality Tree.  As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of my posts, leave me a message and I will respond. 

Until next time.

Bob Sproull


[1] The Logical Thinking Process – H. William Dettmer, Quality Press, 2007

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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