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The Thinking Processes Part 9

The Thinking Processes Part 9

By Bob Sproull

A Review

In my last posting we completed our discussion on the Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD) by inserting an injection, or idea, that should “break” the conflict we had identified within the confines of the Current Reality Tree.  One important consideration is that the CRD is a depiction of what is actually happening within our current reality and not what we think should be happening. The steps for developing and using the CRD is that we must first, state the shared common objective between the two sides of the conflict and then determine the requirements both sides believe must exist to achieve the objective.  We then create the prerequisites needed to achieve each of the requirements.  We then articulate the conflict that exists usually between the two prerequisites.  All the while we must state and evaluate the underlying assumptions that correspond to both sides of the conflict.  Finally, we must develop and implement breakthrough ideas to invalidate one more of the assumptions (because statements).  If we do all of this correctly, we should end up with a win-win solution.


What’s Next?

Before we move on to the next Thinking Process (TP) tool, let’s first review the intrinsic order of all five of the original TP tools:


  • Current Reality Tree
  • Evaporating Cloud (EC)
  • Future Reality Tree (FRT
  • Prerequisite Tree (PRT)
  • Transition Tree


Thus far we have discussed the Current Reality Tree (CRT) and the Evaporating Cloud (a.k.a. Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD), so now it’s time to move onto the next one, the Future Reality Tree.


The Future Reality Tree

Like the Current Reality Tree, the Future Reality Tree (FRT) is constructed using sufficiency-based logic (i.e. if-then statements).  It is designed to somehow predict how changes we intend to make to our current reality would be realized in the future.  As with all of these logic diagrams, the FRT can be used in isolation or it can be a part of a full system’s thinking analysis using all of the logic trees.


Dettmer[1] explains that the FRT serves eight basic purposes as follows:

  •         It ensures that any anticipated changes will move the organization closer to achievement of its goal and the associate critical success factors of the system.
  •         It permits testing of new ideas in advance before committing resources (time, money people, etc.)
  •         It logically determines whether or not the proposed changes will produce the desired effects without creating negative side effects.
  •         It points out logically, through something called negative branches, whether the proposed changes will create new problems as the old problems are solved.
  •         It helps sustain beneficial effects via the incorporation of positive reinforcing loops.
  •         It provides a way to assess the system impact of localized decisions
  •         It provides a very effective tool for persuading decision-makers to support a proposed course of action
  •         It serves as an initial planning tool to change the future course.


The FRT provides a framework to help you design and refine changes you intend to make.  It combines the current reality with new ideas (injections) in hopes that you can create new, expected future outcomes.  In other words, you will be able to plot your proposed changes as a chain of cause and effect logic to be able to predict your future reality.

Like the Current Reality Tree, the FRT is built upward from injections to desired effects.  That is, while the CRT builds upward to identify Undersirable Effects (UDEs), the FRT does the opposite.  In effect the FRT create the polar opposite of the CRT.


Negative Branches

But anytime you change the status quo, Dettmer [1] tells us that one of three possibilities will occur:


  1.     Things will get better
  2.     Things will remain the same
  3.     Things will get worse


To avoid the third possibility, the Negative Branch (NB) is used to look into the future to see the impact of your proposed changes.  The NB is such a powerful tool in and of itself, that it can be used by itself without being part of an FRT.  The reason this is so powerful is because it enables you to expose hidden undesirable outcomes that might result from proposed changes to the system.


Positive Reinforcing Loops

When attempting to “design a new future” another very powerful property of the FRT is the positive reinforcing loop.  The purpose of the positive reinforcing loop (PRL) is to deliberately route a desirable effect down to one of its causes to magnify it which helps make it self-sustaining.  You can actually design a PRL into your FRT to help with sustainment.

Next time

In my next posting we’ll continue our discussion on the FRT and then begin building our own version of the FRT.  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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