The Thinking Process

Figure 2.12 illustrates the overall Thinking Process flow and identifies the primary tools. Goldratt designed the Thinking Process to answer three questions:

1. What to change;

2. What to change to;

3. How to cause the change.

The process steps link so that the output of each step provides the input for the next step.

Goldratt developed the tools necessary to apply the Thinking Process. In addition to their use in the Thinking Process, the tools (other than the Current Reality and Future Reality trees) have stand-alone application. The text below describes the tools, but it will not use most of them until near the end in order to keep the text accessible to readers who may not be interested in learning more about TOC but would like to improve their projects. The text does make extensive use of the Evaporating Cloud, the most elegant stand-alone TOC tool. The final chapter demonstrates application of the Thinking Process to create CCPM. Dettmer [23] provides an effective description and set of procedures to apply the Thinking Process.

Many people find the list of TOC Thinking Process tools and associated acronyms intimidating at first. Most people require two to three weeks of intensive training and practice to be able to solo with the Thinking Process and usually several years of applications to become proficient. Eric Noreen, Debra Smith, and James T. Mackey [26] report that even after this training, only a limited number of people are able to create significant solutions. (Their book is becoming somewhat dated, and the process, tools, and training have changed since their survey. I am not aware of more recent survey data. But, personal observations indicate that their results still apply.)

You do not need to understand all of the TOC tools to successfully apply CCPM. The reason for describing them at this point in this text is to let you know that CCPM was developed as a robust theory and subjected to extensive critical discussion before it was put to the test.

What to change? What to change to?

What to change? What to change to?

How to cause the change?

Figure 2.12 The Thinking Process leads us from UDEs, through the core conflict, to successful implementation.

How to cause the change?

Figure 2.12 The Thinking Process leads us from UDEs, through the core conflict, to successful implementation.

Current Reality Tree The Current Reality Tree (CRT) is a logical effect^cause^effect model of the existing system connecting a core conflict to a set of UDEs. Relating all (or most) of the UDEs of the system to a single core conflict focuses on the leverage point of the system, identifying what to change. Guidelines for scrutiny (in Popper's words, "critical discussion") of the CRT leads to team agreement on the effect^cause^effect relationships that cause the system UDEs. In other words, it leads to agreement on the right problem. The CRT identifies the policies, measures, and behaviors that contribute to current reality. You subject the tree to scrojting (critical discussion) to improve it and obtain stakeholder buy-in. You read the CRT from the bottom up using IF/THEN logical statements.

Evaporating Cloud The Evaporating Cloud and guidelines for its communication and use define and aid resolution of conflicts or dilemmas. You can consider it a fixed-format horizontal tree of necessity. You read the Evaporating Cloud from left to right, using "in order to have x, you must first have y" necessity logic.

Goldratt's Evaporating Cloud can be a good tool to unearth the underlying beliefs, or mind-sets, that cause conflicts and dilemmas although unconsious beliefs are difficult to find, even with this tool.

Figure 2.13 presents a general version of the Evaporating Cloud in terms of beliefs and actions. (I have come to understand this is as the most basic representation of the Evaporating Cloud.) The cloud describes two views of reality, or two arguments (in the sense of logical arguments). Consider D andD' as two conflicting propositions about how to achieve the goal. One argument is, "In order to have A, I must have B. In order to have B, I must have D." The other argument is, "In order to have A, I must have C. In order to have C, I must have D'." Thus, even with a common goal, there are two logical ways to get there. The beliefs may be compatible with each other, or they may not. The actions are not compatible. If they were, there would not be a conflict.

The process to resolve the Evaporating Cloud is as important as the construct. Usually one side constructs the cloud, with a pretty clear view of what the alternative actions are (e.g., D, D'). The constructor can usually come up with a belief that connects his proposition to the goal. He can only guess at the other side's belief. (As noted above, neither side may really understand his underlying belief.) The constructor presents the cloud to the other side, reading the other side first. When reading it, the constructor makes clear that he only guessed at C and accepts any revision proposed by the other side. The constructor then reads his side, noting, "No wonder we have a disagreement." He then suggests, "Let's search for solutions that will give us

Figure 2.13 Goldratt's Evaporating Cloud provides a tool to resolve conflict and dilemmas.

A, B, and C, and not worry about D and D'. This is a win-win solution. Let's try to identify some assumptions that underlie the arrows in this diagram, and see if we can come up with a way to invalidate one or more of those assumptions, and get to our win-win solution."

Future Reality Tree The Future Reality Tree (FRT) defines the system you wish to change to. The FRT system converts all of the UDEs of current reality into their counterpart DEs. It identifies the changes that you have to make in current reality to cause the DEs and provides the effect^cause^effect logic from those changes to the DEs. The FRT identifies the feedback necessary to maintain the future reality after the actions made to create the injections are no longer active. You must scrutinize the FRTW with stakeholders of the system. You read the FRT from the bottom up using IF/THEN logical statements.

Negative Branch The Negative Branch (NBR) aids diagnosis and resolution of single UDEs. It is a tool to identify and eliminate or correct potential unintended consequences from the changes you make in the system. It is a little tree (thus a branch) connecting some known effect to the UDE. Guidelines for scrutiny and buy-in by affected people are the same as for the CRT and FRT. When used in the Thinking Process, the NBR starts by assuming successful application of one of the injections made to create the FRT. You read the NBR from the bottom up using IF/THEN logical statements.

Prerequisite Tree The Prerequisite Tree (PRT) provides a coherent strategy and synchronized logical plan to achieve a team objective. It creates team buy-in to the intermediate objectives necessary to reach a higher-level objective, such as an injection on the FRT. It makes use of people's natural ability to identify obstacles to achieving objectives and creates a logical, sequenced plan to overcome all of the obstacles. You read the PRT from the top down, using "in order to have x, we must first have y" necessity logic.

Transition Tree The Transition Tree (TRT) provides clear instructions for actions to achieve the objectives specified on a PRT or any other objective. It is a logical way to write an effective procedure. The TRT specifies the actions, the reason the action is needed, the result expected from the action, the logic for expecting the action to create the desired result, and the logic for the sequence of the actions. You read the TRT from the bottom up using IF/THEN logical statements. I have found that most TOC practitioners use the TRT very little and personally substitute project plans for this purpose.

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