A Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints (TOC)





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I started this page in 2013, 10 years after the start of the original website.  It is more personal, it is chronological, and it contains new things; people are doing this all around the world.  There is superb work going on in Critical Chain for instance, there is superb work going on in Drum-Buffer-Rope.  This work is dispersed amongst the world-class practitioners that we have, and these people are accessible.  The TOCICO conferences and the reference bank of videos and presentations are the principle repository of these materials.  The materials are there, please go and search for them.  Better still, go to the conferences and meet these people face to face.  TOCICO is truly international; there are a substantial number of members from South America, Eastern Europe, Japan, India, and even those of us in the scattered isles of the south-west Pacific.

In my own case my developmental efforts seem to have gravitated towards the Thinking Processes and the Cloud in particular.  This was not by design, it was by necessity, and let me be very clear that this is not an “ends” in itself, but rather it is a “means” to an end.  That end is a successful enterprise both now and in the future, be that; factory, hospital, software or service or something greater.

So What About This Page Then?

Well, I am glad that you asked.  When I first put this page together I grouped things into a sort of logical progression.  But how I come to these things is not logical, it is chronological.  So I have decided now to regroup these things into a chronological progression, and to flesh out the context a little bit more.  It is more of a context of discovery rather than a context of justification.  Most of this material leads to a PowerPoint, or to a new webpage.  Some of this will lead you nowhere at this moment because it is simply a statement of work that has been completed but hasn’t yet seen the light of day.

I’ve moved many of the PowerPoints links, both of presented and of un-presented work, to the homepage but I will still explain the context in the appropriate order on this current page.  I wanted to make this work more accessible, and putting it on the homepage is about as accessible as I can make it.

In New Zealand vernacular we have a saying “heaps of” as in “heaps of stuff,” and well there is still a heap of stuff that remains and that I want to, at the very least, “book-mark” so that it is known to exist.  So let’s just do exactly that.

The Systemic Cloud & The Role of Negative Fantasy

Bill Dettmer mentioned to me around mid-2005 that I ought to read Jerry Harvey’s Abilene Paradox and I did not do so.  Not one to give up, towards the end of 2006 he sent me the audio version of it, and, well, I was hooked and I bought the book as well.  Harvey exposes one “type” of negative fantasy and the rationale behind it in his book and briefly mentions another type of fantasy in the audio.  I have more fully integrated this second one since.  If you never do anything else, do get a copy of The Abilene Paradox and read the eponymous chapter, and also for good measure read “The Gunsmoke Phenomenon” and “Eichmann in the Organization” from the same book.

There is emotion generated by our logic – often a very powerful and opposing emotion – and there is also rationality and logic to that emotion if only we would care to understand it.  New ideas; transformational or transcendent ideas, generate negative fantasy and we must be aware of this if we are not to lock up the systemic cloud in a conflicted state.  I started to use this concept explicitly in a device that I call a shadow cloud and by early 2009 this formed one of three fundamental clouds that I use in explaining Theory of Constraints.

In mid-2011, once I knew how to incorporate the layers of resistance into the cloud, I could also fully incorporate negative fantasy there as well.  In early 2012 as I prepared the material on the layers of resistance and the systemic cloud I wrote out the whole of the Abilene Paradox story as a systemic cloud.  Fantasy forms an important part of the change matrix and therefore also the assumptions of the cloud.  I wrote this at the same time as the Chicago presentation because it was intended to be a seamless flow-on from that.  It is my absolute intention to present this material publically.

If anyone should find an original of the CRM Learning audio tape cassettes by Jerry Harvey in their corporate archive, or their car glove-box, I would hugely appreciate knowing about it.

The Systemic Cloud – How and Why it Works
(TOCICO New York Jun 2011)

Credit once again to Bill Dettmer.  Bill has been the source of any number of important tips for a very long time and I deeply appreciate that.  He has issues with the potential for error through inductive fallacy with the 3 cloud method and I accept those reservations although I would simultaneously hope that any such errors are also pregnant with potential.  That is, after all, how we learn.  But he also issued me with 3 clouds one day in 2003 and said; “find a generic cloud in that!”  Except that I did!  It must have been good because he replied; “how did you do that?”  Well, in actuality I think that there must be something universal about this device and this powerpoint and presentation at TOCICO in New York 2011 explains the knowledge for how I did what I did, and my understanding of why the cloud works as it does.

The systemic cloud is, for me, the basis of all of our work and I tried to draw together a number of apparently disparate threads – often from science – into a consistent weave.  Described at the time as “profound,” I do hope that you will learn something from it.  PowerPoint & Video Link.

The Systemic Cloud & The Layers of Resistance
(TOCICO Chicago Jun 2012)

Just four or five weeks after the New York conference I took a week of leave to work on material for this website.  I had doodled the layers of resistance and the various Thinking Process methods into the change matrix at New York, I had been able to do that for some time and I thought that everyone else could do this too, although now I am not so sure.  The thought occurred to me that; for a cloud to “stand open,” for a conflict to still exist, for a conflict to remain unresolved, then we can’t have fully overcome the layers of resistance.  The layers of resistance must therefore be in the cloud somewhere and if I could fit the change matrix to the cloud then I would know where the layers of resistance were too.  I single-mindedly tried to “fit” the change matrix into the cloud for most of that week – and it wouldn’t work.  And then, suddenly towards the end of that week it did work.

There is indeed an inherent simplicity between two diagonals in the change matrix and the two arms of the systemic cloud.  The change matrix adds sufficiency to the necessity of the cloud – like a glove slipping over a hand.  A long-time expert of clouds, and the wizard of the double jeopardy, later described this work as “simply brilliant.”

As I worked on this presentation I realized that I “had been here before,” some of the constructs that I had earlier used for negative fantasy – previously written out as assumptions but not derived from the change matrix – followed exactly this same form.

This work was presented at TOCICO in Chicago in 2012 as one of the 3 finalists in the inaugural Goldratt Foundation New Knowledge Award.  It explains how these entities; the layers of resistance, the change matrix, and the systemic cloud, map into a consistent whole.  I used the Copernican Revolution at the time of Copernicus to illustrate the process.  Master this and you will be able to write hugely better systemic clouds very much faster than you can imagine. PowerPoint & Video Link.  

Two Matrices Or One (May 2012)

I prepared this in response to a question from the selection judges for the presentation above.  We have been taught that there are two change matrices for every cloud; one for each side of a local/local conflict, or one for each side of a local/global conflict.  And yet the cloud and the change matrix work that I have presented above use only one matrix.  How come?  Well, the reason is that only one diagonal in each case is really valid, and they are complementary – so rather like someone who has let their eyes go cross-eyed and then focused again, the two matrices merge into one.  There is utility in this, once you know the mechanics of it.  PowerPoint Link.

Efrat’s Layer 2
(Aug 2012)

Efrat Goldratt uses a 9 layer resistance as a change scheme.  In what is effectively a note to myself I show that some of the excuses that I have heard about change are really verbalizations of Efrat’s layer 2 and I show where they map into the change matrix as we hear them and then relate that back to the correct quadrant of origin.  PowerPoint Link.

Why Good People Appear To Go Bad
(Aug 2012)

Dr Sergey Ivanov and I presented a short discussion at the Chicago conference entitled “why good people go bad.”  It was full of good things from Elliott Jaques and Eli Goldratt.  I felt that the message wasn't well understood and so I decided to write it down (and extend it).  I think that the little diagram that was presented is important, and too few people really understand the dynamics that we face every day.

·         The first part is mechanistic – the rationale for having passive wrong done within a system.

·         The second part is behavioristic – the rationale for actively doing wrong in a system.

This material is in an older powerpoint format and I am in the process of porting it to a newer one, but I will leave the commentary almost exactly as it was in the original.  PowerPoint Link.

The Change Matrix & Towards/Away From
(Aug 2012)

In the terms of Thomas Kuhn, this is a “mopping-up” operation; it fell out of the change matrix while working on the various aspects of negative fantasy.  There are a series of “towards” and “away from” pairs both within and across quadrants that have a hitherto unknown richness.  It allows us to bounce around the matrix much faster, knowing what people tell us, and indeed don’t tell us, and how and where to map it.  A senior consultant and logistical solutions author of some standing described this as “absolutely fantastic.”  Well he would wouldn’t he, after all, I did all the work.

Layers Of Understanding
(Feb 2013)

This is a language issue, a subtlety really, concerning the layers of resistance.

There is a very short webpage on this.

The Virtue Of Evil
(Feb 2013)

In his essays The Abilene Paradox and also Eichmann In The Organization, Jerry Harvey used the concept of negative fantasy to show why we allow the unallowable.  He drew upon Hannah Arendt’s 1963 work Banality of Evil in his discussion of how good people go bad.  Negative fantasy has served me well in understanding why clouds “stand open;” and why it is that we fail to resolve or dissolve conflict.  But that didn’t tell me why we allow such a conflict to form in the first place.  However, Reicher, Haslam, and Rath do provide such a mechanism in their 2008 paper Making a Virtue of Evil which re-examines Arendt’s work in some detail.  I am indebted to Ross Milne of Auckland University of Technology for bringing this material to my attention and for providing an on-going and broader philosophical context to this discussion.

Why is it that we do what we know that we should not do, and why is it that we don’t do what we know that we should do?

Why is it that we rifle cash from the till?  Why is it that we; steal, cheat, and lie?  Why is it that we behave; unethically, immorally, and inauthentically?  Why do we; subjugate, enslave, and even kill others?  What is it that causes us to cause harm to others?

There is a cloud, a form, or maybe it’s a meta-form, that accommodates each and every one these issues.  It wasn’t simple to get there, there was a lot of soul searching, several false leads, and at the end I felt that all that I had done was to have gone around in a circle and as they say, come to know the place that I started from for the first time.  The end result is very simple – as it should be.

To describe the problem in a cloud is of course one thing.  To describe the solution is quite another.  Fortunately I went to a presentation a short time later by Nora Bateson, the daughter of Gregory Bateson, who had produced a film called An Ecology of Mind.  And there, buried in a “sound bite” by one of the interviewees, was the necessary resolution.  Once again very simple, just as it should be.

The Systemic Cloud & Robert Fritz
(Mar 2013)

Not long after the Chicago conference in June 2012, and as a consequence of a draft of the change matrix presentation mentioned above, Karl Buckridge introduced me to the work of Robert Frtiz.  Karl had known of this material for a decade or more but that others had not taken it up.  I was of course tempted to say at the time “… and who the hell is Robert Fritz?”  But, if I had paid more attention, then I would have known that the dynamic tension diagram in Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, the one with a figure standing between two elastic bands pulling in two opposing directions – and embedded in my memory – is the work of Robert Fritz.  You know, if we collectively paid more attention to these external sources, then collectively we would learn a great deal more about clouds, and sooner, than we currently do.

The path of least resistance is the oscillation that we experience when we constantly compromise between the conflicted entities of two local wants; a little in one direction, then a little in the other direction, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.  We call these dilemma.  For instance, make batches bigger which extends lead time, followed by making batches smaller which increases setup, and so it goes.  But Frtiz is nothing if not clever; he has a way out of this conflict structure, something that he called the senior structure and that which we would call a systemic cloud.  The way to get there is called “transcendence.”  Now, immediately, this invokes images of smoky scenes of 1960’s California, something that I was far too young to appreciate that I was missing at the time.  But it also means more than that too.  Senior structures, are systemic clouds, by a different name.

Fritz also outlined “conflict manipulation;” the thing that people do to stay inside their comfort zones, their path of least resistance, which is very close to the work that we have done on the change matrix and remains to be presented yet in terms of negative fantasy.  The systemic cloud and Robert Fritz isn’t a very big piece of work – just a few critical diagrams really, but it changes my conception of clouds and their presentation.  It is incredibly important to what we do; logistically, and within the logical thinking process.

Problems need to be solved at a higher logical level than that at which they were created.  But to get there requires a unique transitional structure.  Once again it is my absolute intention to present this material publically (see below).

I Am I Said – A Musical Cloud By Neil Diamond
(Mar 2013)

Somehow I got it into my head around about the time of the 2011 New York conference that there was a cloud in Neil Diamond’s song I am I said.  A few of us were sitting out on the deck at the Palisades one evening amongst the fireflies and the bullfrogs – and there may or may not have been some red wine involved – and I mentioned this fact.  Someone reached for their iPhone and downloaded the lyrics and confirmed my suspicion.

I wrote a couple of draft clouds at the time, but I couldn’t’ “crack” it until I had completed the work on Robert Frtiz in early 2013.  The song is a lament about the past and the present, it is a local/local cloud, possibly with a systemic solution somewhere in the future, but we can only guess at that.  Download it, put it on your iPhone, play it to people.  PowerPoint Link.

Let me add a little more.  I wrote this cloud using the simple rule below.  I didn’t use a matrix at all.  But recently I did map the assumptions back into a matrix.  The result was quite surprising.  This is a true internal dilemma, a “musing” as Jaques would call it.  It is still a dialectic, an argument between two parts of a mind, but it also has characteristics that are distinctive to internal dilemmas.  You can find a 1972 promotional clip here that provides further insight.

One Simple Rule
(Mar 2013)

There is one simple rule for the assumptions of the cloud.  The assumptions on any one side consist of the positives of that side and the avoidance of the negatives of the other side.

There is a webpage on this.

Efrat’s Cloud – Security & Satisfaction
(Jun 2013)

If we move the concepts of satisfaction and security from the needs of the cloud and into the quadrants of the change matrix, then we must also add in dissatisfaction and insecurity as well.  These 4 issues then have surprising consequences when represented as assumptions for the cloud rather than as the entities within the cloud.  Why don’t you have a look at this, it is important.  It shows more than ever what we must do to ensure that change, or rather, improvement, takes place.  We must work to overcome people’s preconceptions of insecurity.

There is a webpage on this.  Much of the material here finds its way into a later webinar.

Loco/loco Clouds & The Schismogenic Engine
(Aug 2013)

David Anthony of Boeing Corporation has recently coined the term loco/loco clouds and that slightly infectious name has more than a hint of truth to it if you should be fortunate enough to be standing outside an argument between two principals/principles rather than caught up as one of the participants.  Gregory Bateson coined a term; schismogenesis, to describe just exactly how such a schism between two people or two groups of people can arise, become mutually reinforcing, and eventually out of control.  It is not so much the content of the disagreement, but the context, the mechanism, which is the real issue.

Eli Goldratt in the seventh of his eight-part Satellite Series/Self-Learning Program, addresses the topic of managing people; one of the topics is communication, or perhaps more importantly mis-communication.  Many times when we are presented with a new idea we forget to praise it by summarizing its benefits and we are also perceived to criticize it by pointing out the valid reservations that we might have.  But this is just one “inventor” and one neutral party; most probably a subordinate and a superior.  What if we have two inventors, peer to peer, and no neutral parties?  Well then we have a local/local cloud.

As they say an eye for an eye causes much blindness.  We, the inventor of our side, are proud of our invention but blind to its shortcomings which the other side will see and point out.  They may not only forget to praise our idea, they may in fact be blind to the benefits of it because they don’t see the problem that we are seeking to address and so criticism is indeed all that we will receive.

On the other hand, they, the inventor of their side, are proud of their invention but blind to its shortcomings which we will see and point out.  We may not only forget to praise their idea, we may in fact be blind to the benefits of it because we don’t see the problem that they are seeking to address and so criticism is indeed all that we will give out.

Do you see the potential to go schismogenic in this two-sided problem of positive intent?  The cyberneticians saw it only too well.  I wrote this out initially as two local matrices with no cloud – the schismogenesis is in the assumptions (or rather blindness to them).  There are shades of this in the following webinar in the concepts of impact and intent.  Nevertheless, it is quite easy to show in simple graphical form the issue of pride-of-the-inventor and mis-communication; they are the inverse of each other.  I purposefully skipped this in the 2013 webinars; there was much else to show first.  I intend to return to this and two other issues, confirmation bias, and contrasting, which can be shown in similar form.

Dialectic Arguments & Local/Local Clouds (TOCICO Winter Webinars Nov 2013)

I have a colleague who often used to mention to me the need to have the “difficult conversations” – not with me of course, but with other people during the course of his work.  We used to bandy this word around and somehow I gravitated towards the book by that name, Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.  It comes from a good pedigree – the Harvard Negotiation Project – home of Getting To Yes and also Getting Past No.  These two books, my editions are in striking blue and yellow paperback, have followed me around since the mid-1990’s, the earlier of the two being first published in 1981.  Their concept of “intent” and “impact” informed me in totality as I tried to describe the role of the change matrix and the local/local cloud.

I was exceedingly pleased that two totally disparate systems – Goldratt’s Thinking Process and the Harvard Negotiation Project – could seemingly triangulate in on the same issues.  A number of people mentioned to me that Crucial Conversations by Kerry Paterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler was also worthwhile, and indeed it is.  I drew from their work too.

The change matrix, matrices actually, and the cloud is a superb way to navigate through these dialectic issues.  I haven’t done it full justice yet.  PowerPoint & Webinar Link.

Didactic Arguments & Local/Global Clouds (TOCICO Winter Webinars Dec 2013)

I had a copy of Peter Blocks Flawless Consulting for some years, and as is sometimes the case, I tried to start it several times.  In the end I applied my reserve strategy – or maybe that should be reverse strategy – and I read from the back to the front.  That was a very useful exercise; there is much to learn from him.  But it also sent me in search of his book on Stewardship.  This is a book that narrowly lost out to Robert’s Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership in 2005.  How I wish I had have read both instead of imposing an either/or choice.  The upshot is that Peter Block gave me a handle on a series of issues that allowed me to address local/global clouds in much more detail than I have previously.

Once again the main objective was to better show the integration between the change matrix and the cloud, but I got more than I bargained for.  PowerPoint & Webinar Link.

Elliott Jaques & Quintaves (Jan 2014)

I original read several books by Elliott Jaques in mid-2007 and they are utterly remarkable in their concept and content.  In Ackoff’s terminology, in Theory of Constraints we have a solution for the horizontal interaction or co-ordination problem, and Jaques has a solution for the vertical interaction or integration problem.  The two were made to go together.  Somewhere I became aware of Jaques concept of “quintaves” in human thinking maturation.  It was hard enough at that time to find people who even knew of Elliott Jaques, but when you know where to look you start to find them.  But I still couldn’t find anyone who could explain to me what Jaques meant by quintaves.  That is, I couldn’t visualize it.  However in re-reading Polanyi’s Tacit Dimension, and being more awake to the importance of emergence in our thought process, a scheme to explain Jaques’ quintaves fell into place.

That relevance of this is there are a number of people within Theory of Constraints who can see “cross-over” with Jaques’ overarching system known as Requisite Organization, and I hope that I have developed a better connection between Jaques and Goldratt.  PowerPoint Link.

Amplifications & Corrections (Mar 2014)

Someone asked me at the end of the 2013 webinar session on dialectic arguments and local/local clouds how the intent and impact that I had mapped was related to the original change matrix.  The answer is that I didn’t know.  I had used the Harvard Negotiation Projects approach to arrive at the description that I had and this approach is quite independent of Theory of Constraints.  Nevertheless the question continued to bug me because I felt that there ought to be a relationship, a connection.  I have put a lot of value on the relationship that exists between the change matrix, the layers of resistance, and the systemic cloud after all.  Surely these aspects too, must also map into the local cloud with similar ease?

Well the answer is that indeed they do.  Recently I put together a brief PowerPoint to explain this and circulated it to a limited number of people.  I hope to be able to present this in the upcoming 2014 Winter Webinar Series with TOCICO.

There are several things that I omitted in 2013 that I hope to show this time including; confirmation bias, pride of the inventor, contrasting, and mis-communication.  I think that there is a general utility in this approach and I hope to be able to demonstrate this.

Systems & Structure (Apr 2014)

This is the second and more presentable half of the work below (knowledge and structure).  Piaget’s book Structuralism gave me a coat-hanger, or rather the authority to use a coat-hanger to explain many of the aspects of systems that I tacitly “knew” but maybe had not explicitly described very well.  It especially explained to me the thing that causes the transformation into a system.  I also managed to incorporate Theory of Constraints into it, as well as Kaizen and Kaikaku.  I wrote it in part as a vaccine against the effects of a reissue of a book by Robert Jackall entitled Moral Mazes which shows what happens when the short-term and self-interest overrides the long-term and common-interest in corporate business.  PowerPoint Link.

Knowledge & Structure (Apr 2014)

This is the first half of the work above on systems and structure.  I first read Polanyi’s “little book” The Tacit Dimension while multi-tasking.  I took it with me to a workshop in Australia on hospital theater scheduling in early 2011.  All that my colleague and I learnt at that workshop was that no one knew what they were on about – but you frequently find that in healthcare.  Some of Polanyi’s work must have “sunk in” because it found its way into the presentation for New York that year.  Sadly some of it did not sink in – especially his concept of emergence, or rather the importance that he placed upon it.  I re-read that book in early 2014, along with Frans Osinga’s book on Boyd, and then Piaget’s book on structuralism.  The consequence of that was the construction of a new coat-hanger, or a carpet bag, or a scrapbook, that I could put a whole lot of related observations from these people and others.  If we want to teach others how to think, then we need to be ahead of our own game – do we not?  PowerPoint Link.

Current Issues – Double Bind

Gregory Bateson used the term “a double bind” which I have alluded to in various places.  It is generally mis-understood.  People think that a double bind is somehow like a cloud – two arms that seem to be beyond resolution.  This is incorrect.  The “double” in the bind is about what we “can’t say” rather than what we can say.  It is a cloud for sure, but within a broader sociological or psychological context that precludes honest description of what is really going on.  Social interactions with schizophrenia-like outcomes are a good example.  When we fail to address the “mermaids” that we fear may be lost, and/or we fail to address the “crutches” that we fear we might gain, then the outcome will be a double blind.  The cloud is bound once by its apparently irresolvable dilemma and a second time by our fear of our own assumptions.

For social interactions with schizophrenia-like out comes read “most modern business.”

Current Issues – Layer 1

People do not sit around, helpless, in vacuum waiting for a solution to “pop” into view.  No, they seek to solve their existing problems with more of their existing solution, which cause more of their existing problem and so on and on.  I tried to stress this in my development of the New York presentation on the systemic cloud.  If we look at the layers of resistance, or as I have suggested on a separate page here, the layers of understanding, then this looks too much like “they don’t understand the problem” and indeed this is true – but they are hardly likely to see like that.

This issue must have been simmering along, because in the webinar on didactic arguments and the local/global cloud – a systemic cloud by another name – I use the term “a telling.”  Because that is what it looks like often enough to the parts who are the recipients of our message.  This was further highlighted to me more recently in a passing comment in Robert Jackall’s Moral Mazes where he refers to the “didactic self-righteousness of those privileged to receive some ideological enlightenment.”  Ouch, is that us do you think?

Well, let me answer that in two stages.

Stage One.  Various authors note examples where Toyota Supplier Support Center in the U.S. or the GG group have brought about rapid – literally overnight – improvements to firms that submit to their expertise, their authority, whereas others stumble along for years claiming this or than initiative and achieving very little or no real improvement.   The same is too often true for us as well.  The point being that in actuality the didactic self-righteous in these industrial examples do indeed know what they are doing.  The evidence is in the success of the prior endeavors.  Once someone is willing to submit to that sort of expertise, to that sort of authority, then substantial improvements will happen very rapidly.  So what stops this from happening?  Well we stop it from happening actually.

Stage Two.  l I think that we are failing to acknowledge the vigor in which people have tried to implement their own solutions first.  If people try and fail and try again it would be reasonable to conclude that the problem can’t be fixed or that not enough of the fix was supplied.  What we do when we start to search for undesirable effects (UDE’s) is that we preclude their solutions from the mix.  I know this because I do it.  We are at pains to make sure that we only get symptoms.  We do this so that we can build back to an unencumbered current reality tree.  If you like we build the case for the alligators so that we can show the ladder to the pot of gold.  This is our matrix (or at least one diagonal of it).  But the people we are working with have been told by us to ignore the ladder that they want to construct – and indeed have tried to construct on many occasions in the past.  They are stuck there, because of what we haven’t done – and that is to acknowledge their matrix (or at least one diagonal of it).

So where is this leading?  Well we tend to present a systemic cloud as a fate-accompli.  As a didactic argument.  It is not.  The didact is the outcome, it is the ends, it is not the means.  We jump a step because we know where we are going, but the people we wish to help don’t know that yet.  It is the means not the ends that we have to concentrate on at first, and the means is a dialogue, a dialectic.  As Ross Milne at Auckland University of Technology keeps telling me, you can teach a didactic argument dialectically and a dialectic argument didactically.  What I am suggesting is that the first cloud is dialectic and there are two arms to it that are essentially isolated from one another.  I have also drawn this so often in the past, for more than a decade in fact.  For me that is part of how to understand paradigm – just draw half a cloud, and pretend the other half does not exist.

But there is something more now.  At least for me.  There is a matrix that goes with each of the halves in isolation and that matrix is a personal or absolute matrix.  These are about the frustration of no change, or glacially slow incremental change.  They have one, and we have one.  Each matrix has two diagonals.  Once we begin to interact, then we produce change matrices or relative matrices.  These are about the conflict of changing.  They are a different thing.  We have to work through that dialectic, our new change versus their old change.  Frankly we don’t do this at the moment.

And to do this effectively – and I will get out my washtub and bang on it again – we can’t tell people, we can only show them, and most often we can only show them in a non-threatening simulation – a game by any other word, a learning game.  We are so awash with our own sophistication or our own insecurity with everyone else’s apparent sophistication that we hardly have this skill anymore.  We used to have it.

We need to reteach it to ourselves once again and we need to learn how to better engage in dialogue.  We know much more than we can tell.  Let’s get on with it.

A Simpler Way – From Conflict To Dilemma (TOCICO Winter Webinars Nov 2014)

In this webinar I revisit the role of the matrices in the cloud that I started last year and show how this is directly related to the language of the change matrix.  There is a one-to-one mapping between the change matrix and the Harvard Negotiation Project’s notion of difficult conversations and this is important to understand.  I also liberally trawl through a number of the concepts found in Peter Block’s work and relate these to conflict clouds.  PowerPoint Link

A Simpler Way – From Dilemma To Transcendence
(TOCICO Winter Webinars Dec 2014)

Robert Fritz in The Path of Least Resistance raises transcendence as the method of developing a solution to an inherent conflict.  In fact the word “transcendence” is commonly employed in these circumstances by many people.  But there was no mechanism or mechanics for doing so outside of “creativity” and the focusing effect of his concept of a senior organizing principle. Nonetheless one of his dilemma examples seemed to me to call for the need of an “interim” or transient structure built around a 3-armed cloud.  A sort of half-way house between dilemma and a systemic solution.  In this webinar I demonstrate the mechanics involved to get from a dilemma to such a transcendent solution and then repeat it for the classic operations problem of big batch vs. small batch.  PowerPoint Link

I Have Stopped Doing Clouds
(July 2015)

Could I ever have imagined that I might stop using clouds or at least drawing them as a matter of first choice?  No way!  But that is what has unfolded in the last while.  As I worked on the two webinars above I was quite conscious that my attention was moving more and more towards the matrix and further and further away from the clouds that the matrix was supposed to be supporting.  I have called this matrix the intent impact matrix.  In fact the matrices tell a better story than the clouds do, but I pressed on with the webinar because the 3-armed cloud is something that I had known about for several years and I really wanted to show that it existed and how useful it could be in finding a transcendent solution.

However, since January 2015 I have not drawn a single cloud. That is something akin to cold-turkey (of the drug addiction kind).  Except I’ve found something better.

I am well into writing a book manuscript for this.  For those data quants amongst us for whom this may mean something; currently this effort sits at 65,000 words, or 170 pages if you include the 90 or so diagrams as well.  I hope to be able to complete this by 75,000 words.  I want this published, I have a publisher in mind.

Much as in the 2014 webinars, there is are 3 states; didactic, dialectic, dilemma, and a 4th which I call transcendent.  The process or sequence is iterative, it loops; the transcendent solution developed from a conflict or a dilemma loops back to the start of a new cycle at the didactic stage, a sort of PDCA – and so it goes.

Perhaps the most critical aspect is also the simplest, each of these stages is graphically related to each other.  There is a transform required, but the transform is no more difficult than a fold of a whole matrix or the rotation of a part of a matrix.  I think that this is going to be so important in making conflicts and their solution more accessible to so many more people.

As I continued to work on this material my competence in doing so improves.  It has forced me to clarify my thinking on a number of critical aspects.  As a consequence of this, things have become more consistent, and as things have become more consistent so too has my confidence that this is the right track.  OK, it needs some road-testing, but I only expect that to improve things even more.




A note on the term “Logical Thinking Process.”  I slipped into using this term on this page for the very first time.  Bill Dettmer coined the term and has been using it for some years.  There is a distinction between the earlier term, Thinking Process (TP), and the more recent term the Logical Thinking Process (LTP) – which I have to admit I failed to appreciate.

TP includes the use of the 3 cloud method and the strategy and tactics trees.  LTP excludes these but additionally includes the IO-Map for setting direction.  Sometimes of course I feel that I am dancing between the raindrops.  I have shown on this page that the 3 cloud works, and why it works, and acknowledge the reservations about inductive fallacy.  But then all induction, if in fact induction should exist, potentially suffers from this fallacy and I will continue to take that risk rather than the risk of not thinking at all.  The Thinking Process/Logical Thinking Process is still very immature and there is a lot to learn yet.  Things that we don’t know that we don’t know.  Scary – huh?


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