Monday, October 28, 2013

Focus and Leverage Part 270

Focus and Leverage Part 270

In my last posting I said that I would go back to the basics for those not familiar with the Thinking Process (TP) Tools and that I would also begin discussing the basics of how to construct a Goal Tree.  In this posting I will discuss the basics of the TP tools, but I also need to discuss the Categories of Legitimate Reservation (CLR).  Because of the addition of the CLR’s, I am postponing my discussion of the basics of building the Goal Tree to the next posting.  For those of you interested in reading more on the Goal Tree/IO Map, I encourage you to follow this link to Bill Dettmer's web site: or if you'd like to see more of Bill Dettmer's writings, as well as his colleagues, use this link:

And now back to our TP tools:

In many organizations, the people within the system encounter symptoms of problems and mistakenly focus on and attempt to solve them.  In effect, these organizations end up only treating the symptoms of much larger problems.  But in reality these symptoms are part of a logical chain of cause and effect relationships which eventually terminate at the true root cause or core problem.  This is where the Current Reality Tree unleashes its true power.  That is, if the organization would take the time to logically look for these interconnected symptoms and "connect the dots" so to speak, they would discover that if they could find the core problem and eliminate it, most of the negative symptoms they are seeing would simply disappear.  So let's look at the TP tools in a bit more depth.

The TP tools originally were comprised of five different logic trees:
-  The Current Reality Tree (CRT)

-  The Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD a.k.a. Evaporating Cloud)

-  The Future Reality Tree (FRT)

-  The Prerequisite Tree (PRT)

-  The Transition Tree (TT)

The Current Reality Tree, the Future Reality Tree and the Transition Tree all use sufficiency based logic or cause and effect logic (i.e. If – Then statements).  The Conflict Resolution Diagram and the Prerequisite Tree both use necessity based logic (In order to have “x”, I must have “y”.  Originally the CRT was the entry point into the TP analysis, but Dettmer now uses the Goal Tree to do this because, according to him, it facilitates the development of the CRT.  Before we discuss the Goal Tree, let’s first discuss another subject, the CLR’s.

Although I’m not including an in-depth discussion on the Categories of Legitimate Reservations (CLR’s), no discussion about the Thinking Process tools would be complete without at least some discussion about these valuable guidelines.  The CLR’s are an extremely important factor when developing any of the TP logic trees.  The CLR’s are intended to provide a way to scrutinize any of the entity statements in the logic trees and the arrows connecting each of the entities.  For our purposes in this series of postings, I want to interject only the basic definition for each of the CLR’s.

The arrows between the entities encased inside the boxes of any of the TP tools are really the glue that holds the logic trees together.  The CLR’s help us determine if the tree is logical and correct.  As such, the CLR’s validate entity existence, causality existence, predicted effect existence, cause insufficiency, tautology and additional cause.  So let’s briefly discuss each of the CLR’s and the rules they establish for our logic trees.

Entity Existence – For any of the entities to be accurate and correct, they must be expressed as a full statement and must exist in our current reality.  It's not correct to "think" an entity exists, it must be substantiated.  The bottom line here is, if the entity does not exist, it simply cannot be used to develop the logic trees.

Causality Existence – Causality existence reservations can occur when the "If-Then" statement appears acceptable to one person while another person does not think it is.  It doesn’t mean that the cause is not valid; it simply means that the cause must be validated and agreed upon before moving on.

Predicted Effect Existence – The predicted effect existence is normally used to invalidate a cause.  In other words, if the cause does actually exist, then what else might you expect to see if it did?  If what you believe should also exist, but it doesn’t, then the cause is not actually the true cause and you must look elsewhere.  On example of this is, if the car battery is dead, then the car won’t start.  A good test for this is to check to see if other electrical components work.  If they do, then the cause of the car not starting is probably not a dead battery.

Cause Insufficiency – This CLR reservation challenges the assumption that a single cause is insufficient to cause a specific effect.  An example Bruce and I have used to demonstrate this CLR is to challenge the assumption that the cause of a downturn in sales is because your competitor has improved their product.  The fact is, there could be other reasons for the downturn in sales.  Maybe the competitor has lowered prices and not just because they improved their product.  The point is, the reason the sales have dropped is probably not only because the competitor has an improved product.  It might be part of the reason, but not the entire reason.  In other words you must demonstrate that the cause you have listed is enough, by itself, to cause the observed or predicted effect.

Additional Cause – There are times when a single cause is sufficient to cause a specific effect, but there can also be times when an effect can be caused by some other cause.  This means that each cause by itself can be sufficient to create the effect.  What you are looking for are the other reasons you might be seeing the effect.  It’s not an “and” but rather an either/or scenario.  The point here is, don’t add additional causes because you can, do so because you must.

Clarity – The clarity reservation can be used on both the arrows and the entity words contained in the entity box.  This CLR facilitates the best wording to describe the entity.  For example, instead of stating that “all” employees are unhappy with a new regulation, it would be better to state that “many” employees are unhappy.  By changing a single word, the meaning of the entity changes significantly.

Tautology – A tautology is also known as circular logic and is in particular the needless repetition of an idea using different words.  For example, the phrase “who died of a fatal dose of heroin” is clearly a tautology.

When a logic tree has been scrutinized correctly using the CLR’s, there is no doubt about the flow and clarity of the entity statements.  If you happen to notice someone with a confused or puzzled look when they are reading the entities in one of the logic trees, it’s probably because one or more of the CLR’s has been violated.  Ok, back to our logic trees.

The system analyst, with the help of others within the system, lists all of the system’s undesirable effects (UDE’s), or those “things” in the system that were holding back the organization from achieving its full potential (i.e. its Goal).  The analyst and the team are then instructed to work backwards to develop a chain of cause and effect logic which culminates with the identification of the organization’s core problem that was supposedly responsible for about 70 % of the UDE’s within the system.  Theoretically, if you could eliminate the core problem, then most of the other UDE’s would disappear.

The next step in the TP analysis is to use the CRD to flush out the underlying conflict or the one that was perpetuating the core problem.  This was done so by challenging the assumptions of the conflict and developing an injection or idea to counter it.  The output of this exercise becomes the basis for the Future Reality Tree.  The team then uses the Prerequisite Tree to identify the obstacles to implementing this key injection and to develop ways to move around the obstacles.  Last, but not least, the Transition Tree is intended to develop the step-by-step implementation plan.  I want to emphasize that the TP analysis is a brilliant concept in principle, but not easy for many people to execute.  In addition, the length of time required to complete a full TP analysis is quite long for most organizations to complete.  Company executives have difficulty focusing on this analysis because of this extended completion time.  So how can we use the Goal Tree to overcome this rigorous exercise?

According to Bill Dettmer, the Goal Tree is actually an adaptation of the Prerequisite Tree (PRT) in that the PRT, when used as part of a full TP analysis, is used to establish the benchmark of required  performance for whatever system is subjected to a TP analysis.  Dettmer goes on to say that, “the Goal Tree helps the users establish the goal, critical success factors, and key necessary conditions for any system – the standards by which success or failure of any system are measured.”  Dettmer now uses the Goal Tree as the first step in the TP analysis to develop more focused Current Reality Trees (CRT’s) that can be constructed more quickly.  In addition, the Goal Tree helps produce substantially more robust Conflict Resolution Diagrams (CRD’s).  And while I agree wholeheartedly with Bill Dettmer, it’s not how I have been using the Goal Tree these days, at least most of the time.

In my next posting, I will return to the Goal Tree and explain the basics of how to construct one as well as how I have used it to replace the other TP tools.

Bob Sproull


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