As the name tells, the Conflict Resolution Diagram is used to surface and resolve conflicts, i.e. dilemmas.
Conflicts, which can be named ‘different points of view’ are not always obvious, thus practitioners will refer to as ‘hidden conflicts’. Indication a hidden conflict exists is stagnation (Dettmer); two opposite forces pull in opposite directions and nothing goes on.
The CRD/Evaporating Cloud is based on two assumptions:
- Conflicts (opposition about objectives or opposite points of view, for instance) tend to be settled by compromise. Yet compromising requires making concessions that lead to a solution which isn’t satisfactory for neither side, hence a win-lose or lose-lose situation.
- Conflicts are often the result of false assumptions, beliefs or myths which constrain needlessly the organization. As two opposite things cannot be true at the same time, one is necessarily false. If the falseness can be proven, the conflict disappears (evaporates) and a no-compromise, win-win solution is found.
Resolving the conflict is done by first exposing the two sides’ arguments, second through “injection(s)”; adding something, solution, countermeasure, a “remedy” that didn’t exist in the system.
The structure of a Conflict Resolution Diagram / Evaporating Cloud
A (simple) Evaporating Cloud is made of five entities (round cornered boxes) conventionally named A,B,C,D and D’.
Entity A is the common objective which requires B and C to exist; in order to have A, we must have B and C.
D is a prerequisite to B (in order to have B, we must have D), while D’ is a prerequisite to C.
D and D’ cannot exist or happen simultaneously, like for example attending a meeting in Rome and in the same time attending a conference in Berlin. In this case the conflict would be a dilemma choosing between the two events. D and D’ may not happen simultaneously because available resources do not allow it and the dilemma is about allocation of the scarce resource.
Arrows are symbols of the necessity relationship. At the same time the arrows hide the underlying assumptions, Those can be true or false. The assumptions are usually statements, beliefs and/or justification for the relationship. The Cloud’s purpose is to surface and test these assumptions.
The broken arrow or lightning between D and D’ is the symbol for opposition or conflict.
Surfacing and testing the underlying assumptions and injections
Once the CRD or Evaporating Cloud is drawn, participants are asked to verbalize all underlying assumptions under each arrow. If one of the assumptions can be proven as false, it is probable that the problem evaporates (we do expect the defenders of the false assumption to give it up as false).
An assumption can also be invalidated by an injection, which are ideas or conditions that render one of the assumptions invalid.
Note: Dettmer recommends not to inject solutions in order not to constrain the injections with reservations about feasibility.
Conflict Resolution Diagram can be used as a stand-alone tool or sequentially after a Current Reality Tree (CRT). In this latter case, the analysis with the CRT helped discover the root cause of all Undesirable Effects (UDEs) usually called problems. This root cause is generally a conflict or dilemma the CRD can ‘evaporate’, thus solve the problems.
Solving a problem with a CRD is a bit more complex than in this brief description and requires some practice.
- Fedurko, Jelena (2011) Behind the Cloud, enhancing logical thinking, TOC strategic solutions
- Dettmer, H. W., (1997) Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints: a systems approach to continuous improvement. ASQC Quality Press
- Scheinkopf, L., (1999) Thinking for a change: putting the TOC thinking processes to use. St Lucie Press/APICS