In our previous post, we explained how to identify the problem to be resolved. Now we can begin working on the actual solution, where we will be confronted with several more layers of resistance.
Layer 2: Agreement on the direction the solution should take
At this stage, you will likely have a fully-developed solution up your sleeve and are excited to unveil it now that everyone has recognized there is a problem. However, you must be prepared for the fact that others may prefer a different solution. Here too, personal experience and individual perception shapes the path everyone will want to take: one person may wish to increase resources in order to accelerate production, where someone else might prefer to improve processes.
Make a list of all criteria a successful and satisfactory solution must fulfil, for example:
- Eliminating undesired effects through appropriate measures
- Satisfying the requirements of everyone involved
- Avoiding new undesired side effects
These will provide an objective lens (as much as this is possible) through which to assess proposed solutions, minimizing the risk of potentially emotional conflicts.
Source: Uwe Techt, dilemma cloud (Weil….X = because:….X)1
You can now use the core conflict cloud in order to represent the conflict identified in Layer 1 and work out the best direction for the solution to take. Make sure to be rigorous and systematical in this process, not only questioning the assumptions of others, but your own as well!
This is where the true benefits of focused cooperation become apparent. The end result of this thorough analysis will in all cases be superior to the initial proposal, as even your own solution will be put to the test. If it turns out to be correct and robust, everyone wins. If someone else makes a better suggestion, this is just as good a result. The main focus, after all, is to find the best solution for everyone involved: the true win-win solution.
Layer 3: Agreement that the solution will actually resolve the problem
If the previous step set out to determine the general direction of the solution, this layer is where the solution will be developed in detail. The Future Reality Tree allows you to represent all effects the change will have. Compare it to the Current Reality Tree from Layer 1 to confirm that the solution (the injection) will indeed eliminate all undesirable effects and replace them with desirable effects.
Source: Uwe Techt, future reality tree (Injektion=injection)2
During this step, objections raised may include „the solution is not sufficient,“ or „here is an aspect you haven’t considered“. Try not to take such comments personally, instead recognizing them as an opportunity to improve and strengthen your solution. Should you find yourself unable to eliminate all objections, you must also be prepared to amend or even discard your proposed solution and replace it with a better one.
Layer 4: Agreement that significant negative side effects can be eliminated effectively
Even if everyone agrees that the solution will fully and satisfactorily eliminate the problem, this does not mean the new reality will necessarily be superior to the current one, as the solution brings with it the risk of undesirable (or unforeseeable) side effects. Do not underestimate the tenacity of this particular layer: the fear of the unknown (the hypothetical) is very strong indeed. What you don’t know can grow in your mind into an insurmountable monster, while the “devil you know” is at least familiar and expected. Another common worry is that of having to give up something positive through the change. These decision processes can be easily outlined with the help of the Change Matrix.
Source: Uwe Techt, Future Reality Tree with negative branch (Negativer Ast=negative branch)3
In the Future Reality Tree, each of these Negative Branch Reservations is represented as a separate branch. These must all be fully eliminated – either by showing that one of these additional assumptions is invalid, or by way of a further injection. Each objection must be dealt with if you want to ensure that other stakeholders do not undermine your change initiative.
The final two layers deal with the implementation of the solution.
Layer 5: Agreement that obstacles during implementation can be overcome or even avoided
The objections raised in this layer can often sound quite similar to the ones in the previous one. Both tend to begin with “yes, but”. It is important however that each “yes, but” response is identified correctly and treated within the appropriate layer. Ask yourself: Are we talking about a negative side effect (created by the change) or an obstacle (preventing the change)? At this point we have agreed on the solution itself – we are merely discussing how to put it into practice.
Use the Prerequisite Tree to identify and neutralize potential obstacles. Here, too, objections play a vital role: they are used constructively by pairing each obstacle with a corresponding milestone (or intermediate objective): which prerequisites must be fulfilled for the obstacle to cease being an obstacle? Ideally, the person who mentioned the obstacle gets to develop the milestone – after all, they are likely to be most familiar with the situation they raised. Getting them directly involved will also increase agreement and cooperation.
Using the Transition Tree, you will then determine the remaining steps necessary to reach the intermediate objectives. In this fashion you will eliminate the obstacles one by one and at the same time build a robust implementation plan. Alternatively, you can use Strategies and Tactics for this particular step.
Layer 6: Overcoming inertia and lack of cooperation despite agreement
Once you have identified a satisfying solution and agreed on the best way to implement it in cooperation with everyone involved, there should be nothing preventing you from putting your plans into practice. Despite this apparent buy-in, you may well encounter further opposition at this stage – often in the form of passive resistance, by boycotting the implementation, or at least dragging it out far longer than necessary.
This can have many reasons – fear of status loss for instance, fear of failure, a hesitant nature or even cynicism after previous experiences of change initiatives that never went anywhere. These fears and reservations are rarely put into words, making it difficult to address them head on. This is why you now need to show leadership and consistent behavior. Set as good example by showing you really mean it and intend to stay on course long term. Don’t hesitate to demand the necessary participation from everyone else, too.
At this stage you may also find the sense of ownership very helpful that employees will have developed by actively contributing to the solution. This will lead them to recognize the change as their own project – a successful change initiative will be their own success, too. This is far more motivating than if the change had been dictated from on high. For you this means being able to “let go” and accept that your initial proposal has now become a common project: supported by everyone, but also belonging to everyone.
1: Uwe Techt (2006), p. 168
2: Uwe Techt (2006), p. 172
3: Uwe Techt (2006), p. 175
Efrat Ashlag-Goldratt, “The Layers of Resistance — The Buy-In Process According to TOC” from Cox III, James F., und Schleier Jr., John G., Ed. Theory of Constraints Handbook. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2010. p. 571-584
Francis S. Patrick, Using Resistance to Change (and the TOC Thinking Processes) to Improve Improvements, 2005
Uwe Techt, Goldratt und die Theory of Constraints, Lulu Press , 2006