Thinking for a Change - Intro

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Thinking for a Change
The “Thinking Processes” originated from the Theory of Constraints, the ideas for process improvement developed by Elyahu Goldratt. He realized that he was becoming a bottleneck in the dissemination of the ideas behind the Theory of Constraints. The Thinking Processes are a set of tools and heuristics that Goldratt uses. The Theory of Constraints’ process optimisation technique “The 5 focusing steps” is easily applied to physical, logistical processes like manufacturing, because the bottleneck and flows are visible. Applying the same ideas to more abstract problems in knowledge work or to improve rules and organisations is a lot more difficult. The Thinking Processes tools allow us to visualize this kind of situation. The Thinking Processes were introduced in Goldratt’s second business novel “It’s Not Luck”. “Thinking for a Change” is the title of a book about the Thinking Processes, written by Lisa Scheinkopf.

Goals of the tools
     Verbalize and make explicit intuition about systems and situations Allow a group to analyse and discuss situations, to come to a shared understanding A structured method to uncover hidden assumptions and question them in a constructive manner Create consensus before a major decision, by involving all affected stakeholders (“Nemawashi”) Provide a structured, step-by-step approach to systems thinking that helps participants to focus on the goals to achieve.

The different tools
  Current Reality Tree: helps you to find one or a few root causes for problems you’re facing. Now you know where to intervene to really solve the problems. Future Reality Tree: helps you to visualize the effects of a proposed intervention, including potential undesirable effects. Now you know if your intervention will result in the desired and effect. You know the extra interventions you will need to undo or avoid negative side effects. Transition Tree: allows you to map a path from where you are to where you want to be, by laying out a series of actions that will bring you closer to the goal, via a series of intermediate milestones. Prerequisite Tree: allows you to plan back from a desired state, by looking for actions that overcome obstacles. Evaporating Cloud: allows you to resolve conflicts between different courses of action, by surfacing and examining assumptions.

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Simple Notation
An entity is an element of the system. It describes a certain state. The battery is dead

Cause – Effect
The battery is dead Car doesn’t start

The car doesn’t start (effect) BECAUSE the battery is dead (cause).

And Connector
The battery is dead Car doesn’t start We have no spare battery The car doesn’t start BECAUSE the battery is dead AND we have no spare battery.

The battery is dead Car doesn’t start

Cars need batteries to start

The car doesn’t start BECAUSE the battery is dead IS ONLY TRUE IF cars need batteries to start.

Action (or injection)
Charge battery Car starts

BECAUSE we’ve charged the battery, the car starts. .


Making a Current Reality Tree
Find the root cause of undesirable effects

Step 1: Describe the system, its goal and the symptoms
1. Determine the scope of the system: what is the system we’re analysing? What are its boundaries? 2. What is the goal of the system? Why does it (continue to) exist? What are the major measures of success? 3. Brainstorm a few (< 5) undesirable attributes of this system. What’s bothering you? What could be done better? Don’t analyse, just write them down. Use simple, definite sentences. These are your initial entities.

1. System: This is about the IT organisation (several hundred people) that supports the Belgian Postal system. More specifically, about the development teams that write the software and the operations teams (admins) that install and support the software. 2. The goal of the system is to create and maintain the IT systems that allow the business...
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