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Author Topic: How to visualize different courses of action  (Read 13939 times)
janwybe
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« on: February 15, 2012, 09:19:56 AM »

Hi,

Would someone perhaps be willing to guide me towards finding reading material that deals specifically with the question of how to visualize different courses of action using the Theory of Constraints Thinking Process?

Does Flying Logic itself contain a protocol for mapping different courses of action?

The only concrete example that I have found until now - and one which I like very much - is "Another cup of tea":

http://forum.flyinglogic.com/index.php?topic=73.0

Hopefully its author will agree with me re-posting it below. In that example the one who wants to make a cup of tea, can choose between two methods, namely boiling water on a heat source or warming it up in a microwave.

Am I correct in thinking that those two "methods" could also be called "courses of action"?

If someone could explain some more about how to map different courses of action in Flying Logic, i.e. what protocol to use, I would be very happy, because then I will be able to create one single Future Reality Tree that visualizes different courses of action - with their corresponding negative branches and possible undesirable outcomes as these are being discussed in Dettmer 2007;225.

Many thanks,

Warm regards,

Jan Wybe.

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Jan Wybe Oosterkamp
JPKeslensky
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2012, 01:13:11 AM »

Jan,
I'm not completely sure I understand your question. In the example tree that you are presenting you are showing two courses of action. The fact that they are not connected by an explicit logical operator like an "and" yet they terminate on a common entity implies an "or" relationship. Therefore the logic implied is that the execution of either action independent of the other results in the expected result. What isn't indicated is a preferential or judgmental weighting of these courses of action. One common mistake in the construction of Thinking Process diagrams, and definitely shown in the construction of this example diagram, is the failure to verbalize clearly and completely. I believe it stems from not enforcing the appropriate structure for reading the diagram. A diagram is a visual tool but implicit in its interpretation is a series of statements that should read smoothly and clearly. Sometimes in the haste of construction, we take shortcuts in verbalizing the phrasing of an entity, what Flying Logic refers to as the title. In TOC that's not as much a title as a phrase component of a larger complete thought, a statement. Not only does this focus on proper verbalization make a diagram easier to communicate it also allows the diagram authors the opportunity to add important nuance to the wording. There are several important reasons for this desire for nuance in phrasing. First it helps to provide clues in analyzing implied meaning or embedded assumptions and second it can provide preference or judgmental context which as you can see would answer your need for expressing a sense of which action or path might be a preferred choice or a more frequently occurring cause or even the intensity of what is happening in reality etc. The point is that the diagram authors should not get so focused on graphical construction and appearance that they underestimate the significance and importance of the textual content of the verbalization. I frequently have to remind myself and my team not to let the logic get lost in the trees.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 08:24:44 AM by JPKeslensky » Logged
janwybe
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2012, 03:01:50 AM »

Dear JP,

Many thanks for your reply! That has been really useful for me.

From what you write, I understand that visualizing two different courses of action in a TOC logic tree is much simpler than I had imagined. I just branch out from the point where I have to choose between two different paths, and have them connect to the goal entity further down the road. Have I understood this correct?

Would you perhaps be willing to have a look at the logic tree I drew below, which is intended as an experiment in visualizing two different courses of action? In the logic tree below I have connected Possible Undesirable Effect entities to each of the Course of Action entities, in order to make explicit that the idea is to also make a preferential or judgmental weighting of the different courses of action.

Has the tree below been drawn correctly in your opinion? What would you change or add to it?

And would you still be able to recommend me further reading material on this issue (of how to visualize two different courses of action)? Up to now I have been searching in vain for specific instructions or a protocol on this issue. Of course I am too much of a beginner to be able to state that this subject is not being touched in the TOC literature at all, but what I can say is that the terms "course of action" or "path" do not appear in the index of the 2010 TOC Handbook, nor in the indices of Scheinkopf 1999 (Thinking for a Change); Dettmer 2003 (Strategic Navigation) or Dettmer 2007 (Logical Thinking Process). And although the books The Goal and It´s Not Luck do not contain indices, I do not recall the choice between two courses of action having been mapped. So if you would be able to recommend something specific on this issue, I would of course be grateful.

Many thanks also for your comment on the verbalization of the entities of a TOC logic tree. On this issue I try following Scheinkopf 1999;88 and Dettmer 2007;36-37. Your reminder certainly is of value.

Again my thanks,

Warm regards,

Jan Wybe.



* 120216 JWO visualizing two courses of action.jpg (50.26 KB, 1105x683 - viewed 624 times.)
* 120216 JWO visualizing two courses of action.xlogic (39.27 KB - downloaded 227 times.)
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Jan Wybe Oosterkamp
JPKeslensky
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« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2012, 08:20:05 AM »

Jan,
I suggest that you may want to spend some time investigating the topic of performing Negative Branch Reservations. In the application of the Thinking Processes this is the area where most practitioners address evaluating alternative possibilities for achieving an objective. You probably are not going to see a lot of formally printed trees showing multiple paths being simultaneously evaluated as you describe. What I have experienced in my own work is that this type of analysis is done outside the main tree presentations in iterative often informal diagrams that just focus on a potential negative branch and how to trim or mitigate that path that has undesirable results. Usually the results of this multiple pass evaluation process is the surfacing of solutions that make their way back into the main diagrams. A diagram like an FRT is not intended to be a historical diagram containing every possible alternative which was evaluated, the FRT evolves often from numerous Negative Branch Reservations being conducted on the side. The tree which you are presenting appears to show a way to formally present your attempt to document a choice. In that I believe that you are successful. I encourage you to keep studying the literature, but I also want to remind you to not lose sight of the goal of the Thinking Processes which is to uncover common sense and to assist in implementing that common sense as a solution. The cloud and tree diagrams are tools utilized to help us reach that goal, they are primarily work products and not the main objective.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 08:22:34 AM by JPKeslensky » Logged
janwybe
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2012, 04:40:13 AM »

Dear JP,

Many thanks again for your words; I really appreciate them. They also increase my happiness at having H. William Dettmer´s 2007 book The Logical Thinking Process within reach. Only a few days ago I discovered that what is called "Risk Analysis" outside TOC, within TOC is dealt with in the Negative Branch Reservation; what you write reinforces the relevancy of page 225 of Dettmer´s book.

Warm regards,

Jan Wybe.
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Jan Wybe Oosterkamp
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2013, 10:57:50 PM »

Dear JP,

Many thanks for your reply! That has been really useful for me.

From what you write, I understand that visualizing two different courses of action in a TOC logic tree is much simpler than I had imagined. I just branch out from the point where I have to choose between two different paths, and have them connect to the goal entity further down the road. Have I understood this correct?

Would you perhaps be willing to have a look at the logic tree I drew below, which is intended as an experiment in visualizing two different courses of action? In the logic tree below I have connected Possible Undesirable Effect entities to each of the Course of Action entities, in order to make explicit that the idea is to also make a preferential or judgmental weighting of the different courses of action.

Has the tree below been drawn correctly in your opinion? What would you change or add to it?

And would you still be able to recommend me further reading material on this issue (of how to visualize two different courses of action)? Up to now I have been searching in vain for specific instructions or a protocol on this issue. Of course I am too much of a beginner to be able to state that this subject is not being touched in the TOC literature at all, but what I can say is that the terms "course of action" or "path" do not appear in the index of the 2010 TOC Handbook, nor in the indices of Scheinkopf 1999 (Thinking for a Change); Dettmer 2003 (Strategic Navigation) or Dettmer 2007 (Logical Thinking Process). And although the books The Goal and It´s Not Luck do not contain indices, I do not recall the choice between two courses of action having been mapped. So if you would be able to recommend something specific on this issue, I would of course be grateful.

Many thanks also for your comment on the verbalization of the entities of a TOC logic tree. On this issue I try following Scheinkopf 1999;88 and Dettmer 2007;36-37. Your reminder certainly is of value.

Again my thanks,

Warm regards,

Jan Wybe.




Jan,

I think one of the more profound places to focus your efforts is on understanding the mechanics of the conflict resolution diagram. As I look at your diagram I cant help but wonder out loud about the the root conflicts that will ultimately shape your planning and your actual steps forward.  Action A or Action B.  There is always tension between the two. One easy way to move forward here is to look at the bottom three entities and verbalize the competing actions inside of a conflict diagram.

Inside of the assumptions will be a goldmine of information about how to get to the goal you are after.

One of the things that I feel like TOC falls short in is in how we go about collapsing a conflict cloud.  Much weight is placed on our logic and reasoning abilities, but very little on the intrinsic skills of intuition, impressions, gut feel... and so on.

Early on in my career I was working as an instructor at the Marine Corps Water Survival School. No matter how much logic and reason we put forth to help a young Marine pass a critical portion of the course -- he could not get over a water accident a few years earlier where he saw a number of his buddies die.

How do you go about verbalizing this is both simple and complex at the same time.

Early on when I was learning the TOC Thinking Process I would get so bogged down that it felt like I was in a shrinking room and could not breath.  The reason for this was that I was getting really good and describing conflicts that I did not have the skills to resolve. As I built out the assumptions the more solid the conflict would seem to be.

When I did this in group exercises I had interesting results. (1) Partners would split up and go different directions.  (2) Companies would disband, and the worst (3) witnessing a full on fist fight between family members at a company I was consulting for.

I have since come up with a way to work through these "concrete clouds" as I call them.

In the Marine Corps I was trained well to use the brute force method.  Many death marches later I realize that this approach is fatalistic and flawed. 

As I pondered these death marches and concrete clouds I keep coming back to a pivitol moment in my consulting career -- to the day that I broke up fight between a CFO and an Office Manager about how a module of a their enterprise software was being deployed.  I passed the CEO on his way out of the building. "Good Luck" he said as I was about to walk into this scrum. Each had logic and reason on there sides. The Office Manager had been running the back office of companies for 20 years.  The CFO proudly was equally entrenched.  I sat between them on a bench and drew out the diagram. It was intense. I walked them through the assumptions being made using "Trigger Words" and nailed the CFO on an assumption he was making and he knew that he could not refute it.  The action plan moved briskly forward from that point.

People know how to move forward intrinsically but they build in unnecessary infrastructure to keep them anchored in the status quo. When I witnessed the fight break out at this company I mentioned earlier -- I knew that the company had no desire to stay together as each player was looking for a way to sabotage the company, but as a consultant, I ignored this as I felt the pressure to do more and more work and generate more income.  If I had been clear and open and honest, I would have not taken the assignment.  Nor have worked on so many death marches.

Anyway... just a few late night thoughts about my favorite tool.

Michael Carroll

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janwybe
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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2013, 06:32:27 AM »

Unbelievable. It has been staring me in the face all along, and I never made the connection between analyzing courses of action and the conflict resolution diagram (evaporating cloud). It is so very obvious, I now feel ashamed at not having seen it before myself.

Many thanks, Michael, for pointing me in this direction. I will read the relevant chapters by Scheinkopf and Dettmer again, and then think of a good way of designing one single diagram that encompasses both notions, paying special tribute to the importance of making explicit the underlying assumptions.

Thanks again!

Warm regards,
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Jan Wybe Oosterkamp
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« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2014, 11:06:16 PM »

I have just come across this discussion.  I notice that an assumption that is made in many TOC documents, is that the Goal is clear and well stated.  If an Action will achieve the Goal it is then true that, that Action is sufficient, thus action choice is not necessary (if it achieves the gal it achieves the goal); Unless that Action leads to an undesirable effect. This UDE then identifies that there is another criteria of success i.e. the Goal needs to be clarified; thus the action becomes insufficient and further analysis is required to find the full set of actions to achieve the goal.
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janwybe
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« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2014, 10:35:21 AM »

Thanks for this, KeithP. I agree with you. I´d even go further, and state that it is not only clarity about the goal that is often lacking, but that within TOC there is also a lack of clarity about the definition of concepts like goal, objective, etc. (See http://forum.flyinglogic.com/index.php?topic=349.0).
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Jan Wybe Oosterkamp
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