TOC Process Example

The issues you want to resolve are called UnDesirable Effects (UDEs) in TOC. An Evaporating Cloud (EC) analyzes the details of a conflict, meaningful action and a decision.

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TOC Example: Conflict Resolution and Decision Making


The website teaches how to resolve conflicts using TOC. It introduces several technical terms:

The website also teaches how to make decisions after analyzing the issue using the Cloud. A Cloud is not always a sufficient tool to make decisions. A decision made may lead to undesirable consequences and to study them we need another tool called a logical branch.

UnDesirable Effects (UDEs) in TOC

Understand that the issues you want to resolve are not causes in themselves.  They happen to be the effects which you do not want.  They are called UnDesirable Effects (UDEs) in TOC.   We want to flesh out the hidden causes and stop them from getting in the way of achieving our goal. 

Step 1: Cool down. Put the issue on pause. 

This is the most important step.  If there is a conflict with another person on some issue, make sure you, as a student of TOC, remember that clear thinking can happen only when there is no ‘heat’ generated in the argument.  Therefore, instead of ‘fueling the heated situation’ or keeping the argument going, or thinking about who is winning, put the issue on pause.  If the conflict is within yourself, don’t get frustrated or angry with yourself.  Take a break.  If you feel like it, discuss the issue with a friend, a mentor, a guide, an elder calm person, or a counselor whom you trust, even if the person does not know TOC.  If the issue is too personal to discuss with anyone, then write the various issues down clearly as UDEs. 

Step 2:  Write your issue as an undesirable effect (UDE).

Ask yourself, “What is the problem that I have?  What is the issue? What action taken causes the UDE that bothers me?  What is the objective that I want to achieve as a result of resolving the issue?”

“Define a problem precisely and you are half way to a solution.” --Dr. Eli Goldratt

A UDE should:

  • be serious

  • be a condition not a lack of an activity

  • not blame anyone

  • happen frequently

  • have a serious negative outcome

  • not incorporate the solution within the statement  

-  TOCICO Thinking Process Committee, Nov 2007

State what bothers you in a simple clear complete sentence, not a compound sentence using ‘but’s, ‘and’s or ‘because’.  It is not a negative effect or a symptom in itself.  It should be a ‘benign’ statement meaning it should not hurt anyone.  It should have no emotion.  It should focus on a current fact.  Focus on the ‘action’ or ‘want’.    

Examples of a good-UDEs and bad-UDEs: 

  1. Coby takes too much time to get ready in the morning.  – bad-UDE. This is how a counselor feels about her daughter.   It includes judgment - ‘too much’.
  2. I am disturbed by students talking in my class.   – good-UDE of an instructor.
  3. I have no prerequisites for class.  – Student’s good-UDE
  4. I don’t have time to do the homework. – Student’s good-UDE
  5. I am not capable of doing mathematics.  – bad-UDE.  It’s not a benign sentence.
  6. I am not prepared for my math course. – bad-UDE.  It is a lack of activity.
  7. There is no communication between instructors and tutors.  - Instructor’s good-UDE
  8. I am unhappy because of your unnecessary activity. – bad-UDE of a married couple.  It is not a simple statement.  It also blames another person.
  9. I cannot attend my classes on time. – Student’s good-UDE.
  10. I am not authorized to hire a tutor. – A tutorial coordinator’s good- UDE.
  11. I am not up to taking Mathematics as my major.  – A student’s good-UDE.

Many of these good-UDEs will be discussed in detail in this chapter to resolve the underlying conflicts. Once you have defined an issue as a good-UDE, you can go to work on it.  

A conflict arises within a person internally, between two persons, between a person and a group or within an institution.  Regardless, there is always a common goal or objective and there are two sides to attain the objective.  In order to attain the goal each side thinks of fulfilling a certain need.  These needs are generated because each side looks at the issue with certain assumptions.  Each side wants to fulfill those needs in a particular way.  In a conflict, the two wants are specific actions and are opposites of each other. 

In any conflict, if we consider the needs of both sides and fulfill them by one want or action agreeable to both sides, the conflict evaporates!  No compromise is necessary.  A win-win solution arises. 

Evaporating Cloud

This verbal description leads to the discussion of a thinking tool called “an Evaporating Cloud” or a Cloud.

An Evaporating Cloud (EC) or a Cloud is a TOC thinking process tool that analyzes the details of a conflict, meaningful action and a decision in a concise and non-provocative way.

The Cloud resolves a conflict.  Again, a conflict is well defined when two possible opposing actions (wants) are present to achieve a common goal.  We must convert the UDE under question into a conflict.  Both actions are logically linked to the common goal by two different needs.  The Cloud uses necessary condition logic.The Cloud analyzes the details of the conflict in terms of wants by studying the five aspects of a conflict:

  1. My WANT
  2. His/Her WANT
  3. Our Common Objective
  4. My Need
  5. His/Her Need

The cloud may be internal to an individual.  For instance, the conflict: “I must attend to my family responsibilities or I must study.” is internal.   In this chapter, we will discuss various types of Cloud.  But all have the same basic structure.

The Cloud's structure is built on five boxes connected by logical arrows.  Each box addresses one of the five aspects to help describe the conflict.   The following example will illustrate the concept.   First let us describe the storyline involving an issue.

Example:  Suppose that an instructor wants to do all the instruction himself and does not want to use tutoring or any other supplemental help that would be beneficial to students for various reasons.  However, the department feels that it is important for all faculty to use these resources.  This creates a conflict. To resolve the conflict we start with an UDE.

Instructor’s UDE:   There is no communication between instructors and tutors.