A Cloud-a-Day Keeps the Conflict Away!

True Power of the Cloud

21/10/2010 16:27
Do you wonder if the Cloud is really practical and powerful enough tool for conflicts resolution?

Debra Smith, a renowned TOC practitioner, expressed in her excellent book Measurement Nightmare (St. Lucie Press/Apics Series on Constraints Management, 2000) the following praise to the Cloud technique:


“Working with this company showed me the true power of the TP [TOC Thinking Process] tool, the cloud, to expose chronic measurement conflicts in an organization. I had the opportunity to teach the day-to-day thought-process tools to 24 supervisors and managers at all levels of the company. On the third day of this training, I asked each participant to pick a dispute or conflict they were involved in with another area or manager in the company. The only two criteria were that:

  1. Each person must want to solve the conflict.

  2. The other person or department must be aware of the conflict.


Within 3 hours, the entire group shifted from their original position of what they had perceived as being conflict to understanding the core underlying issues that the diagrammed conflict exposed. The power of the cloud clearly lies in its ability to expose both sides of the conflict. The cloud made the following overwhelmingly clear:

  1. The people or areas they were in conflict with were trying to protect very real needs of their own and the system; they were not simply trying to thwart the other people.

  2. Identifying why we want what we are fighting for forces us to take a deep look at the real reason we are in conflict. This is a very powerful tool for understanding our own motivation, and it is amazing how difficult it is for us to logically link why what we want is essential to what we need to do our job.

  3. The real conflict was not with the other employees or departments but with a policy or measure each was trying to follow or maximize in their areas. Why the conflict exists was exposed, as well as the common objective each side was trying to protect.

  4. Exposing the needs of both sides as being linked logically to a common objective allowed each side to understand and defuse the negative emotion that had developed in regard to the others.

  5. In half of the instances, even with both sides in agreement, they could not solve the conflict. If both sides were trying to enforce a policy or maximize a measure in their own areas, clearly the only way to remove the conflict was to break the policies or remove the measures. In most cases, the parties at odds did not have the authority to do either.

  6. Exposing the flawed measures, policies, and work practices is one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to get an instant throughput improvement.


The attitude was no longer one of "me against you"; instead, it changed to "us against the cause of our conflict". This thought-process shift allows people to combine their efforts and to communicate to the policymaker why the policy or measure is dysfunctional. Better yet, employees can work together to construct a solution, new measure, policy, or work practice that protects the common objective of both the employees and the company. The beauty of clouds lies in their simplicity. Anyone can construct them, read them, and understand them in a very short period. I use clouds to expose erroneous policies and measures and competing actions that limit a company's ability to subordinate to the decision to exploit their constrained resource and maximize profit.”


(Quoted with permission; emphasis added.)

About Debra Smith

Debra has extensive experience in public accounting, financial management in manufacturing companies, teaching at the University level and consulting in TOC. Debra began working with Dr. Eli Goldratt, author of the business novel, “The Goal,” in 1990 when she was an Associate Professor of Accounting at the university of Puget Sound in Tacoma , WA . She is responsible for original research focused on understanding changes necessary in measurements, accounting and information systems to support continuous improvement processes in manufacturing.
She is co-author of “The Theory of Constraints and Its Implications for Management Accounting”, an independent research study of the Theory of Constraints funded by the Institute of Management Accounting . She has a second book entitled “The Measurement Nightmare, how the Theory of Constraints Can Resolve Conflicting Strategies, Policies and Measures”.
Prior to teaching Ms. Smith worked in public accounting as a CPA for Deloitte & Touche and spent nine years in publicly traded manufacturing firms, both as a Division Controller and Vice President of Finance and Operations. She is internationally recognized as an authority on management accounting and is a noted speaker on the Theory of Constraints. In 2001 Ms. Smith was elected to the founding Board of Directors of the Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO), a certification organization founded by Dr. Eli Goldratt.

(https://www.thoughtwarepeople.com/training/NightmareDVD.aspx )

Topic: True Power of the Cloud

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