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Problem Solving Skills 1 0f 4

Objective: To have participants learn better ways to use the evaporat­ing cloud approach in an interactive, hands-on context so that they can generate simple, creative, and powerful solutions to the problems they face, either on an everyday basis or for those situations where the prob­lem has seemed unsolvable.

People are faced with problems one after another but have not al­ways been able to deal with them effectively. Together with the devel­opment of the theory of constraints, one of the major contributions made by Dr. Eli Goldratt is the evaporating cloud approach to prob­lem-solving. He recognized that a great many problems have their ba­sis in a conflict between opposing forces, and that if this conflict could be resolved, the problem might simply disappear. The evaporating cloud approach calls for the construction of a conflict resolution diagram, in which the conflict is explicitly stated in simple logical terms, as are the other components of the situation leading to the conflict.

While the evaporating cloud approach was introduced some time ago, people have often encountered difficulty in applying it to solve problems on an everyday basis. In most cases, this is because they have not developed a higher level of skill with the approach that would make it easier and faster to use and that would increase their confi­dence in their ability to apply it. In addition, it is likely that they have not learned some of the newer means that have been developed to make this problem-solving approach easier to use. This session will demon­strate, and have the participants use in a hands-on fashion, those means of making the evaporating cloud process easier and faster to use. Par­ticipants will be encouraged to work on problems that have frustrated them in their own work or personal situations. Participants will also be able to teach others how to use this approach successfully.


The evaporating cloud (also known as a conflict resolution diagram) provides a means of identifying and resolving conflicts in situations where other approaches may not have been effective. The first step in using the evaporating cloud is to identify the conflict between two mutually exclusive alternatives, or between two alternatives that point in different directions, such as raising prices versus lowering prices. The next step is to identify the need that each of these conflicting alter­natives tries to fulfill. The next step in constructing the evaporating cloud is to identify the objective that both sides of the conflict have in common. The general form of the evaporating cloud is shown in fig­ure 1. Block A shows the common objective of both sides in the con­flict, while Block B is one of the requirements that must be in place in order to have objective A occur. Note that B is a necessary condition for A to occur, rather than a cause-effect relationship in which B would cause A. Similarly, the situation in Block C is also a requirement for the objective in A to occur. Neither B nor C is sufficient to cause A by itself, and it is entirely possible that even taken together, they may not be sufficient to cause A to take place. However, without B occurring, A will not take place, since B is a requirement. The same is true for C. In order for condition B to occur, condition D must be in place. Likewise, in order for C to occur, condition E must be in place.

The conflict comes about because D and E are either mutually ex­clusive or are aimed in opposite directions. The rationale for construct­ing the evaporating cloud analysis is to identify the assumptions that underlie each of the relationship arrows in the diagram. Once these assumptions have been identified, they can then be examined to deter­mine whether one or more of them can be invalidated. If an opposite to an assumption can be identified, or an alternative means of fulfilling the need that is involved, this may be a potential solution to the con­flict. If even one of these relationships can be invalidated by develop­ing an "injection" that is an opposite to one of the assumptions, then a creative breakthrough solution is possible.

To Be Continued

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