Business Performance Improvement Technologies - an Introduction

Process Improvement: Planning Tool - the Cloud

Context

While the Current Reality Tree will show the cause-effect relationships between the area of the core problem and the symptoms created as a result of the core problem, the Evaporating Cloud is used to nail the core problem down and articulate it in the form of an unresolved conflict with no satisfactory compromise.

Once the Cloud is defined, the Evaporating Cloud technique guides a manager to identify the assumptions that lay deeper beneath the conflict; then to either find assumptions that are invalid (in which case the conflict simply evaporates) or else to identify assumptions that are valid but where a change in reality (an Injection) renders them invalid (in which case the conflict, once again, simply evaporates).

The Evaporating Cloud is also a great stand-alone tool for managers in all organizations. And it's an excellent adjunct to whatever improvement technology a company is favoring.

The "Evaporating Cloud" TOC Technique

The Evaporating Cloud is the perfect tool to use when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, damned if you do and damned if you don't.

This is one of those tools that, after you develop some proficiency, you cannot imagine not having in your arsenal.

There are many variations of the Evaporating Cloud, all with mostly subtle differences, but the heart of the technique is identical; this is one of the Theory of Constraints most common tools in practice, even taught in Kindergarten in some parts of the world!

There are innumerable situations inside any business where someone is placed in a lose/lose situation, aka being between a rock and a hard place, or, in a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" dilemma.

For example, a scheduler:

  • On the one hand he or she wants to schedule the plant to provide good resource efficiencies; which tends to call for few set-ups and big production batches.
  • On the other hand, he or she wants to schedule the plant in such a way that customer orders are met on time; and this often calls for smaller batches and more set-ups.

Since these two "call for's" are contrary to each other, the scheduler faces a conflict; do one, do the other, do one for a while then do the other for a while when the shouting gets too loud, or ... compromise.

This last idea is the most common. The outcome? Unsatisfactory efficiencies, unsatisfactory service levels, and a well-kicked rear end.

Similar dilemmas can be described for hold inventory/don't hold inventory. Ship on time or maintain quality standards.

And there are literally hundreds of other such situations that are "standard," known conflicts; and an unlimited number that crop up every day in a manager's business life.

And of course, these situations aren't unique to a Theory of Constraints user. These are simply day-to-day tugs of war.

The Evaporating Cloud is a tool that gives managers the ability to construct a solution that has no compromise whatsoever; that ALWAYS provides a win/win.

 
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