While the first two Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes focus on the negative aspects of a problem - defining the symptoms, then working through cause-effect connections to establish the root cause of the symptoms - the Future Reality Tree or FRT is a resoundingly positive tool, a pleasure to work with, because the focus is on building the great futrure that will emerge when the core problem is addressed and all the other elements of the solution are put into place.
In fact, when the TOC Thinking Processes were initially being developed, the CRT was known as the "Negative Tree" and the FRT as the "Positive Tree."
The FRT has a lot of potential uses beyond its obvious role in a "full analysis."
The Thinking/Planning Process that focuses on designing the future you want — the Future Reality Tree
The Future Reality Tree is one of the most enjoyable, as well as one of the most powerful, Thinking Process tools to work with, and is particularly effective as a tool for gaining consensus on a plan of action. It uses cause-effect logic to develop a plan to create a future condition ... for example, to eliminate a suite of performance problems in production, or to create a suite of performance characteristics in a hospital.
This Theory of Constraints tool has many uses; typical uses of the Future Reality Tree include:
- To help ensure that all the elements of a solution are present.
Every manager knows that there's usually "more to it" than is immediately obvious when a solution is being planned; well, this is the tool to flesh the whole solution out into a level of detail beyond most managers' experience.
As a result, this tool offers managers a high degree of assurance that a "good idea" will indeed generate the desired outcomes.
- To help ensure that the negative side effects that can arise from even the best ideas, are identified in advance and pre-empted.
There ALWAYS are negative side effects, either from the actions taken to create the solution, or even from the solution itself. Some people are adept at spotting these; their often-maligned "negativity" becomes a welcome asset in this process, it makes the plan rock-solid.
- To check where an action or decision might lead.
Sometimes a manager is considering a possible course of action, or considering implementing a new idea ... the Future Reality Tree is the ideal tool to predict what the effects will be — both positive and negative.
- To surface "reservations" in someone’s idea or plan, such that the outcome is a stronger idea or plan but achieved in a manner that does not imply criticism and indeed creates the feeling of "you and I against the problem."
This is a valuable "day to day" management skill that the Future Reality Tree makes possible. How often have you heard someone — it could be a boss, a peer or a junior — suggest a course of action with which you are uncomfortable for reasons you can't articulate? This is the tool to use to quickly pin-point what it is that troubles you about the suggestion, raise it in a manner that does not cause defensiveness or friction, and end up with a stronger solution as a result.