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Layers of Resistance

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Implementing anything new in a human system unavoidably involves overcoming the resistance to change. TOC and its Thinking Processes are ideally suited to the challenge. In fact, a process for how to induce people to change is a foundational part of TOC. The 6 Layers of Resistance, also known as the "6 Steps to Buy-In," encompass that process. Note: A "pre" layer has been added to the original 6, and in order not to disturb the numbering, it is referred to as Layer Zero.

LAYER 0. "We/I don't have a problem."

When the change agent is talking to someone who feels there is no problem, why would she/he listen?

...Once she/he agrees there is a problem, she/he may say, "Ok, I see we/I have a problem, but..."

LAYER 1. "You don't understand my/our problem(s)."  

When problem solvers start by presenting the solution they are almost always in big trouble because they have failed to satisfy layer 1. Why should they listen to you when they don't have faith that you understand their problem(s). Sure, your solution has worked to solve the problems at other companies, but you don't understand the situation here!

The generic cloud and current reality tree are the TOC Thinking Processes tools generally used to address this layer of resistance.

...Once you succeed, the person may then say, "OK, you do understand my problem(s), but..."

LAYER 2. "...we don't agree on the direction of the solution."

The current reality is often not particularly enlightening to the client. They say, 'Well of course; we already knew that.' So you still can't proceed with your solution until you get agreement on the direction the solution should go. For example, in a production environment, it is common to think that the solution is to hire more people or buy more or newer equipment. TOC practitioners believe the true solution lies in a different direction: identify the bottleneck and figure out how to get more production out of it and subordinate everything else to that decision. Until you both agree on the proper direction of the solution, you will face high levels of resistance.

The evaporating cloud is the TOC Thinking Processes tool generally used to determine and sell the direction of the solution.

...Once you succeed there, the person may say, "OK, you understand our problem and we agree on the direction of the solution, but..."

LAYER 3. "...your solution can't possibly produce the level of results you say it can."

You must be able to show that the changes you propose will directly and unavoidably cause the negatives identified in Layer 1 to turn to positives. The future reality tree is the TOC Thinking Processes tool used to show that the injections (changes) you propose will actually address the negative problems they agreed exist.

...Once you succeed there, the person may say, "OK, you understand our problem and we agree on the direction of the solution, and we see how powerfully this solution can change our undesirable circumstances into desirable ones, but..."

LAYER 4. "...your good solution is going to cause some bad things to happen."

These are the inevitable unintended negative consequences. It has a simple medical analogy: cancer treatment. Sometimes the treatment has significant side effects: chemo therapy generally causes nausea, for example. It is usually the same here, and the good news is that it is the people inside the system that have the intuition necessary to foresee the negative side effects. TOC doesn't try to hush these sages as 'nay-sayers'. Rather, it values their insights as very important input and uses them to build a more robust solution.

Negative branch reservation is the TOC Thinking Processes tool used for this purpose.

...Once you succeed there, the person may say, "OK, you understand our problem and we agree on the direction of the solution. We see how powerfully this solution can change our undesirable circumstances into desirable ones, and we see how you have trimmed off the potential negative side effects, but..."

LAYER 5. "...there are some significant obstacles that prevent the implementation."

These are things, such as, 'The changes you propose will result in productivity improvements that will probably lead management to lay off some of us— and we are going to cooperate in that.'  Or, 'There isn't sufficient money in the budget.' Or, "Corporate will never approve.' Etc., etc.

The prerequisite tree is the TOC Thinking Processes tool used to identify and map out ways around these obstacles.

NOTE: Layers 4 and 5 usually do not emerge discreetly. Both are usually interwoven in the buy-in process. It is important to distinguish between the two because they are are distinct and are dealt with differently. The test for separating negative side effects from obstacles is really fairly simple: if the issue is, 'This idea is dead before we can even implement it because...' you are dealing with an obstacle; if the issue is, 'After this idea is implemented things will be worse because...' then you are dealing with a negative side effect.

...Now you are almost there. But sometimes, even though the person says, "OK, you understand our problem and we agree on the direction of the solution. We see how powerfully this solution can change our undesirable circumstances into desirable ones, and we see how you have trimmed off the potential negative side effects. And we see how to overcome the obstacles that would prevent us from implementation." But they still don't move forward with the change. This is...

LAYER 6: Unverbalized fear.

This is a difficult layer. No particular tool exists to overcome it. The most common cause is that the previous layers were not COMPLETELY overcome for EVERY key decision maker. It may well be a Layer 1 problem. You may have overcome the other 5 layers for everyone in the system except, say, the chief financial officer. Everyone in the operations has bought off and they have been going along with you all the way. However, that financial officer is still back in Layer 1; you haven't addressed her/his real problem(s). You may well have to back track to the beginning in order to be successful.

There is at least one other possibility. It may be that the person at the top is just not willing to, to use a war metaphor,  'jump out of the fox hole and charge.'  Goldratt strongly suggests you assess that characteristic of the person at the top before beginning this process.