Iowa State University - Home Extension and Outreach - Home ISUE Logo
CIRAS - Iowa State University - Extension and Outreach

CIRAS - TOC - Thinking Processes

Negative Branch (NBR)

Contact us

After you have used the the Current Reality Tree to map a clear picture of the core problem that is causing your current pain; and after you have from the Evaporating Cloud, a breakthrough idea that can significantly improve your situation; and after you have from the Future Reality Tree, some assurance that this idea will indeed change the undesirable effects you are currently experiencing into desirable effects in the future, you will need the input of the people who will be most affected by the proposed changes in order to ensure successful implementation.

The Thinking Processes are used in a very open and participatory fashion. You work closely with the people who are going to be asked to change. Their involvement is absolutely vital to the long term success of the implementation. As they view the proposed change that come with the "injection" and rosy "future reality" that accompanies it, they will tend to be resistant. Remember that the core problem has probably existed for some time, and that there is a significant conflict underlying the current behavior. Thus, the proposed injection will usually be counter to the culture of the organization (or the sub-culture of a department or sub-group of the organization).

People will usually look at the idea and say, "Yes, I see where your solution might work, but...." They complete the sentence with any number of unintended negative consequences that they fear will happen as a result of the change. For example:

  • "If we make that much improvement in output, our department won't need as many people."
  • "If we take the master schedule away from all the departments, we won't know what is coming down the pipe."

The Thinking Process intentionally seeks out these 'Yes, but there is a negative consequence' statements! They are important to preventing a failed implementation. The people who are involved in the affected process(es) will best know what these unintended negative consequences (Goldratt calls them "Negative Branches") will be.

So the Thinking process seeks proactively to identify them and then assists the person who brought the concern forward in figuring out how to prevent that negative consequence from actually occurring. Goldratt calls this "trimming the Negative Branches."

Sample Negative Branch Diagram

"Everything has intended and unintended consequences. Intended consequences may or may not happen while unintended consequences always happen."


-Dee Hock