Jonah Thinking Processes

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The Jonah Thinking Processes in Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, are the six methods to enable the focused improvement of any system.

The purpose of the Jonah Thinking Processes is to identify ways to solve systemic problems; in essence, to break the the “constraint” of one’s thinking patterns. It seeks to identify the root cause of many symptoms, or effects in a system, develop logical solutions to systemic problems, and create implementation plans. These three are referred to as the three questions of change, “What to change?”, “What to change to?”, and “How to cause the change?”

The Jonah Thinking Processes borrow heavily from the scientific approach, where one tries to verbalize the cause and effect relationships that exist in a system and then test the validity of those connections, verbalizing the often hidden assumptions that underlie those connections. Therefore, solutions developed using the thinking processes can be scrutinized, challenged and improved using a rigorous process (the categories of legitimate reservations).

Underlying Assumptions of the Jonah Thinking Process

Problems (negative effects) are the result of unresolved conflict. This conflict can be expressed in the form of opposing ideas or actions.

Unresolved conflicts force a compromise of perceived necessary conditions. A common form of problem resolution is compromise, but this often plants the seeds for future conflict, because the needs for achieving an objective are never fully met. It is this compromise of the necessary conditions (that is hidden), that creates the undesirable effects in a system.

Convergence – that most or all of the undesirable effects can be traced to a single root cause, often referred to as the core conflict. In other words, the boundary condition of a system is determined by its causes and effects.

Consistency – there are no conflicts in nature, that if one exists, it is of our own creation; the result of a misunderstanding of the way the system operates. Therefore, the approach to solving complex problems is to identify the underlying assumptions and solve the problems at that level.

The tools of the Jonah Thinking Process

Current Reality Tree (CRT, similar to the current state map used by many organizations) evaluates the network of cause-effect relations between the undesirable effects (UDE’s, also known as gap elements) and helps to pinpoint the root cause(s) of most of the undesirable effects.

current reality tree

Evaporating Cloud or Conflict Diagram – identifies conflicts and underlying assumptions that perpetuate the causes for undesirable effects.


Future Reality Tree (FRT) – Once some strategies (injections) are chosen to solve the root cause uncovered in the evaporating cloud and current reality tree, the FRT maps the future states of the system to identify all components of the solution required to completely eliminate the undesirable effects.

Negative Branch or Branch – A subset of the Future Realty Tree, it identifies potential negative outcomes of any action. The goal of the Negative Branch is to understand the causal implications between the action and negative outcomes so that the negative effect can be avoided.

future reality tree

Prerequisite Tree (PrT) – states that all of the intermediate objectives necessary to carry out an action chosen and the obstacles that will be overcome in the process.

Prerequisite Tree

Transition Tree (TrT) – describes in detail the actions that will lead to the fulfillment of a plan to implement a certain outcome, the expected intermediate states and the assumptions of why one believes the actions will work.

Transition Tree

Strategy & Tactics Tree (S&T) – a tool to develop and integrate strategy and tactics to achieve significant objectives. It uses many of the underlying logic structures of the thinking process tools to create synchronized implementation tactics that can be evaluated and tested.

Strategy and Tactic Tree