Presenters: Jef Cumps & Pascal Van Cauwenberghe

Objectives of the session:

  • Understand and explain what a conflict is really about
  • Recognize if there is a real conflict
  • Learn to resolve conflicts using the Evaporating Clouds technique
  • Create more options to break out self-imposed limits
  • Create breakthrough win-win solutions instead of compromising


Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between two conflicting requirements: you really need A and B, but you can only have one? Or have you been in situations where one person needs A and the other needs B and only one of them can get their way?

Often, we'll try to solve these tradeoffs with a compromise solution, "a bit of A and a bit of B" and make everybody unhappy. What if we didn't accept compromise and instead really thought deeply about the causes of these types of conflict?

Our assumptions are:

  • that every such conflict is caused by invalid assumptions
  • that those assumptions can be found
  • that we can find actions that dispel the invalid assumptions
  • that this is the way to solve these conflicts without compromising

The Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD) or "evaporating cloud" technique is one of a set of Systems Thinking tools that came out of the Theory of Constraints. We've found it an effective tool to unearth the unspoken assumptions that lie at the heart of these types of conflicts. Once these assumptions are visible for all, the solution either becomes blindingly obvious or we know what we need to do to invalidate the assumptions that are at the heart of the conflict.

We will work on conflicts that participants bring. These conflicts can have two forms:

  • Contradiction: we must DO X but also NOT DO X. For example: I must refactor to improve the quality of the code but I must not refactor the code to avoid breaking it because I don't have a good set of tests.
  • Exclusive alternatives: we can only HAVE A OR HAVE B, we can't have both. For example, I want to start a project with only high level requirements to stay agile and take advantage of new information BUT my customers needs to know exactly what they'll get by when.

Bring these types of conflict to the session and we will solve them together. The conflicts you bring along to use in our workshop can be work-related or not. If you have a life without conflict, you can help someone else create their breakthrough solution.

We will explain the techniques step by step. You will work in small groups to apply the techniques on the conflicts that participants have brought to the session. You will leave this session with one less conflict in your life: either you will have discovered that there was no conflict after all or you found the breakthrough actions to resolve the conflict and create a win-win solution for both parties.

Format at length: 90 min interactive tutorial

Intended audience:

Everybody who struggles with conflicts and doesn’t want to settle for compromises

Bring a conflict to the conference, IF you're prepared to solve it

Background and history

If you want to know more about the "Logical Thinking Processes", you can find in-depth information in the books below. We recommend William Dettmer's book: it's a big book, but it explains all the thinking tools clearly, with plenty of examples. If you like to have the information packaged in a novel, you can read the business novels "The Goal" (basic Theory of Constraints) and its sequel "It's Not Luck" (Thinking Processes). If you like a reading challenge, you can borrow my copy of "Thinking for a Change" ;-)