The identification and resolution of conflict has been one of the core elements of the Theory of Constraints Body of Knowledge from the very beginning. We find it in the Logical Thinking Process, the Engines of Disharmony, the 4 Pillars of TOC, and many other places.
And yet, we continue to see some conflicts persist between organizations, political factions, countries and many other entities. We call these Chronic Conflicts. The TOC Dictionary defines a chronic conflict as:
“A contentious situation that has existed for a prolonged period of time. Opposing sides have been justifying their perspective through selective requirements and prerequisites for so long that both sides become entrenched in their own beliefs to the point that neither side can see how to break the conflict without suffering a significant loss.”
These conflicts can continue for years despite repeated efforts to resolve them. Resolution can be so difficult that we may be tempted to conclude that such conflicts are unresolvable, despite our core principle that all conflicts are resolvable.
There are methods for dealing with Chronic Conflicts within the TOC Body of Knowledge. It was the topic of Management Skills Workshop Session 3, “Initiating Skills: Addressing Chronic Conflicts” by Eli Goldratt. It is also in the Theory of Constraints Handbook Chapter 38, “TOC for Personal Productivity/Dilemmas” by James Cox and John Schleier. These approaches rely on one of the parties in conflict deciding to take action and reaching out to the other party. I have no doubt that that can and does happen, but there’s really nothing in the TOC Body of Knowledge to help people figure out how to come to that decision. Then, when they do reach out, the suggested approach relies on the other party eventually deciding to work cooperatively on the conflict. That may or may not happen. If it doesn’t, the conflict persists.
This presentation extends the TOC approach by bringing in work on how people’s feelings about dignity and dignity violations fuel chronic conflict and can be used to resolve it. The dignity approach comes from the Dignity Model created by Dr. Donna Hicks to explain why conflicts persist for years in areas of international conflict. She developed the model over decades of work in high conflict regions around the world and has only recently begun to apply it to business and organizations.
Dignity, in this case, refers to a basic sense of being treated as valuable and worthy that should apply to everyone. Although the word “respect” is often used interchangeably with dignity, in this sense respect is something that people earn through their actions whereas dignity is applicable to all people. Thus, you can show dignity to a person whether or not you respect them. Dignity violations diminish people’s dignity and are either actions taken by individuals (interpersonal) or as a result of policies, procedures, rules, norms, etc. (systemic).
The Dignity Model assumes that people react to dignity violations in the same way that they react to physical threats—by flight or fight. This is often seen in people taking action to blame others for problems, to make themselves out as victims, and/or through active and often highly emotional conflict. It can also manifest as disengaging, refusing to interact, or passive-aggressive behavior. The ensuing conflicts are fueled by highly emotional and nearly always highly suspicious interactions between the people in conflict. Appeals to logic in such situations are more likely to be seen as tricks than as legitimate attempts at peace making. And, since each side has a litany of past sleights and violations perpetrated on them by the other side, neither is willing to reach out first. In fact, reaching out to make peace is usually seen as a move of defeat and loss of face. It happens, but very rarely and cannot be considered likely.
Adding in the dignity work enhances the effectiveness of the TOC approach both to get conflicting parties to take the first steps to talk and also to actually resolve chronic conflicts. Equally valuable, the presentation shows how adding in the Theory of Constraints approach to Chronic Conflict can help to operationalize the approach to conflict resolution that Dr. Hicks has developed and make it more effective.
This presentation will describe Dr. Hicks’ Dignity Model and her suggested approach to resolving dignity driven Chronic Conflicts. I will then show how this can be merged with the TOC approach to resolving Chronic Conflict to make the parties more apt to work together and resolution more likely. I will also show how the TOC approach can be used to make Dr. Hicks’ model more effective, especially for larger groups of people. I will present the results of a 3 Cloud analysis of the Dignity Model showing the core conflict at the root of dignity violations and how the TOC approach can provide an injection to break it.
The combination of these approaches overcomes missing elements in both and the combination is likely to be more effective than either approach alone.
From a Standing on the Shoulders of Giants viewpoint, this presentation has two, intertwined applications. On the one hand the TOC approach to resolving Chronic Conflicts has a solid logic method, but is missing a way to harness people’s emotions to set up the necessary mindsets and behaviors to resolve the conflict. Adding in aspects of the Dignity Model fills in the missing ingredient. On the other hand, the Dignity Model is missing the necessarily logical methodology to identify the conflict and resolve negative branches. Adding TOC’s approach