Understanding TOC Concepts: The Layers of Resistance or The Process to gain Understanding and Acceptance

Any TOC solution is a set of paradigm shifts. The successful implementation of TOC requires the mastering of reaching consensus and understanding.

But, what is the process that enables us to reach such ambitious objective? Is there a difference between the “Layers of Resistance”, “Judging a solution” and the “Change Matrix”?

The TOC Dictionary provides the following definition:

Layers of Resistance

  • A six-part stratification of the concept in organizational behavior that is often identified as “resistance to change”. The six layers of resistance, as expressed by the person(s) resisting change, are:
    1. Disagree on the problem.
    2. Disagree on the direction of the solution.
    3. Disagree that the solution solves the problem.
    4. Yes, but there are potential negative consequences.
    5. Yes, but there are obstacles to implement the solution.
    6. Un-verbalized fears.
  • More recently, nine layers of resistance have been identified:
    1. There is no problem.
    2. Disagreement on the problem.
    3. The problem is out of my control.
    4. Disagreement on the direction for the solution.
    5. Disagreement on the details of the solution.
    6. Yes, but… the solution has negative ramification(s).
    7. Yes, but… we can‘t implement the solution.
    8. Disagreement on the details of the implementation.
    9. You know the solution holds risk.
    10. I don‘t think so – Social or psychological barriers.  

Perspective: These layers are actually sub-categories of disagreement on: why change, what to change, to what to change, how to cause the change, and how to measure and sustain the change and achieve a process on ongoing improvement.

Properly understood, what is thought of as -resistance actually becomes a force for managing organizational change by using the TOC tools, particularly the thinking processes, to systematically overcome each layer of resistance and obtain buy-in. Each layer must be successively peeled away by using the change question sequence (either the three- or five-questions sequence) and the thinking processes. The key to overcoming resistance to change is to get ownership of all involved in the change in the answers to the five change questions: why change, what to change, what to change to, how to implement the change and how to measure and sustain change.

Cox III, James F., Lynn H. Boyd, Timothy T. Sullivan, Richard A. Reid, and Brad Cartier, 2012, The Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization Dictionary, Second Edition, page 71.

Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt clearly explains the “buy-in” process and provides insights to the implications of change in two of his presentations:


Taken from the Goldratt Satellite Program (GSP Series)
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The TOC way of improvement
An introduction

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In 2010 Dr. Goldratt produced an animated video presenting the “Change Matrix”:


“If you care, when you see something that is causing problems or believe something can bring benefit, you will feel pressure to make a change. However, this desire frequently puts you in a conflict with those whom you need their collaboration from or their buy’in from. Of course we want to ensure that we do proper preparation, but how frequently, despite this preparation, you do put yourself and them in a conflict.” Is there a better way?”

Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Odyssey 2010

In the TOC Handbook Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag provides a full chapter to this topic:


The Layers of Resistance
The Buy-In Process According to TOC

Efrat examines the different objections that people raise to a suggested change and views them as layers that should be peeled in an orderly manner. Better understanding of the layers of resistance to change may help us plan how to present changes in a way that promotes consensus, as well as enhance our ability to address objections whenever we encounter them.

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