IAF Methods

Contingency Diagram

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A technique used to get all the obstacles, issues, concerns about a particular issue on the table so that ideas to address issues can be addressed.

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Contingency Diagram is a technique for generating ideas concerning an issue or concern that capitalizes on negative thought. By thinking of all the ways you can cause a problem to get worse or continue unchecked, you provide the basis for later developing an action plan to overcome these barriers.


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    A Contingency Diagram can help you generate ideas from which you can develop specific actions necessary to eliminate a problem or make an improvement. You use it by following these steps:

    1. Select a situation (either a goal or problem)

    2. Draw a contingency diagram (see example in attachment)

    3. Brainstorm obstacles:

    -- What will cause this situation to get worse or to continue?

    -- What might prevent achieving your desired state?

    4. Enter the stated obstacles on the Contingency Diagram

    5. List specific actions to prevent these obstacles

    6. Use this list to develop an Action Plan

    This can be a very powerful idea and solution generating tool. They key is to follow the rules of brainstorming. Once the group has exhausted its ideas on the topic, discuss and clarify the list that has been created.

    The Contingency Diagram allows you to tap into the power of brainstorming and provides a convenient framework to organize your ideas. It also allows you to prioritize and generate further action based on those barriers to your desired state which you have creatively discovered.
    See file


    Follow-Up Required: Move to solution creations

    Usual or Expected Outcomes: A list of ways a situation can get worse.


    Source: S Ellis, USCG

    Derived from: Power point presentation one process improvement methods.

    History of Development: unknown

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    • I think this is best used when there is a positive outcome identified first, and then the obstacles to achieving it are brainstormed. The visual map in the attachment is very helpful.

      over 2 years ago