What are Problem Structuring Methods?
Source: PROBLEM STRUCTURING IN PUBLIC POLICY ANALYSIS
Problem structuring methods provide a methodological complement to theories of policy design. Arguably, structuring a problem is a prerequisite of designing solutions for that problem.4 In this context, problem structuring methods are metamethods. They are “about” and “come before” processes of policy design and other forms of problem solving.
Source: Strategic Development: Methods and Models
- Soft OR
- Hard OR
- Unstructured Problems
- System Sciences
- SODA Strategic Options Development and Analysis
- SSM Soft Systems Methodology
- SCA Strategic Choice Approach
- Robustness Analysis
- Drama Theory
- Interactive Planning
- Scenario Planning
- Critical Systems Heuristics
- Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing
- Viable Systems Model VSM
- System Dynamics
- Decision Conferencing
- John Mingers
- Jonathan Rosenhead
- John Morecroft
- MC Jackson
- Operational Research
- Problem Structuring Methods PSM
- Stafford Beer
- Robert Dyson
- Jay Forrester
- Russell Ackoff
- Robert Flood
- Peter Checkland
- Group Model Building
- Behaviour Operational Research
- Community Operations Research
- Ill-structured versus Well-structured Problems
- Wicked Versus Tame Problems
- Ill-Defined versus Well-Defined Problems
- Nigel Howard
Problem Structuring Methods
Source: Past, present and future of problem structuring methods
The problematic situations for which PSMs aim to provide analytic assistance are characterized by
- Multiple actors,
- Differing perspectives,
- Partially conflicting interests,
- Significant intangibles,
- Perplexing uncertainties.
The relative salience of these factors will differ between situations (and different methods are selective in the emphasis given to them). However, in all cases there is a meta-characteristic, that of complexity, arising out of the need to comprehend a tangle of issues without being able to start from a presumed consensual formulation. For an introduction to PSMs, see Rosenhead and Mingers, 2001
Source: Problem structuring methods in action
Strategic options development and analysis (SODA) is a general problem identification method that uses cognitive mapping as a modelling device for eliciting and recording individuals’ views of a problem situation. The merged individual cognitive maps (or a joint map developed within a workshop session) provide the framework for group discussions, and a facilitator guides participants towards commitment to a portfolio of actions.
Soft systems methodology (SSM) is a general method for system redesign. Participants build ideal-type conceptual models (CMs), one for each relevant world view. They compare them with perceptions of the existing system in order to generate debate about what changes are culturally feasible and systemically desirable.
Strategic choice approach (SCA) is a planning approach centered on managing uncertainty in strategic situations. Facilitators assist participants to model the interconnectedness of decision areas. Interactive comparison of alternative decision schemes helps them to bring key uncertainties to the surface. On this basis the group identifies priority areas for partial commitment, and designs explorations and contingency plans.
Robustness analysis is an approach that focuses on maintaining useful flexibility under uncertainty. In an interactive process, participants and analysts assess both the compatibility of alternative initial commitments with possible future configurations of the system being planned for, and the performance of each configuration in feasible future environments. This enables them to compare the flexibility maintained by alternative initial commitments.
Drama theory draws on two earlier approaches, meta games and hyper games. It is an interactive method of analysing co-operation and conflict among multiple actors. A model is built from perceptions of the options available to the various actors, and how they are rated. Drama theory looks for the “dilemmas” presented to the actors within this model of the situation. Each dilemma is a change point, tending to cause an actor to feel specific emotions and to produce rational arguments by which the model itself is redefined. When and only when such successive redefinitions have eliminated all dilemmas is the actors’ joint problem fully resolved. Analysts commonly work with one of the parties, helping it to be more effective in the rational-emotional process of dramatic resolution. (Descriptions based substantially on Rosenhead, 1996.)
Given the ill-defined location of the PSM/non- PSM boundary, there are a number of other methods with some currency that have at least certain family resemblances. These include critical systems heuristics (CSH) (Ulrich, 2000), interactive planning (Ackoff, 1981), and strategic assumption surfacing and testing (Mason and Mitroff, 1981). Other related methods which feature in this special issue are SWOT (Weihrich, 1998), scenario planning (Schoemaker, 1998), and the socio-technical systems approach (Trist and Murray, 1993). Those which are particularly close to the spirit of PSMs in at least some of their modes of use, and therefore thought to merit inclusion in Rosenhead and Mingers (2001), are the following:
Viable systems model (VSM) is a generic model of a viable organization based on cybernetic principles. It specifies five notional systems that should exist within an organization in some form––operations, co-ordination, control, intelligence, and policy, together with the appropriate control and communicational relationships. Although it was developed with a prescriptive intent, it can also be used as part of a debate about problems of organizational design and redesign (Harnden, 1990).
System dynamics(SD) is a way of modelling peoples’ perceptions of real-world systems based especially on causal relationships and feedback. It was developed as a traditional simulation tool but can be used, especially in combination with influence diagrams (causal–loop diagrams), as a way of facilitating group discussion (Lane, 2000; Vennix, 1996).
Decision conferencing is a variant of the more widely known “decision analysis”. Like the latter, it builds models to support choice between decision alternatives in cases where the consequences may be multidimensional; and where there may be uncertainty about future events which affect those consequences. What distinguishes decision conferencing is that it operates in workshop mode, with one or more facilitators eliciting from the group of participants both the structure of the model, and the probabilities and utilities to be included in it. The aim is cast, not as the identification of an objectively best solution, but as the achievement of shared understanding, the development of a sense of common purpose, and the generation of a commitment to action (Phillips, 1989; Watson and Buede, 1987).
There are a number of texts which present a different selection of “softer” methods than do Rosenhead and Mingers. These include Flood and Jackson (1991), who concentrate on systems-based methods, Dyson and O’Brien (1998) who consider a range of hard and soft approaches in the area of strategy formulation; and Sorensen and Vidal (1999) who make a wide range of methods accessible to a Scandinavian readership. There is clearly an extensive repertoire of methods available. In fact it is common to combine together a number of PSMs, or PSMs together with more traditional methods, in a single intervention––a practice known as multimethodology (Mingers and Gill, 1997). So the range of methodological choice is wider even than a simple listing of methods might suggest.
Source: Are project managers ready for the 21th challenges? A review of problem structuring methods for decision support
Benefits of Problem Structuring Methods
Source: Are project managers ready for the 21th challenges? A review of problem structuring methods for decision support
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Source: The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 57, No. 7, Special Issue: Problem Structuring Methods (Jul., 2006), pp. 868-878
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals on behalf of the Operational Research Society
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4102274
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