What are Problem Structuring Methods?

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

Key Terms

  • PSM
  • Soft OR
  • Hard OR
  • Unstructured Problems
  • Systems
  • 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
  • SWOT
  • Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing
  • Viable Systems Model VSM
  • System Dynamics
  • Decision Conferencing
  • Multi-methodology
  • 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
  • Metagames
  • Hypergames

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

My Related Posts

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

Micro Motives, Macro Behavior: Agent Based Modeling in Economics

Production and Distribution Planning : Strategic, Global, and Integrated

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Quantitative Models for Closed Loop Supply Chain and Reverse Logistics

Hierarchical Planning: Integration of Strategy, Planning, Scheduling, and Execution

Stock Flow Consistent Input Output Models (SFCIO)

Stock Flow Consistent Models for Ecological Economics

Gantt Chart Simulation for Stock Flow Consistent Production Schedules

Shell Oil’s Scenarios: Strategic Foresight and Scenario Planning for the Future

Water | Food | Energy | Nexus: Mega Trends and Scenarios for the Future

Global Trends, Scenarios, and Futures: For Foresight and Strategic Management

HP’s Megatrends

Global Flow of Funds: Statistical Data Matrix across National Boundaries

Credit Chains and Production Networks

Supply Chain Finance (SCF) / Financial Supply Chain Management (F-SCM)

Financial Social Accounting Matrix

Morris Copeland and Flow of Funds accounts

Systems Biology: Biological Networks, Network Motifs, Switches and Oscillators

Oscillations and Amplifications in Demand-Supply Network Chains

Portfolio Planning Models for Corporate Strategic Planning

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Key Sources of Research

Understanding behaviour in problem structuring methods interventions with activity theory.

White, L., Burger, K., & Yearworth, M. (2016).

European Journal of Operational Research, 249(3), 983-1004. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejor.2015.07.044

https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/publications/understanding-behaviour-in-problem-structuring-methods-interventi

“Is Value Focused Thinking a Problem Structuring Method or Soft OR or what?”

Keisler, Jeffrey,

(2012). 

Management Science and Information Systems Faculty Publication Series. Paper 42.


http://scholarworks.umb.edu/msis_faculty_pubs/42

Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited: Problem Structuring Methods for Complexity, Uncertainty and Conflict

John Mingers, Jonathan Rosenhead

2001 Book Second ed.

The characteristics of problem structuring methods: A literature review

https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/the-characteristics-of-problem-structuring-methods-a-literature-review(e4bbf605-6df1-4a33-853c-2bc17dc18a8e).html

Problem structuring methods in action

John Mingers a,*, Jonathan Rosenhead b

a Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK 

b London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK

European Journal of Operational Research 152 (2004) 530–554

Click to access Problem%20structuring%20methods%20in%20action.pdf

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Problem-structuring-methods-in-action-Mingers-Rosenhead/752fdb5dfaddbc0a7946f281a9c454d6f4203542

Click to access Problem%20structuring%20methods%20in%20action.pdf

Introduction to the Special Issue: Teaching Soft O.R., Problem Structuring Methods, and Multimethodology.

John Mingers, Jonathan Rosenhead, (2011)

INFORMS Transactions on Education 12(1):1-3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/ited.1110.0073

Click to access Mingers-Rosenberg-PSM-SoftOR.pdf

https://pubsonline.informs.org/toc/ited/12/1

Problem Structuring Methods, 1950s-1989: An Atlas of the Journal Literature

Georgiou, Ion and Heck, Joaquim,

(June 26, 2017).

Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3077648 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3077648

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3077648

“An Investigation on the Effectiveness of a Problem Structuring Method in a GroupDecision-Making Process”

Thaviphoke, Ying.

(2020). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Dissertation, Engineering Management, Old Dominion University,

DOI: 10.25777/cx7x-z403
https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/emse_etds/182

What’s the Problem? An Introduction to Problem Structuring Methods

Jonathan Rosenhead

Published Online:1 Dec 1996

https://doi.org/10.1287/inte.26.6.117

PROBLEM STRUCTURING IN PUBLIC POLICY ANALYSIS

William N. Dunn
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs University of Pittsburgh

Past, present and future of problem structuring methods

J Rosenhead

London School of Economics, London, UK

Journal of the Operational Research Society (2006), 1–7

Framing and Reframing as a Creative Problem Structuring Aid

Victoria J Mabin, and John Davies Management Group Victoria University of Wellington PO Box 600 Wellington
email: vicky.mabin@vuw.ac.nz

Tel +4-495 5140
email: john.davies@vuw.ac.nz Tel + 4-471 5382
Fax + 4-471 2200

Reassessing the scope of OR practice: the influences of problem structuring methods and the analytics movement

Ranyard, J.C., Fildes, R. and Hun, T-I (2014).

(LUMS Working Paper 2014:8).

Lancaster University: The Department of Management Science.

Reasoning maps for decision aid: an integrated approach for problem-structuring and multi-criteria evaluation


G Montibeller1∗, V Belton2, F Ackermann2 and L Ensslin3

1London School of Economics, London, UK; 2University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK; and 3Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Floriano ́polis, Brazil

Journal of the Operational Research Society (2008) 59, 575–589

Special issue on problem structuring research and practice

Fran Ackermann • L. Alberto Franco • Etie ̈nne Rouwette • Leroy White

EURO J Decis Process (2014) 2:165–172 DOI 10.1007/s40070-014-0037-6

Soft OR Comes of Age – But Not Everywhere!

Mingers, John (2011)

ISSN 0305-0483. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.omega.2011.01.005

Omega, 39 (6). pp. 729-741

An Investigation on the Effectiveness of a Problem Structuring Method in a Group Decision-Making Process

Ying Thaviphoke
Old Dominion University, ythav001@odu.edu

2020

OR competences: the demands of problem structuring methods

Richard John Ormerod

EURO J Decis Process (2014) 2:313–340

DOI 10.1007/s40070-013-0021-6

Hard OR, Soft OR, Problem Structuring Methods, Critical Systems Thinking: A Primer

Hans G. Daellenbach

Department of Management University of Canterbury Christchurch, NZ

h.daellenbach@mang.canterbury.ac.nz

Are project managers ready for the 21th challenges? A review of problem structuring methods for decision support

José Ramón San Cristóbal Mateo

Emma Diaz Ruiz de Navamuel

María Antonia González Villa

https://repositorio.unican.es/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10902/13669/ijispm-050203.pdf?sequence=1

Towards a new framework for evaluating systemic problem structuring methods

Gerald Midgley  Robert Y. Cavana  John Brocklesby , Jeff L. Foote  David R.R. Wood , Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll 

European Journal of Operational Research 229 (2013) 143–154

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377221713000945

Problem structuring methods

Jonathan Rosenhead1

Chapter in book

(1) The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England

Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-0611-X_806

Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science

2001 Edition | Editors: Saul I. Gass, Carl M. Harris

Beyond Problem Structuring Methods: Reinventing the Future of OR/MS

Author(s): M. C. Jackson

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

Strategic Development: Methods and Models

Robert G. Dyson (Editor)Frances A. O’Brien (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-471-97495-6 

May 1998 346 Pages

https://www.wiley.com/en-al/Strategic+Development:+Methods+and+Models-p-9780471974956

Group Model Building:
Problem Structuring, Policy Simulation and Decision Support

David F. Andersen, University at Albany
Jac A.M. Vennix, Radboud University Nijmegen George P. Richardson, University at Albany Etiënne A.J.A. Rouwette, Radboud University Nijmegen

Reassessing the Scope of OR Practice: the Influences of Problem Structuring Methods and the Analytics Movement

J. C. Ranyard, R. Fildes* and Tun-I Hu

The Department of Management Science Lancaster University Management School Lancaster LA1 4YX
UK

Author: Mayank Chaturvedi

You can contact me using this email mchatur at the rate of AOL.COM. My professional profile is on Linkedin.com.

3 thoughts on “What are Problem Structuring Methods?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s