Problem Structuring Methods

Problem Structuring Methods are a family of methods that apply modelling approaches to address messy or wicked problems faced by the managers of organisations.

They seek to alleviate or improve situations characterised by uncertainty, conflict and complexity. Although the family of methods was described in Jonathan Rosenhead's 1989 book, Rational Analysis for A Problematic World, the special interest group does not limit itself to the approaches described there. It embraces all other cognate interpretative model building approaches and decision science tools aimed at supporting groups in working through problems.

The aims of the PSM Special Interest Group are to provide a forum which increases the understanding and practical use of PSMs amongst interested members of the broad OR community. It allows specialist PSM practitioners to explore the connections between PSMs and other MS/OR approaches and examines the applicability of software to supporting PSM practice. The group also promotes the exchange of experiences of teaching PSMs within higher education, of training in the use of PSMs in industry, commerce and government and supports the work of research students exploring PSM themes.

Committee details

Christina Phillips
Co Chair
Martin Parr
Co Chair
15. Facilitating the Revision of AYME’s Strategy.jpg

Come to our next event

Handling complex societal problems: exploring the case of Corona vaccination

Date: Monday 25 October

Time: 17.00 - 18.00

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About The Event

With a background combining both Social Sciences and Computer Science, Professor Dorien DeTombe developed COMPRAM to handle complex societal problems in real life. For example, COMPRAM can be used to frame and work on problems such as: the current flooding of many rivers in Europe; water shortages across the world; urban planning; unemployment and poverty in South Africa; health care problems like HIV/AIDS; and the unwanted side effects of governmental interventions such as the management of mad-cow disease in Europe.

COMPRAM is multi-disciplinary approach, engaging experts directly with actors in the problem situation, and brings together aspects of a range of methods, methodologies and tools, such as Soft Systems Methodology, Systems Dynamics and COPE and others into a structured interactive approach for policy making.  This collaborative approach is designed to identify changes that can be mutually accepted and implemented into real life.  In practice the process typically lasts 6 to 12 months depending on the nature of the problem.

This webinar will share some of the benefits and difficulties that have been found through practical application of COMPRAM in many areas and should be of interest to participants from a range of backgrounds such as Operational Research, management sciences, urban planning, environmental sciences, economics, political sciences, as well as decision makers and policy makers. 

An important current example of a complex societal problem is the emergence and evolution of the Corona pandemic since 2019 through to the development and present-day availability of vaccines for Corona virus, SARS-CoV-2.  This example will be examined to illustrate the many practical issues that arise in handling such complex societal problems.  Professor DeTombe will describe how the adoption of a systemic and integrative approach, such as COMPRAM, could help policy makers find more suitable and sustainable changes that would save lives and livelihoods.

About the Speaker

Prof. Dr Dorien DeTombe is the founder and chair of the field Methodology for Societal Complexity. She developed the Compram Methodology for political decision making on complex societal issues like sustainable development, terrorism, credit crisis, climate change and water affairs. The Compram Methodology is advised by the OECD to handle Global Safety.

She studied social science and computer science. Her doctorate is in Methodology for Societal Complexity. She spend her main carrier at Utrecht University and Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, and is since 2015 connected with Sichuan University, Chengdu, P.R. China. She is a facilitator of many workshops on complexity.  She published many books, more than 150 articles. She gives lectures and workshops as Visiting Professor and Conferences all over the world. She organizes yearly conferences  and is editor of many journals. She is in the board of many research groups and established a world-wide research network on International Society on Methodology of Societal Complexity.


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Intelligent Designs Systems approaches to understand Policy Rationales and Objectives. Ian M Mitchell FORS 20/08/2015 1.0