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

Soft OR and Problem Structuring Methods; Past, Present and Future

Date: Thursday 29 July

Time: 5pm-6pm

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About The Event

Last year we told you that we would have a talk from Frances O’Brien and Robert Dyson on their paper about soft OR and the founders. We are now glad to announce that this will be happening, but with an extra twist! We also have Vanessa Schramm coming to talk to us about the use of PSM’s over the last 10 years (2010 to 2020).

We hope that this will be a great opportunity to review the impact and use of Soft OR and PSM’s by taking a long-term view, drawing together the past and the present and discussing possible strategies for the future. As always, your input and thoughts will be most welcome on the day, and we look forward to seeing you on Zoom.

Talk 1: Soft OR and Practice: The Contribution of the Founders of OR, Frances O’Brien & Robert Dyson
In our talk we summarise our research into the work of some 43 Founders of operations research whose profiles were presented in a book by Assad & Gass in 2011 called ‘Profiles in Operations Research, Pioneers and Innovators’. In particular we consider the links between soft OR and these Founders. The leading US journals, Management Science and Operations Research have been unwilling to publish soft OR papers considering it not to be real OR. However, several of the Founders were direct influencers of the proponents of soft OR proponents. Additionally, the work of a number of other Founders, of the hard school, related to many of the characteristics of soft OR. Our research also focused on the embeddedness of the Founders, and the soft OR proponents, in practice and we argue that, for academics, engagement with practice has been and will continue to be an important driver for the health and development of operational research. The written version of this paper has been published in the journal ‘Operations Research’.

Talk 2: Advances on Problem Structuring Methods Over the Last Decade, Vanessa Batista Schramm
Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs) are a set of interactive and participatory modeling approaches for dealing with unstructured complex problems, which are characterized by the existence of multiple actors, with differing perspectives and conflicting interests, trying to identify alternatives for solving a problematic situation in an environment with uncertainties. In this talk, we will present a review on PSMs over the last decade (2010-2020), focusing on verifying the distribution of papers according to year, journals, countries, and authors; to identify the most frequent PSMs and areas of application; and to present methodological and theoretical advances, and emerging topics.

About the Speakers

Professor Robert Dyson is an Emeritus Professor at Warwick Business School. Initially a research mathematician and senior systems technologist at Pilkington Plc (1964-70). Joined the University of Warwick School of Industrial and Business Studies (now Warwick Business School) in 1970 as a lecturer. Chairman of WBS 1978-81 and Dean 1998-2000. Visiting Fellow at Technische Hogeschool Twente, Enschede (1977) and Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, Austin (1982). Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University 1989-95 and 1999-2005. Chair of the Committee of Professors of Operational Research (1995-7) and President of the Operational Research Society (1998 and 99). Elected a Companion of Operational Research (2007). Board Member of the Coventry Partnership (1998-2005). Governor of Kenilworth School 1989-98, Chair of Governors (1993-97) and Chair of Trust (2008-2012). An Editor of the European Journal of Operational Research 2006-2020. Robert has published in the fields of cutting stock problems, stochastic programming, capital investment appraisal, strategic development, data envelopment analysis and performance management. Chair, Warwick Retired Staff Association, 2017-

Frances O’Brien is an Associate Professor of Operational Research and Management Sciences at Warwick Business School where she teaches on a range of business modelling and strategic development courses for a wide variety of student groups from undergraduate to MBA. Her previous industrial experience is in OR modelling (Simulation & LP) with Ford Motor Company. Her main research interests lie in the area of supporting strategic development, focusing on the use of scenarios to capture uncertainty about the future. She currently chairs UK OR Society’s WORAN (Women in OR and Analytics Network) committee and is a member of EURO’s WISDOM (Women in Society Doing Operational Research and Management Science) committee.

Vanessa Batista Schramm is an Assistant Professor at Federal University of Campina Grande, Brazil, IEEE Senior Member. She is co-founder and coordinator of DeSiDeS (Development of Systems for Supporting Sustainable Decisions). Her research interests include: problem structuring methods; multi-criteria decision analysis; group decision; negotiation and conflict resolution.

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