Problem Structuring Methods

The methods currently known as problem structuring methods (PSM) began to be developed from the 60's, being almost completely matured in 80’s. These methods have been developed due to the gap in traditional operational research, which did not address complex problems satisfactorily. To meet these shortcomings, the PSM is then devoted to represent the problems observing their multiple perspectives, problems which were eventually systems composed of multiple actors, who often possessed conflicting interests, not always tangible, subjected to environmental uncertainties. A representation was necessary at an early stage to cover most of the characteristics that impacted these systems, using symbolic, rather than analytical models, to enable the understanding and discussion of the problem, increasing engagement, and identification of potential improvements.

There are a variety of methods designed to encompass considerable range of problems with their peculiarities. We can mention three methodologies, which stand out for applicability and quantity of published papers: SSM, SCA and SODA.

Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) seeks to build ideal conceptual models, to be later compared with the perceptions of the current system, and attempt to propose viable changes that could make the systems more suited to the needs of actors in the system.

Strategic Choice Approach (SCA aims to assist in the identification of relationships between seemingly unconnected sectors. Participants try to clarify situations and resolve uncertainty by raising and comparing alternatives for making decisions of strategic nature.

Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA) bring out and register problematic situations using the cognitive mapping tool. When the participants get their visions for such situations, one must make a collective and consensual assessment scenario, so that, with the new representation, we can propose a set of actions and commitments.

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