The University of Southampton

MANG2007 Problem Structuring Methods

Module Overview

This module provides an introduction to problem structuring methods (PSMs): methods which can be used to assist individuals and teams in developing their understanding of the messy problems which are the reality of organisational life. Such methods tend to be qualitative rather than quantitative, and focus on building models, often pictorial or diagrammatic, in which the “wild and wicked” complexity, uncertainty and subjectivity of real problems are represented and “tamed”.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Many problems in management are too “messy” to be addressed effectively by the standard management scientist’s toolkit of mathematically-based techniques. Such problems are typically characterised by complexity, a high degree of uncertainty and ignorance, and multiple subjectivity. Structuring them into a form in which they can be addressed is at least as challenging as formally solving them. This module introduces a variety of problem structuring methods (PSMs) for working with “messy” problems. These methods are generally designed for use in the context of workshops in which the problem owners are central participants, and tend to emphasise qualitative rather than quantitative content. The module considers both the practice of using PSMs and their conceptual and theoretical underpinnings.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • a variety of problem structuring methods and their use within organisations.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • team-work skills;
  • problem structuring and solving skills;
  • qualitative modelling skills;
  • systems thinking skills.
  • use, at a basic level of competence, a variety of problem structuring methods;
  • participate actively in the facilitation and management of change in organisations.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate the suitability of methods for problem structuring and solving and their use within organisations.


• Introduction to problem structuring methods (PSMs). • Soft systems methodology (SSM). • Cognitive mapping and strategic options development and analysis (SODA). • The strategic choice approach (SCA). • Drama theory and metagame analysis. • Systems thinking and problem structuring.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Two hours of lectures per week, supported by one hour of weekly classes

Wider reading or practice40
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J. Rosenhead & J. Mingers. (editors) (2001). Rational Analysis for a Problematic World Revisited: Problem Structuring Methods for Complexity, Uncertainty and Conflict. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 70%
Individual assignment  (2500 words) 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 70%
Individual Coursework  ( words) 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual assignment  (2500 words) 100%

Linked modules

Prerequisites: MANG1003 or MANG1020 or MANG1021

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