Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
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.
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.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • use team-work skills;
  • use problem structuring and solving skills;
  • use qualitative modelling skills;
  • use 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.


• 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.

Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Wider reading or practice40
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. 



Class discussions


MethodPercentage contribution
Case study  (2500 words) 30%
Examination  (2 hours) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Case study  (2500 words) 30%
Examination  (2 hours) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Case study  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.