Problem structuring methods in group decision making: a comparative study of their application

Abstract

Problem structuring methods (PSMs) are a family of methods developed to support the process of group decision making, allowing stakeholders to understand a problem and commit to a consequent action. PSMs allow for the representation of a problem in a cognitively understandable way for participants. An experiment was conducted in four classrooms at an engineering college in Brazil in order to test the effect of the use of PSMs in the group decision-making process. Students were able to make suggestions for the implementation of an investment for the course in order to contribute to the training of top professionals. Then, a voting process was used to choose among the alternatives generated. Before the generation of alternatives, two groups applied the PSM: strategic options development and analysis and soft systems methodology. In two groups, no discussion was performed prior to the generation of alternatives. Four initial hypotheses were raised concerning the number of alternatives generated, the engagement of the participants, the consensus and approval based on the literature review. The results led to the contestation of some initial hypotheses, showing that, in addition to the collective understanding and learning regarding the problem, the choice of method and other aspects related to group characteristics have a strong influence on the decision process.

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Acknowledgements

This study is part of a research program funded by the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq), to whom the authors are grateful.

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Correspondence to Annielli Cunha.

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Cunha, A., Morais, D. Problem structuring methods in group decision making: a comparative study of their application. Oper Res Int J 19, 1081–1100 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12351-017-0310-0

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Keywords

  • Group decision
  • Problem structuring methods (PSM)
  • Experiment
  • Comparative analysis