Reflecting on the process of client engagement: using the mangle to assess a PSM intervention

Patrick Tully, Mike Yearworth

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


A practitioner attempting to apply Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs) is frequently operating at the whim of clients in terms of the successful implementation of the intervention. In order to explore this claim we set out the basis for the use of a novel systemic PSM to support an organisational change programme and present a case study of the implementation of this intervention. PSMs have been developed to support decision makers intervene in complex problem situations that are not amenable to more rational and optimal solutions. A process-based PSM has been developed, utilising hierarchical process modelling, which allows decision makers to work together to move towards a strategic goal. This method builds upon group model building techniques and extant PSMs to enable a facilitated group of diverse stakeholders to construct a socio-technical systems model and use this model to explore the problem situation and thus take purposeful action. Our paper applies this method to a large organisation seeking to demonstrably ensure the safety of operations of the interface of two systems. Within the literature, case studies of such interventions are typically published in the style of a scientific paper whereby the intervention itself is presented along with a discussion of the outcome. However, given the consultancy environment within which our intervention was implemented and the recent exhortation from Ormerod to present more informative case studies about the process of OR we have interpreted and presented our work using Pickering’s concept of the mangle of practice. It is intended that this method of case writing will help produce a more realistic description of what actually happened in the client engagement and enable the authors to make better sense of what occurred for the benefit of the wider OR community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014
EventThe OR Society OR56 Conference - Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sep 201411 Sep 2014


ConferenceThe OR Society OR56 Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityEgham, Surrey

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    Tully, P., & Yearworth, M. (2014). Reflecting on the process of client engagement: using the mangle to assess a PSM intervention. Abstract from The OR Society OR56 Conference, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom.