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+. Refreshing holiday. +. +. +. +. No illness…stomach problems. Good food … chips with everything. -. +. Good weather…lots of rain. No Cooking. -. Eat in restaurants. Quiet location….lots to do. +. -. Hotel…self catering. -. Stay in UK…go abroad. +. Spend less than £500. +.

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Refreshing holiday





No illness…stomach problems

Good food … chips with everything



Good weather…lots of rain

No Cooking


Eat in restaurants

Quiet location….lots to do



Hotel…self catering


Stay in UK…go abroad


Spend less than £500


Drive there…fly

Concept 2

(the end)


Concept 1

(the means)

Useful Modelling Techniques


“A model is an external and explicit representation of part of reality as seen by the people who wish to use that model to understand, to change, to manage and to control that part of reality” Pidd (1996). Models are designed to provide a simple representation of some aspect of reality:

Adapted from Pidd (1996)

The development and use of rational and logical analysis can be a great aid in managing that complexity and in recognising and managing the inevitable risks. A modelling approach is a particularly useful approach for decision making and control. Some modelling techniques are based on mathematical and logical models, others are ways of helping people to think through the consequences of decisions.

Cognitive Mapping

Cognitive mapping is a modelling methodology, used to capture people’s views so as to develop an explicit model of them. A cognitive map is a form of influence diagram, which consists of nodes, known as concepts, linked by arrows. The direction of the arrow is intended to represent the causal direction of the relationship:

A positive sign indicates a positive link, a negative sign indicates a negative link. Each concept should be expressed as a pair of opposites (poles). The second pole is not necessarily the simple negative of the first, but is used to help clarify what is meant by the concept. Those without a second pole are either goals, or require no clarification. For example:

Adapted from Pidd (1996)






Activity A


Activity B

Activity C

Useful Modelling Techniques

Each individual in a given situation would have a different cognitive map as it is a representation of how they view the situation. The map can be used from either a top-down or a bottom-up approach. It is important to ensure that the map is as complete as it can be and to move from expressing ideas, to considering the actions which might be taken.

Problem Structuring

Strategic decision making and planning can be aided and supported by ‘soft’ models (Pidd, 1996). These interpretive approaches aim to explore the disagreements and uncertainties which exist within strategic decisions so that an agreed consensus and commitment to action can be reached.

Adapted from Pidd (1996)

  • Strategic decisions are most closely characterised by the properties of a ‘mess’ (Pidd, 1996), whereby there is extreme ambiguity as to what the definition of the situation is, and whether a solution exists at all.
  • Problem structuring is one way in which problem definitions can be defined in order to make them more clear and manageable. Some techniques for problem structuring:
  • The Idiot Questions – What? Why? When? How? Where? Who?
  • Spray Diagrams – capture and display relationships, often referred to as mind mapping
  • Brainstorming – used to generate a large number of ideas, which can then be grouped and discussed
  • Process Mapping
  • Business process models, or process mapping, is one example of modelling used within the business environment. These models support business re-engineering through identifying which components of the process are essential and where improvements will make a difference.
  • A process map is a way of representing a process graphically, which helps to understand the current process and to see the relationships and potential for improvement. There are four stages of mapping:
  • What you think it is – gathering views of those related to the process
  • What it really is – checking and walking the process
  • What it should be – how the process can be improved
  • What it could be – if you could start from square one

Useful Modelling Techniques

Further information

Pidd, M., (1996), ‘Tools for Thinking: Modelling in Management Science’, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, England.

Turner, S., 2002, ‘Tools for Success: A Manager Guide’, McGraw Hill Professional, Berkshire, UK