Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Andres Sousa-Poza

Committee Member

Andrew J. Collins

Committee Member

Pilar Pazos-Lago

Committee Member

Patrick T. Hester


There is no shortage of methods to address messy problems. A messy problem is a system of problems with multiple stakeholders who may hold different views of what is feasible or desirable. Decision-makers in a messy problem are prone to committing an error – especially the Type III error. One of the ways to mitigate the chance of committing the error in a messy problem is to reach a group consensus. Problem Structuring Methods (PSM) are the collections of participatory modeling methods that aim to tackle a messy problem. Despite the positive reports, literature indicates some challenges and criticisms of the effectiveness of PSM applications. One of the main challenges is the difficulty in identifying clear benefits which leads to a lack of interest from a wider community – particularly in the U.S. This study empirically investigates the effectiveness of a PSM in a messy problem to address the present challenges. Confidence can be a proxy to indicate that a group consensus is reached in a messy problem. Experimental research was conducted to assess participants’ problem-solving confidence in a messy problem. The results reveal that participants in the PSM group show a higher level of problem-solving confidence than the control group. It is hoped that the results of this research can inspire and encourage researchers and practitioners in a wider community to acknowledge the effectiveness of PSM, especially in the U.S.