Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Adrian Gheorghe

Committee Member

Patrick Hester

Committee Member

James Pyne


The purpose of this research was to develop a systems theory-based construct for metasystem pathologies identification in support of the problem formulation phase of systems-based methodologies using an inductive research design. Problem formulation has been identified as one of the most critical stages in complex system development since it influences later stages in complex system understanding. In modern society where the operating landscape is characteristically ambiguous, mired by complexity, emergence. interdependence, and uncertainty, the concept of problem formulation is used to ensure right issues affecting complex systems surface and addressed to meet expected system performance and viability. In this research, this role of problem formulation is examined in systems-based methodologies in connection with systems theory. While the literature indicates the importance of problem formulation phase in systems-based methodologies. the conceptual foundations of systems theory that form the basis for 'systemic' thinking in these methodologies is not clearly inculcated into the problem formulation phase. This research addresses this gap by providing the necessary detailed discussion linking systems theory to problem formulation. The research focused on the lack of explicit use of systems theory in problem formulation and metasystemic issues of a higher logical order beyond single system of interest. A rigorous approach employing grounded theory method was used to analyze systems theory (laws, principles, and theorems) in terms of problem formulation to develop a construct – Metasystem Pathologies Identification and derived systems theory-based pathologies (circumstances. conditions, factors, or patterns) that act to limit system performance. A case study was then undertaken to face validate the applicability of emerging systems-theory pathologies in an operational setting were possible utility were developed.

Fundamentally, this research presents a new approach to problem formulation where systemic thinking is at the foundation of identifying systemic issues affecting system performance. A significant promise for those interested in problem formulation is the inclusion of systems theory-based pathologies during problem formulation phase of systems-based approaches.