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U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

Soft Tools for Operations Research and Wargaming

Diagramming for a Better Understand of a New Situation

Rich Pictures

Video: 4:54 ⇒ 

Rich pictures were introduced by Peter Checkland and developed as part of Soft System Methodology (SSM). This is a widely used problem structuring method in operations research.

For the NPS course, only rich pictures from SSM will be covered. Students should investigate SSM further as a means to structure problems that are unfamiliar or which seem overly daunting in complexity. An article in Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Rich Picture of Zefra

Video: 4:51 ⇒ 

This video provides an example of using a rich picture to describe the situation in Zefra in April 2020.

Note that the picture need not be perfect. The comments at the end of the video indicate some shortcomings of the described picture. However, the picture need not be re-drawn, as long as the shortcomings are kept in mind.

Influence Diagrams

Video: 8:40 ⇒ 

This video introduces influence diagrams. Note that several formats for influence diagrams have developed recently. An article in Wikipedia describes symbology intended for a much more sophisticated application than is intended here.

Multiple Cause Diagrams

Video: 2:13 ⇒ 

Multiple cause diagrams and causal loop diagrams essentially serve the same purpose. There are only minor differences in the use of symbols. Multiple cause diagrams and causal loop diagrams can be precursors to developing a system dynamics model of a situation. But they can be very informative in their own right. In this application they are used without an intention to develop a system dynamics model.

Uses of Multiple Cause Diagrams

Video: 1:34 ⇒ 

Uses of multiple cause diagrams are covered in this video. It also serves as an introduction to subsequent videos.

Drawing Multiple Cause Diagrams

Video: 3:36 ⇒ 

This video will give you background on drawing your own multiple cause diagrams.

Drawing Causal Connections

Video: 3:30 ⇒ 

This video helps to develop skills in drawing causal connections.

Recognizing Feedback Loops

Video: 8:36 ⇒ 

Finding feedback loops is a critical aspect of understanding the causes of various events.

The example in this video is particularly relevant to military situations as it covers some aspects of terrorism and suicide bombing.

Sign Graphs

Video: 3:43 ⇒ 

Finally signs can be added to feedback loops. This will help in the interpretation of the diagram in terms of positive and negative feedback loops.

Additional Sources

The material for diagramming practices is available directly from the Open University. However, the OU site uses Flash media and may not be viewable in browsers that cannot use the Flash format. The videos above were created from the Flash presentations so they could be viewed on a wider variety of devices.

Written guidelines for drawing the different sorts of diagrams are also available at the Open University site. They are also available in PDF form.

RAND's Delphi Method

Introduction to the Delphi Method

Video: 4:16 ⇒ 

The RAND Corporation originally developed the Delphi Method in the 1950s. The video provides a summary of its characteristics.

Limitations and Examples of the Delphi Method

Video: 8:50 ⇒ 

There are a number of issues of which to be aware when using the Delphi Method. The video outlines several. The Wikipedia article covers these as well.