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Problem Formulation in Planning and Design


  • Roger J. Volkema

    (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)


This paper deals with the role of problem formulation in planning and design, including: (a) the importance of problem formulation to planning and design; (b) problematic, physiological, psychological and environmental factors that can affect the formulation process; and (c) problem formulation heuristics. Two types of formulation heuristics are identified---problem reduction and problem expansion. Because the latter type has received little empirical research, an initial study of a problem expansion heuristic (Problem-Purpose Expansion) was conducted. Experimentation showed that Problem-Purpose Expansion may have a positive effect on idea generation, particularly for individuals working on problems that fall outside their area of expertise. Exhorting the importance of problem formulation, a second treatment studied in these experiments, produced little measurable effect on idea generation.

Suggested Citation

  • Roger J. Volkema, 1983. "Problem Formulation in Planning and Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(6), pages 639-652, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:29:y:1983:i:6:p:639-652

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    1. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:4:p:455-482 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Norese, Maria Franca, 1995. "MACRAME: A problem formulation and model structuring assistant in multiactorial contexts," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 25-34, July.
    3. repec:pal:jorsoc:v:60:y:2009:i:10:d:10.1057_palgrave.jors.2602653 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Krohn, Malte & Herstatt, Cornelius, 2018. "The question of a frugal mindset in Western MNCs: Exploring an emerging phenomenon with a systematic literature review," Working Papers 103, Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute for Technology and Innovation Management.
    5. ogilvie, dt, 1998. "Creative action as a dynamic strategy: Using imagination to improve strategic solutions in unstable environments," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 49-56, January.
    6. Nickerson, Jack A. & Yen, C. James & Mahoney, Joseph T., 2011. "Exploring the Problem-Finding and Problem-Solving Approach for Designing Organizations," Working Papers 11-0107, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
    7. Leon, Orfelio G., 1999. "Value-Focused Thinking versus Alternative-Focused Thinking: Effects on Generation of Objectives," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 213-227, December.
    8. Ellspermann, Susan J. & Evans, Gerald W. & Basadur, Min, 2007. "The impact of training on the formulation of ill-structured problems," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 221-236, April.
    9. Madhavan, Ravi & Mahoney, Joseph T., 2011. "Evidence-Based Management in "Macro" Areas: The Case of Strategic Management," Working Papers 11-0105, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
    10. BüyükdamgacI, Güldal, 2003. "Process of organizational problem definition: how to evaluate and how to improve," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 327-338, August.
    11. Berthon, Pierre R. & Pitt, Leyland F. & Morris, Michael H., 1998. "The Impact of Individual and Organizational Factors on Problem Perception: Theory and Empirical Evidence from the Marketing-Technical Dyad," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 25-38, May.
    12. Montibeller, Gilberto & Franco, Alberto & Lord, Ewan & Iglesias, Aline, 2008. "Structuring multi-criteria portfolio analysis models," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 22693, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    13. repec:spr:grdene:v:7:y:1998:i:4:d:10.1023_a:1008698407943 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Joldersma, Cisca & Roelofs, Ellie, 2004. "The impact of soft OR-methods on problem structuring," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 152(3), pages 696-708, February.


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