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Who are we at Problematics and what are we doing?
Bios, History, About Problematics


Donald V. Steward: Business Paradigm Architect. Creator of the problem solving technique used here. First to recognize its applications to engineering and then to business. Programmed the algorithms and worked with the development of the user interface along with Stuart Williams.

Stuart Williams: Programmed all the interfaces to the user and operating system and handles installations. He has worked on PSM32 over the past 10 years while maintaining other full time employment.

We are working together to improve upon the PSM32 program, and develop a workshop and manuals on using our PSM32 program and the Information Dependency Management (based on DSM) concept in business. We are also writing a book tentatively titled The New Management: Dealing with Complexity in Dynamic Times.

History of the DSM Concept

In 1967 Donald V. Steward conceived of the DSM concept while working on the design of nuclear power plants. The same year he wrote a main-frame batch program implementing DSM. In 1969 he wrote an article for publication that was rejected by three journals, but finally the same article was published in 1981 in IEEE Transaction on Engineering Management. His book Systems Analysis and Management: Structure, Strategy and Design was also published in 1981.

Jim Rogers of NASA wrote a program called DeMaid based on the algorithms in Steward's book. DeMaid is based on an algorithmic rather than the interactive approach taken by PSM 32. Roger's work introduced the DSM concept into several aerospace companies such as Lockheed and Boeing.

In 1992 Steward was invited to MIT for a semester as a visiting scholar to work with Professor Eppinger and his students on extensions of DSM. A number of students at MIT have since completed theses based on DSM. Workshops on DSM were held at MIT in September 1999 and again in September 2000. They were attended by people from GTE, Ford, Fiat, Visteon, Scandia, Asea Brown Boveri, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and others who are applying DSM concepts, mostly in engineering.

Stuart Williams and Donald V. Steward have over the last ten years been writing and refining PSM32 to apply DSM to both planning and implementing engineering and business problem solving projects. Richard and Carley Paynting are beginning the process of installing several client-server systems in major engineering companies and presenting workshops on DSM concepts and their application.

DSM is now referred to as the Information Dependency Method to indicate its broader application to business as well as to engineering.

About Problematics

Have you ever been in the following situation: Your project is over-budget, and over-due. Your team is in crisis mode trying to recover from another blindside, and it is going to cost you money and market share as they frantically try to make up lost ground. And next week, you're going to have to explain in front of your fellow managers and the big boss why this has happened, again, and how you will prevent it from happening in the future.

We have developed a new way of looking at management that helps avoid such predicaments. Where in the past managers have focused on workflows, this new approach focuses first on information dependencies and flows so as to get the workflows right.

Information dependencies and information flows are fundamental features of management systems that up to now have been overlooked. First, there lacked an appreciation of the relation between management and problem solving. And second, there was a failure to recognize that each problem or project has its own information dependency structure and that structure tells what assumptions will produce what plans and information flows.

When we understand this, we find the missing ingredient that explains why the methods that gurus have been telling us about recently, enablement, cross-functional teams, flatter organizations and so on, have met with so little success. We find how to reduce the risk from the assumptions we make.

We see how to organize using webs rather than hierarchies so that information flows more efficiently, following the structure of the problem being solved rather than clashing with some organizational structure not tailored to fit that specific problem. We see how to have flatter organizations that are coordinated by information flows.

When a change is made we can quickly determine what is affected. People are informed when the information they need becomes available, or can trace why it might not be available when they need it. This opens up an entirely new way of thinking about business and engineering that holds the promise of greater productivity in this more highly information-dependent world.

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Updated: 07/10/2004

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