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PSM32. Why use this program?

PSM32 is a tool for complex problem solving. The most often used method for solving complex problems has been to divide the problem into smaller problems and those into yet smaller problems until reaching problems that are simple enough that they can be solved. This is a procrustean approach that assumes that problems can be forced into a tree structure. But the reality is that many problems don't have this nice tree structure. Assuming that they do when in reality they don't can make the solution process unnecessarily difficult, resulting in extended times to solve the problem or leaving the problem not fully solved. PSM32 helps solve problems by looking at their structures and using those structures whether or not they form a tree.

This technique has been referred to in the past as the Design Structure Matrix when solving engineering problems or the Business Structure Matrix when solving business problems. But in reality these two domains of problem solving are fundamentally the same. So it is now called either the Dependency Structure Matrix or Problem Solving Matrix.

Solving a complex problem involves performing tasks that are done to determine various information items. Each task may require knowing certain other information items. These other information may have been determined by tasks that have been done earlier, or assumptions may be used if they have not yet been determined. By knowing the information structure of the problem, one can develop various plans for solving the problem in which the information flow in solving the problem conforms to the information flow inherent in the problem's structure. The plans may differ in choosing different orders in which to do the tasks, which implies different ways of using assumptions. One can then make plans to review these assumptions, and possibly redo some tasks with new assumptions if the old ones were inadequate.

This results in a structure of information flow that drives the problem solving process. It also allows one to see the information-state at any time while the problem is being solved. This provides a visibility that makes it possible to have flatter organizations that can operate with greater autonomy, accountability, more learning, and greater taping and building of knowledge throughout the organization.

This flow of information determines the order in which information items are determined. Some can be made in parallel, some should be made in sequence, and some sets of decisions are so interrelated that one absolutely must begin by using assumptions to untangle them. Where assumptions are used, a review may be called for when the additional information needed to evaluate how satisfactory the assumptions were becomes available. If the assumptions were not adequate, new assumptions may be made, requiring certain tasks to be repeated.

It is said that 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. However, we have found that frequently a picture of a complicated system can obfuscate a thousand words. In order to understand systems, people often make very complex diagrams that often go on for pages. But having made these diagrams, the challenge then is to understand the diagrams. We have found that such systems can often be more easily understood when represented as a matrix, something like a spreadsheet.

Furthermore, diagrams tend to be hard to manipulate, even with the help of computer graphics programs. But the matrix can be manipulated quite easily using the PSM32 program. It is comparatively easy with PSM32 to interact with the matrix to play with various ways of organizing the tasks that use and produce information. The information flow then drives the workflow. This technique can often be used to achieve results, such as shortening product cycle times, achieving greater satisfaction of customers, or reducing costs.

Using the Problem Solving Matrix can result in exceptional insights. It plays an important role in turning a business into a true problem solving enterprise. The Information Flow Matrix can be used in planning to:

  • See what tasks want to be done in sequence. (One may choose to do them in parallel by using more assumptions.)
  • See what tasks can be done in parallel.
  • See where a set of information items all depend upon each other such that there is no place to start. Such a set is called a block. Then the program can help select places to introduce assumptions as needed to get started.
  • See what tasks don't have to be done at all.

Where major staged reviews can be replaced with mini-reviews to save significant cycle time.
This in turn will allow you to:

  • See where boundaries can be drawn between different groups with the least information flow needed between them.
  • See where work can be eliminated or work done in parallel to shorten the time to complete a project.
  • Track the work as it occurs, and where there are problems in getting the right information to the right people at the right time, then trace the cause of the delay.

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