Structuring Problems

LocationCavendish, Central London
FacultyScience and Technology

Many organisational problems are highly complex. Complexity can arise due to many reasons: there is often a large number different stakeholders involved, everyone has a different view of what the problem is, the organisation has a multitude of different options, lots of data to analyse, several resources need to be managed and coordinated efficiently to achieve success, and uncertainty about what the future might bring. This makes choosing between different options problematic.

While many courses are provided on how to use a particular technique or software tool to solve a healthcare problem, little attention is paid to building a solid formulation and understanding of the initial problem. This can mean other options are not explored, decisions are made without considering fringe or external factors, the politics of the organisation are overlooked and the relationship with and dependencies on other aspects of the organisation are not clearly understood. In short this can lead to poor decision making.

This course teaches you how to conduct the initial investigation into a large or complex health care problem. It uses established and recognised systems-thinking methodologies, to build up their understanding of the situation and formulate a conceptual model so that it can be appropriately solved. In addition, you will be presented with a range of industrial health care problems to explore and practice in small groups throughout the day.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for those engaged in commissioning or provision of health and social care. It has been created to help you explore and analyse planning, management and commissioning problems through a set of appropriate techniques and approaches. Specifically it would benefit those at a senior or management level, management consultants or those who are interested in doing consultancy work in the future.

Dates Duration Price  
We run this course on request for a number of people. Please register your interest. 1 day


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Course content

 The course will cover:

  • identifying the causes of bad decision making
  • fundamentals of problem structuring
  • using cognitive mapping to understand complex problems
  • soft systems methodology: deciphering the bigger picture
  • group work and discussion through a number of case studies, for example demand and future cost of long-term conditions in an English primary care trust or GP consortium


By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • appreciate the role of problem structuring methods in defining and identifying issues in complex healthcare problems
  • understand how to apply problem structuring techniques in the planning process
  • use cognitive mapping to clearly illustrate the aims, objectives, strategies and options for large problems
  • use soft systems methodology (SSM) to increase understanding of healthcare systems and the environment in which they operate
  • identify both internal and external risks, opportunities and threats to successful project implementation

Philip Worrall

Philip Worrall obtained a BA (Econ) in Economics from the University of Manchester and an Operational Research and Management Science MSc from Lancaster University. His MSc project was conducted at the NHS Derbyshire County Primary Care Trust, where he investigated the challenges of building COPD strategic planning models to model long-term future demand.  At present he studies for a PhD at the University of Westminster on strategic healthcare planning and forecasting long-term care demand in particular, and works part-time for the NHS London Procurement Program.  He has extensive experience in applying problem structuring and forecasting methods to develop health care modelling tools.

Salma Chahed 

Salma Chahed received an MSc in Industrial Engineering and PhD in Operations Management for Healthcare Services from Ecole Centrale Paris, France, before joining the Health and Social Care Modelling Group at the University of Westminster. Her research interests lie in the modelling of long-term care systems, patient pathway and neonatal units and network. She held a teaching position at the Ecole Centrale Paris, and then at the University of Saint-Etienne, France. She has experience in teaching simulation modelling, production and operations management and operations research. Salma was recently involved in the delivery of the predictive modelling short course and health care operations management both dedicated to health and social care decision makers.

Contact us

Faculty of Science and Technology

Verena Bogner
Programme Administrator

+44 (0)20 7911 5000 ext 69529