HelpInterpretive Structural Modeling

Objective:

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Identify and describe the use of Interpretive Structural Modeling as a technology assessment technique.

Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM)

Interpretive Structural Modeling is a “directed graphic representation of a particular relationship among all pairs of elements in a set to aid in structuring a complex issue area” (Porter, et al., 1980.)

Step 1. ISM Begins with an issue or problem.

Global Warming
Step 2. The elements that comprise the issue context are listed.
  • Desertification
  • Industrialization
  • Population (human)
  • Natural global climatic changes
Step 3. Pairs of elements are compared graphically or in a matrix, using an arrow to indicate "This element contributes more than that element." Draw a graphic representation.
For example, let's say we believe that Industrialization (I) is felt to contribute more to global warming than Desertification (D) or Natural global changes (N), and D were believed to contribute more than N. But Population (P) were believed to contribute more than any of the other three. The diagram would look like this:



According to Porter, et al., (1980), ISM is useful in:
  • problem definition and bounding
  • impact evaluation
  • identifying relationships among policy sectors
but its weaknesses include:
  • It identifies static relationships (i.e., structural rather than dynamic relationships).
  • It is qualitative, not quantitative.
  • It is simplistic, and not very powerful.

I wonder, would the inventor of ISM would agree with these criticisms? John Warfield has written extensively on ISM; he invented it during 1970 - 1973. He distributes free DOS software to facilitate its use at the following site (optional):
www.gmu.edu/departments/t-iasis/ism/ism.htm
This software is not very user friendly, and only those looking for a challenge should attempt to use it.

The course electronic reserve from Porter, et al., (1980) discusses ISM on pages 71 to 73 (optional):
www.bsu.edu/libraries/protected/ereserves/FlowersJ/ITEDU510/Porter1980-Ch5Strategies.pdf 

However, the above procedure is rather simplistic. For a more detailed discussion, see David Malone's (1975) chapter on "An introduction to the application of interpretive structural modeling" at http://www.sysc.pdx.edu/classes/MaloneISMpaper.pdf

 


References Cited

Malone, D. (1975). An introduction to the application of Interpretive Structural Modeling”, Chapter 14 in Baldwin, Ed., Portraits of Complexity. Columbus, OH: Batelle Memorial Institute Monograph No. 9. Retrieved from http://www.sysc.pdx.edu/classes/sysc513.malone_ISM.pdf

Porter, A. L., Rossinni, F., Carpenter, S. R, Roper, A. T., Larson, R. W., and Tiller, J. S. (1980).A guidebook for technology assessment and impact analysis. New York: North Holland.



"Interpretive Structural Modeling"
All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Department of Technology, Ball State University