John Warfield Exhibit

Sigma-5: The Foundation of Interactive Management

The Interactive Management process was unique in conception, and carefully developed throughout the 1970's. What exactly is Interactive Management? Essentially, it is the use of technology and sophisticated problem solving techniques to clarify complex problems and their essential components.

At the heart of Interactive Management was the "Sigma-5" methodology. Five distinct components were brought together to attack complex problems: Facilitator, Demosophia, Computers, Consensus Methodolgies, and the Participant Group . Some of the techniques used by Interactive Management were developed by Warfield directly, others by colleagues like Aleco Christakis, and still others were drawn from leading theories in Systems Engineering. The combination of all of the methodologies was unique to the Interactive Management process.



One of the key components of a successful Interactive Management session was the situation room. It was called "Demosophia," Greek for "wisdom of the people." Great care was put into every aspect of its design. Comfortable chairs were essential for meetings which could run on for days. Large, open wall spaces and white boards were needed to post materials for group review. In the days before wireless communication, hard lines were required to connect to mainframe computers and networks. In addition to the Demosophia at George Mason, other organizations constructed their own specialized IM situation rooms. The Southwest Fisheries Science Center constructed a Demosophia at one of their facilities. Ford Motor Company, a frequent user of IM methodology, considered the construction of a multi-million dollar Demosophia, though ultimately did not proceed with construction.


Interactive Management sessions often ran over the course of several days, and walked participants through an aggressive schedule of events. In order to make the most effective use of time, highly trained facilitators were essential. These facilitators were required to not only understand the complex methodologies in use, but also to have the communication and organizational skills to lead meetings featuring dynamic personalities at the highest levels of corporate and government leadership. A number of people served as facilitators for IM sessions, some CIM employees, others trained staff members of participating organizations. One of the most familiar faces in IM facilitation was Dr. Benjamin Broome of George Mason University, is seen here leading a 1995 IM session with Defense Information Systems Agency.

Participant Group

The driving engine behind an Interactive Management session was the unique group of participants brought together to solve a complex problem. Key stakeholders were identified by the sponsoring organization, and expected to allocate several days of their time to a focused study of the problem at hand. Unlike other types of problem solving meetings, IM sessions required participants to work within a structured framework of questions and answers. The intent was to allow all voices to be heard, and to eliminate the political strong-arming that is so common in other meetings of this type. In this photo, participants at a Southwest Fisheries IM session vote on a question during a meeting held in their custom designed Demosophia.

Consensus Methodologies

With the participants brought together in the Demosophia, and being able led by a trained facilitator, the critical factor in moving towards success were called "consensus methodologies." These were techniques with abstract names such as the Nominal Group Technique, Options Field Method and Brainwriting. They allowed participants to develop a series of statements defining various aspects of the problem, and to gain consensus on the meaning of those statements. At right, Warfield makes a point in a 1993 Ford IM session. Examples of the output of consensus methodologies can be seen on the wall behind him.

Computing Power

Warfield had spent much of his early career working on the development of computers, and he made use of the power of computers when developing Interactive Management. He leveraged his earlier invention, Interpretive Structural Modeling, to create a new manner for incorporating computers into the meeting environment. Once the participant group had established their full set of descriptive statements about the problem being studying, these statements were fed into a computer. In the 1970's, these computers were mainframes connected to the Demosophia remotely. By the 1990's, portable laptops handled the IM computing. The IM software produced a series of questions, based on the statements generated by the participant group, and displayed a lengthy series of questions to the group on large monitors. The questions were designed to allow the group to decide what the interaction was between all of the various components making up a complex problem. Shown here is a computer generated question being presented to a 1984 IM session for the Naval Surface Weapons Center.

The Problematique

After days locked in a room, participants of an IM session left armed with a number of new tools to combat their complex problem. Often, they had developed new connections within their organization, allowing future collaboration. The consensus methodologies process allowed participants to hear the perspective of their colleagues, and gain a new outlook on the problem. But the most tangible - and unique - outcome of an IM session was the problematique. This graphical representation of the complex problem being considered clearly expressed the relationship between the root causes of a problem, and the problem itself. The example shown here is a very high level, strategic representation of gender issues in Liberia, the result of an IM session held there. Many other problematiques in the realm of technical design and management featured far more elaborate, complex problematiques. Further examples of problematiques - both printed, and on the wall during IM sessions - can be seen here.