John Warfield Exhibit

Dealing with "Messes"

The initial stage in any problem resolution or systems design is the definition of the problem itself. Warfield's research showed that the more complex a problem is, the harder it is to understand and define. He drew this diagram to show the difference between simple and complex problems. This sketch was used repeatedly in presentations for many years.

Integrating Man and Machine

Warfield had been involved in the design and construction of computers during the early part of his career. In seeking ways to solve complex problems, he saw great possibility in computing power. This diagram represents the relationship he anticipated between humans and computers in a new process he was developing. The name of the new process appears towards the bottom of the diagram: "Interpretive Structural Modeling." The first working software for this process was functioning by 1973, written in Fortran.

Designing a New Process to Solve Problems

Based on individual conceptualize and existing ideas in the field of systems, Warfield began to firm up the format of Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM). The process would be used in a group setting, with computers used to guide participants through questions intended to define the scope of a problem, and the relationship of its dependent parts. The diagram at right is a conceptualization of how an ISM session works.

IBM Takes Notice

By the mid-1970's, the ISM methodology was established and available for use in practical settings. The first session of ISM was run in 1973, to consider urban planning issues in the city of Cedar Rapids, IA. Interestingly, this first ISM session was run by Dr. Robert James Waller, who would later go on to pen the novel "The Bridges of Madison County." The methodology proved useful and productive, and other public and private organizations began to take notice. In this 1980 letter from IBM, it is noted that they " have used ISM very successfully," and that it "has proven to be extremely useful in saving time and effort for the group." Warfield worked as a consultant for IBM part-time, from 1979-1982.