© 2017

Systemic Decision Making

Fundamentals for Addressing Problems and Messes


  • Winner of a 2018 TAA Textbook Excellence Award

  • Provides a holistic, cross-discipline method for problem structuring and assessment

  • Allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of complex, real-world problems

  • Invokes who, what, why, where, when, and how as key questions for improving understanding of a problem

  • Addresses complex messes from thinking, through action, and finally through observation


Part of the Topics in Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality book series (TSRQ, volume 33)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxviii
  2. A Frame of Reference for Systemic Decision Making

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 3-16
    3. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 17-34
    4. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 35-54
    5. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 55-99
    6. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 101-125
  3. Thinking Systemically

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 127-129
    2. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 131-156
    3. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 157-172
    4. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 173-206
    5. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 207-230
    6. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 231-252
    7. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 253-274
  4. Acting Systemically

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 275-275
    2. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 277-281
    3. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 283-302
    4. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 303-314
  5. Observing Systemically

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 315-315
    2. Patrick T. Hester, Kevin MacG. Adams
      Pages 317-333

About this book


This expanded second edition of the 2014 textbook features dedicated sections on action and observation, so that the reader can combine the use of the developed theoretical basis with practical guidelines for deployment. It also includes a focus on selection and use of a dedicated modeling paradigm – fuzzy cognitive mapping – to facilitate use of the proposed multi-methodology. The end goal of the text is a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to structuring and assessing complex problems, including a dedicated discussion of thinking, acting, and observing complex problems. The multi-methodology developed is scientifically grounded in systems theory and its accompanying principles, while the process emphasizes the nonlinear nature of all complex problem-solving endeavors. The authors’ clear and consistent chapter structure facilitates the book’s use in the classroom.


Complex Systems Textbook Systems Engineering Engineering Management Problem Structuring Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping Industrial Engineering Systemic Approach Systemic Thinking Wicked Problems

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Engineering Management and Systems EngineeringOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.Information Technology and Computer ScienceUniversity of Maryland University CollegeAdelphiUSA

About the authors

Dr. Patrick T. Hester is an Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Old Dominion University. Dr. Hester received a Ph.D. in Risk and Reliability Engineering from Vanderbilt University and a B.S. in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the Webb Institute. He has been involved in research and consulting activities focused on systems thinking and decision analysis for diverse agencies including NIST, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, NASA Langley Research Center, DHS, Sandia National Laboratories, NOAA, TRADOC, and General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company. The results of his research have led to over one hundred publications in books, journals, and conferences. His research has been published in Systems Engineering, International Journal of System of Systems Engineering, International Journal of Operations Research, International Journal of Critical Infrastructures, and Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation, among others. Dr. Hester is a Senior member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), the Performance Management Association, and the International Society on Multiple Criteria Decision Making, a Board member of IISE’s Society of Engineering and Management Systems, and an Editorial Board Member of Systemic Practice and Action Research. He is a two-time Outstanding Author Contribution Award Winner from the Emerald Literati Network, and in 2016, he was named one of 20 “Engineering Management Professors You Should Know” by 

Dr. Kevin Adams is a much sought after speaker and lecturer who specializes in providing systems-based solutions for complex real-world problems. He is the author of books on systemic thinking and non-functional requirements and has published over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.

His presentations merge both philosophical and theoretical concepts from academia with the everyday problems being faced by businesses operating in the highly connected, fast-paced, global economy – providing effective and lasting solutions. Kevin’s systems-based solutions emphasize the importance of organizational stakeholders and the use of tailored methodologies for each and every solution.

His unique foundation for problem solving is based upon over 35 years of practical management experience. He has been able to integrate his first career in the United States Navy, where he served aboard three submarines and as a maintenance officer with second and third careers as a private-sector information technology consultant specializing in enterprise solutions and as an academic teaching in both engineering and management curriculums.

He is currently an adjunct associate professor at the University of Maryland University College and Virginia Wesleyan College. He volunteers on the Editorial Board of the Journal Systemic Practice and Action Research and as a Program Evaluator for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Dr. Adams is a retired Navy submarine engineering duty officer, and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Dr. Adams is a member of Tau Beta Bi (NJ Beta) - the National Engineering Honor Society, Keramos - the National Ceramic Engineering Honor Society, and Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

Dr. Adams hold engineering degrees from Rutgers University (B.S.), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (dual M.S. degrees), and Old Dominion University (Ph.D.).


Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Systemic Decision Making
  • Book Subtitle Fundamentals for Addressing Problems and Messes
  • Authors Patrick T. Hester
    Kevin MacG. Adams
  • Series Title Topics in Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Series Abbreviated Title Topics in Safety, Risk
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Engineering Engineering (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-54671-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-85450-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-54672-8
  • Series ISSN 1566-0443
  • Series E-ISSN 2215-0285
  • Edition Number 2
  • Number of Pages XXVIII, 414
  • Number of Illustrations 95 b/w illustrations, 67 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Complexity
    Systems Theory, Control
    Operations Research/Decision Theory
    Operations Research, Management Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Oil, Gas & Geosciences


“The decision-making process proposed by Hester and Adas is based on systemic thinking through the application of a three-stage process: think, analyze and observe, giving greater importance to global results. … The language used by the authors is accessible to entire public: no prior training is required to read it. … a remarkable work that should not be missing in the library of the specialist, the technician and the student.” (Melio Sáenz, ResearchGate,, February, 2018)