eCASS Software for Modeling

Modeling is an essential part of the MMT™ approach. An expert model summarizes the relevant knowledge about the complex issues comprising the system to be managed and helps to identify and characterize issues of importance to stakeholders and factors that influence their perceptions, knowledge, and decision making. Expert models identify the core issues for action including options for strategies and communications needs and serve as the analytical framework for mental models research. When done well, expert models provide a strong, flexible framework for obtaining systematic assistance from experts, as well as documenting the assumptions underlying information. They allow for an effective and respectful way for communicators and technical experts to ensure that they have a common frame of understanding.

The MMT™ model drawing module, eCASS, shown in Fig. 14.1 enables visualization of several different types of models, including: expert models, mental models, and other types of influence or relational diagrams such as concept maps, which illustrate the relationships between concepts, and stakeholder maps.

A key feature of eCASS is the ability to organize multiple models into a structured project library (see Fig. 14.2) enabling the organization and multiple models that show various perspectives within each project (e.g., experts, lay stakeholders, or specific groups of stakeholders) or focus on specific aspects of the models at higher levels of detail (e.g., submodels that focus on stakeholder communications and engagement, or desired outcomes). eCASS also has some interactive features, such as the ability to “link” nodes and models, enabling the user to move from one model to another by clicking on specific nodes within a model.

Another key feature of eCASS is the ability for the user to organize variables, the elements of the model depicted as nodes, in a hierarchically structured variable

eCASS application space

Fig. 14.1 eCASS application space

Fig. 14.2 eCASS model library

library (see Fig. 14.3). This enables the user to logically group similar variables and to have similar formatting of related variables both within and across projects. Variables from the library can be dragged onto specific models within a project to create a node or “instance” of the variable in that model, usually an oval, that allows depiction of the influences to and from that variable within the system. The node will have the default style associated with that variable (e.g., size, shape, color), but these features can be customized for each model, overriding the default formatting to allow for highlighting or weighting of nodes (e.g., to illustrate the results of research, see Fig. 14.4). Having default formatting for variables speeds model development and aids visual consistency among models, while allowing for customized formatting enables depiction of a broad range of models.

Fig. 14.3 eCASS variable library

Relationships among variables are illustrated by connectors that link nodes that persist even when nodes are moved within a model (enabling more efficient editing of models). Relationships between nodes are created by clicking on the center of one node and dragging the cursor to the node to be linked. Different types of relationships can be illustrated by different types of connectors (e.g., dashed lines or two-way arrows), which can be created by customizing the formatting of the individual connector or by defining multiple types of connectors that can be selected from a relationship library (see Fig. 14.5).

Several preformatted model templates are included in eCASS to increase the efficiency of model development and consistency across models. These templates include a default variable library structure that includes the elements (variables) most commonly depicted in expert and mental models (see Fig. 14.6), such as:

  • • Project or system drivers.
  • • Systems or process elements.
  • • Human influences including employees and stakeholders.
  • • Communication and engagement processes and influences.
  • • Science and technology influences.
  • • Mental models, including perceptions, judgments, and decision making.
  • • Desired outcomes.

The predefined templates and variables can be customized for specific types of projects. The models and variables in the template can then be edited to develop models relevant to the specific project.

Other useful features offered in eCASS, include the ability to link to or attach external materials (documents, images, web links, etc.) to model nodes to create a

Fig. 14.4 eCASS properties pane

eCASS relationship library

Fig. 14.5 eCASS relationship library

eCASS model drawing pane

Fig. 14.6 eCASS model drawing pane

knowledge repository or interface. In addition, all model elements (models, variables, nodes) can be annotated to enhance alignment and collaboration among those working on or reviewing models, and supporting reporting and narration of models.

 
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