Power Supply Design Problem Solving

Description of the Transactional Analysis discount theory used to structure the SMPS Technology Knowledge Base of switching-mode power supply design.


Problem - Problems are not recognized or, if recognized, are not effectively solved.
Relevance - Applies to individuals, groups, organizations, cultures, and societies.
Solvability - Solution approaches are found in the thirty-five plus models of the human personality. The Transactional Analysis model of discounting is used here.
Solution - Transactional Analysis discounting theory is used to structure the problem-solving approach taken in this hypertext. The approach works through a sequence of problem identification, relevance testing, a discussion of solvability approaches, and pointers to the information needed for a solution.
Personal - A personal anecdote.
On the Web - Additional information on the Web.
References - One to a few key papers.


Problems are not recognized or, if recognized, are not effectively solved. To effectively solve a problem in switching-mode power supply design, or any other problem, you have to know there is a problem, believe it is relevant to your design, believe it is solvable, and believe you can solve it. Without effectively getting through this sequence, the problem does not get solved. The SMPS Technology Knowledge Base is structured to expedite getting through this sequence for switching-mode power supply design problems.



Applies to individuals, groups, organizations, cultures, and societies. In the context of the SMPS Technology Knowledge Base it applies to designers of switching-mode power supplies and their management.



Solution approaches are found in the thirty-five-plus models of the human personality. The Transactional Analysis model of discounting is used here.

Engineers use models extensively to solve technical problems. Usually multiple models are available - for example the wave model and the particle model in optics. In solving a problem, the engineer usually picks the model that yields the easiest correct solution.

Models are also useful in solving human problems and over 35 models of the human personality are available. One of the easiest to learn and apply is Transactional Analysis (TA). The TA model provides insights into the solution of many human problems and is a very powerful tool.

An advanced concept in Transactional Analysis is the role of discounting in blocking the solution of problems. This is the approach taken here. The definitions and development of the discussion follows that of Jacqui Schiff.



Transactional Analysis discounting theory is used to structure the problem, relevance, solvability, solution approach taken in this hypertext.


Discounting is a mechanism where people or groups minimize or ignore some aspect of themselves, others, or the reality situation. By discounting, people and groups can maintain a dysfunctional frame of reference which distorts or is inconsistent with reality. People and groups are usually unaware of this discounting mechanism.

Discounts are classified as to area, type, and mode.

The areas people discount are:

In these areas the types of discounts are:

The modes for each type of discount are:


This hypertext serves as an example of the application of the discount model in solving problems. Although important, there is little on discounting stimuli in this hypertext.

By contrast, this whole hypertext is organized around preventing the discounting of problems. The Problem heading makes the reader aware of the existence of a problem. The Relevance heading helps the reader determine if the problem has significance to their situation. The Solvability heading helps the reader determine the solvability of a problem. The Solution heading points the reader to a solution or solution approach to the problem that they or others may use.

An essential aspect of the discount model is that you have to get through the discounts in the order listed,

For example, if you do not believe the problem exists, then the significance, solvability, and solution are irrelevant to you.

The order also applies to options and you must get through the options in the order,

However, the options are shifted down one in relation to problems. That is, if you do not believe a problem exists, then the existence of options for a solution is irrelevant to you. In this hypertext, the options are combined with the problems and are not treated separately, however, it is sometimes useful to consider options separately including the down-shifting of the options in relation to the problems.


Here are some examples of discounting.

Existence Example: A management example of discounting the existence of a problem.

In a company with little engineering turn-over, the turn-over rate of one manager approaches 35% per year. The manager believes he has no morale or any other problem and rationalizes the loss of each person - grossly distorting the real reasons the engineers left. His management accepts his rationalizations. By both the manager and his management denying the existence of a problem, no solution results, and the turn-over rate continues, resulting in the greatest relative cost over-runs and schedule-slippages in the company's history.

Relevance Example: A technical example of discounting the relevance of a problem.

When problems arose with a dc-to-dc converter, solutions related to current-fed converters were not considered since a voltage-fed converter topology was used. Later a solution was found when it was realized that the lack of an input capacitor and long leads to the source turned the converter into a hybrid that had both current-fed and voltage-fed characteristics. A current-fed converter solution solved the problem.

Solvability Example: Examples of phrases discounting the solvability of problems.

Discounting is an internal mechanism and can not be directly observed but must be implied from behavior. The use of certain phrases can be a clue. For example:

The above phrases should sound an alarm that discounting may be taking place. However, the same statement may be evidence of discounting or may be a correct observation about the real situation. Determining which is vital. You do this with a reality check that examines the real situation.

For example, assuming "We can't do it for that cost." is a discount and cutting the cost without doing anything differently does not result in a cost reduction, but a cost overrun. However, doing things differently is often an option and can result in less cost.

In this era of downsizing, re-engineering, and teams, voicing the above statements leaves one open to the discount of not being a team player and being fired. Only later, after the cost over run, schedule slip, etc., is it realized that the person was right. By this time, both the person and the program have suffered the results of a bad decision. Anytime someone is accused of not being a team player, an alarm should sound and a reality check should take place.

Two phrases are used so often as discounts they deserve more discussion.

"We can't afford it." This is perhaps the most common discount you hear and blocks many creative solutions that are low-cost, no-cost, or actually add money to the table. "We can't afford it." is rarely true and any time you hear it, some type of discounting that inhibits the solution of problems is probably taking place. When someone says "We can't afford it." a good response is "That's a separate problem that we can look at after we find some solutions."

"We don't have time for that." is a close cousin to "We can't afford it." Again it is rarely true and gives rise to the frequently heard comment."Why is it we never have time to do it right the first time but always have time to fix it when it doesn't work?"

Whenever you hear either of these statements, it is often a discount and should be carefully examined to see if it corresponds to reality. If you accept it and it is not true, then some problem that could be solved is not going to get solved.

Solution Example: An example of discounting the ability of someone to solve a problem.

No one could find work trivial enough to give a high school summer intern and keep him busy. Finally, some one asked him what he liked to do and found out he liked programming. In the last two weeks of his summer internship he converted dozens of programs from an obsolete programming language to the one being used by the group, greatly increasing the group's effectiveness. He could out-program any of the engineers -- who thought they could not find work trivial enough to give him.

Summary of the Solution Process

Problems are solved by being aware of potential problems, testing for relevance and solvability, and if relevant and solvable, finding and executing the best solution option. This is a complex process open at all stages to discounting, a dysfunctional frame of reference which distorts or is inconsistent with reality. Discounting blocks the solution of problems. Being aware of the process helps effectively find and act on solutions. Discounting is an internal process that is not observable but is indicated by behavior. The use of certain phrases are one of these behaviors. Being aware of these phrases and using them to trigger a reality check is one effective method of recognizing discounts and circumventing them from blocking solutions. For example, the phrase, "We can't afford it." may be consistent with reality or a discount. A reality check is necessary to determine which.

The purpose of this hypertext is to make the switching-mode power supply circuit designer and user aware of the discounting process and to present information in the order

that facilitates working through discounts and solving problems.


Personal Anecdote

When I left private industry to take a civil-service position I encountered many human interactions that were difficult for me to comprehend, like being reprimanded for completing a difficult project on schedule and within budget with virtually no resources -- something you usually get praised for in industry, not reprimanded. Later I found out the plan was to kill the program. By giving the project to someone new to civil service and blocking resources, the failure of the project was assured and this failure could then be used to kill the program. When I succeeded there was great disappointment and another reason to kill the program had to be found. The silver lining was that from then on I was sought out by program managers who wanted their programs to succeed.

However, I didn't know the real reason until later. While still trying to figure out what happened, I remembered a book review in Time magazine about a book on the New York Times best seller list called Games People Play by Eric Berne that seemed to be relevant to the situation. I bought and read the book and this started me learning about Transactional Analysis. For many years I read virtually everything published on TA including all the papers in the Transactional Analysis Journal. It was one of the smarter things I did because it has come to my rescue many times.


On the Web

International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) Founded in 1964 by Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, the ITAA exists to stimulate the growth and development of TA. This site contains a history of Eric Berne, a description of TA publications, membership information, and links to other Transactional Analysis web sites. This website has greatly improved since I first looked at it several years ago and includes a short description of key ideas in transactional analysis.



Berne, Eric, Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relations, Grove Press, Inc., New York, 1964, 192 pages.

Designed to be a sequel to Eric Berne's book Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, it was motivated by requests for lists of games or further elaboration of games mentioned as examples. Topics include: Structural analysis; transactional analysis; procedures and rituals; pastimes; games; life games; marital games; party games; sexual games; underworld games; consulting room games; good games; the significance of games; the players; a paradigm; autonomy; the attainment of autonomy; and after games.

Schiff , Jacqui Lee, Cathexis Reader: Transactional Analysis Treatment of Psychoses, Harper & Row, 1975. 103 pages.

An advanced work that assumes the reader is familiar with transactional analysis concepts. It's major focus is on treating severe (incapacitating) psychiatric disorders, but the material has also been used extensively by industrial organizations in improving efficiency. Topics include: Passivity; ego states; child development; frame of reference and redefining; pathology; reparenting and regression; and treatment philosophy. The material about problem solving is mostly in the chapter on passivity which contains the topics of symbiosis; passive behaviors; discounting; grandiosity; and thinking disorders. This remarkable little book was written with nine collaborators during a single intensive write-in weekend. That fact alone indicates that the writers practice what they preach. [JF]

Webmaster and editor: Jerrold Foutz
Original: January 9, 1997, revised March 24, 2004