1997 - Organizational Transformation and Decision Support

La Gomera, Canary Islands, September

Proceedings edited by P. Humphreys, S. Ayestarán, A.M. McCosh & W.M. Mayon-White.

Title Pages
Garcia, O. and Orellana, R.
Keywords:Taking Care Human Activity System Language and Emotions Observational Language Organisational Learning

Computer and communication technology has been used extensively in organisations to enhance the management process but experts and users report dissatisfaction with the design process and the support provided by technological systems. Increasing their effectiveness is not a question of more or better technology but one of re-interpretation of action and the manager’s activity. According to developments in cognitive biology, human beings do not act based on a representation of the world and this contradicts the current foundation of the concern for providing information as an accurate representation of relevant reality. Therefore human understanding as an observer in language opens a new perspective of management. Language as the recursive flow of consensual coordinations of behaviour that constitutes a manner of living together, allows for the generation of the complexities that managers must cope with to take care of the viability of the Human Activity Systems under their responsibility. This continuous criss-crossing of consensual coordinations of consensual coordinations of behaviour follows the changing complexities of living together in a changing world; learning and acquiring new and more powerful languages to observe and coordinate in the domains of action that characterize the identity of the Human Activity System is a practice concerning viability. We understand conversation as the braiding between language and emotions, but emotions are changed in language, changing the disposition for action. Computer and communication technology can be reinterpreted as a conversational device that triggers the language and emotional processes of the community sharing the concerns of the manager.

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McCosh, A. M.
Keywords:Ethics Decision Support Systems Measurements

The paper notes the problems companies can have with ethical episodes, and suggests they sometimes need to transform their operations to cope with a new level of public perception of ethical behaviour. The paper makes a very preliminary attempt to derive a DSS which will predict the path of an ethical episode, for the guidance of corporate transforming agents.

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Humphreys, P. and Nappelbaum, E. L.
Keywords:Organisational Change Decision Conferencing Participative Management Eastern Europe Business Practice

Every organisational change creates some organisational stress and makes personnel both winners and losers within the organization. To a large degree this is a result of the inevitable change of the organization perspective as well as ensuing organisational restructuring. In this paper we investigate the organisational perspectives generally adopted by top management, and explore the consequential stresses generated in the attempt to implement the ensuing prescriptions for change. We stipulate that middle management will feel themselves the most threatened by processes of organisational change instigated from above. We demonstrate how they transfer this feeling further down the hierarchical ladder. A major factor here is a virtual break in communication within the organization resulting from the radical change of the communication context. We illustrate how situation is further aggravated by middle management assuming the role of interpreters of top management’s intentions and of the sole guardian of the power of the organisational unit they manage and hence of the protector of its personnel. In this way the previous organisational structure becomes an infrastructure for the pockets of tacit resistance to organisational change that may frustrate its purposes in the long run. On the basis of the model for problem formulation and choice developed by Nappelbaum, this situation is examined and is related to the issue of implementation design for a strategic decision taken by the upper management. It is stipulated that team building is an inherent part of this process and should involve not only those who instigate the change and prepare corresponding decisions but also every echelon of the organisational management. This understanding imparts a new flavour to the notion of participative management and imposes new requirements on organisational communications and on computer support for organisational change. In this respect the concept of variable precision modelling of knowledge about local enactment processes (developed within SASOS by Humphreys and Berkeley) becomes especially relevant. Within this framework, however, the notion of zooming is to be rethought from aggregation/disaggregation to reflection and analytic reinterpretation and creative synthesis. Theoretical ideas to be presented here are illustrated by the recent experience of attempts at organisational transformation and business development within the Hungarian reform process and Russian perestroika. We consider that the experiences reported here are quite relevant to organisations in general, wherever in the world they are located.

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Schlumberger, M.
Keywords:Eastern Europe Decision Making Reporting and Monitoring Process Improvement Changing Short Term Mentalities

Experience shows that in many cases it is better to reach the « wrong » decision rather than wait for the « right » one, specially when there exist mechanisms to monitor the outcome of the decision and support the improvement of both this outcome and the decision making process itself This paper shows practical examples from various sources to develop this theme.

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de Zeeuw, G. and Schuurman, J. G.
Keywords:Decision Support Research Language Qualification Skill Collective Actorship

People's activities tend to deviate in many ways from what are considered ‘rational’ theories of decision making. In trying to interpret these deviations increasingly complex theories have been formulated. The deviations may also be interpreted, more simply, as a falsification of the method used for their study. This paper suggests a different approach to the study of decision making: decision theory should be considered as an element of the class of action languages, that is of languages that support the improvement of individual and collective actions.

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Bannon, L.
Keywords:Group Decision Support Systems Computer Supported Cooperative Work Electronic Meetings Decision Making Talk Groups Anonymity

This paper initiates a dialogue between two related, yet distinct research communities investigating the use of information technology to support work activities - GDSS and CSCW. The paper discusses a number of issues concerning the conceptual framework underpinning work in the area of Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS). It then examines a particular body of work within GDSS, namely that of the Arizona MIS group, who have developed one of the most well-known GDSS environments - Group Systems. This approach is then critiqued, in the light of concerns within the CSCW field. The intent of the paper is not simply to critique certain approaches but to re-frame certain key concerns in the field of decision support, and more specifically, group decision support. In conclusion, the paper suggests several topics that both the GDSS and CSCW community might usefully study.

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Carlsson, S. A.
Keywords:Decision Support Systems Management Development Development Approaches Resource-Based View Organisational Learning Organisational Change Organisational Transformation Competitive Advantage

Management developed Decision Support Systems (DSS) are a major factor in business computing. Most of these DSS are developed using evolutionary approaches. These approaches stress continuous development of decision tasks. One drawback of continuous development of decision tasks is that it can lead to exploitation of old tasks instead of exploration of new possibilities. In an organization that experienced this problem, an intervention was made, using two approaches presented in this paper. As management developed DSS are becoming more important to organisations, it is critical to assess their value. For such an assessment we propose that the resource-based view of the firm might be useful.

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Migliarese, P. and Ferioli, C.
Keywords:Innovative Organisational Models Network Organisational Models Relational Organisational Model Organisational Networks Job Modification Organisational Culture

The paper proposes a new method, the Organizational Relational model, based on the new concept of Relation, for the analysis of innovative organizational models like the network organization. The proposal is supported through results and through the evidence from some applications in real situations. Two different basic elements can be distinguished in the innovative organization: nodes (i.e. organizational units or agents) and links among nodes (i.e. organizational relations, contracts, communication channels or architectures). This paper explains the important role of IT in providing tools for the innovative organizations. IT and especially GDSS extend the autonomy of nodes and provide instruments for supporting the links between two (or more) nodes. The proposed method describes the relation according to four elements: the tools supporting the link, the goals of the node, the organizational rules and norms of the organizational group and the organizational culture. Moreover, the proposed method provides a “guide” based on the oppositions formal versus informal and society versus community for describing the role of IT (especially GDSS) in innovative organizational models. The method has been applied in different organizational contexts, like public health and various industrial companies. While the specific applications are described and detailed in other papers, the empirical evidences and the synthetic results obtained are described in this paper as a confirmation of the proposed organizational framework and method.

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Loebbecke, C., Powell, P., Finnegan, P. and Golden, W.
Keywords:Inter Organisational Systems Flexibility Management Implications Business Scope

Organisations have had links with others and have operated globally for decades. However, these links were largely at arm's length, though now information systems linking organisations are emerging. Recent technological developments in communications and networking and management moves such as outsourcing, partnerships and just-in-time production have given a new capability and impetus to these issues. This chapter discusses inter-organisational systems (IOS) and identifies why managers need to consider them differently from other, internal, information systems. It looks at different types of IOS along the dimensions of functional scope and IOS-autonomy, IOS-induced business transformation, and issues of IOS planning and design. Further, the chapter outlines new business opportunities afforded by combining the mutually interdependent strategy of co-operation and IOS which span corporate boundaries.

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Davies, C. A. and Campbell, T.
Keywords:Information Systems Public Administration Outsourcing

This paper presents a case study of the outsourcing process in the Central Information Systems Division of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. This was one of the earliest examples of a central government computing service being outsourced. This is held to be a successful partnership due to mutual reliance. The effects of outsourcing in general in the public sector are discussed. These are compared with the potential benefits of outsourcing and the situational framework defined by Earl.

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McCosh, A. M.
Keywords:History Mergers Acquisitions M&A DSS Corporate Control

The history of DSS within the mergers and acquisitions movement is reviewed, and the number of changes which have taken place over thirty years is found to have been rather limited. The financial models have changed slightly, but the only major changes have been in database availability. The problem of where to search for the next step is addressed, and the suggestion is offered that the next important DSS area will lie in the softer sciences. Problems of organisation fit, personnel policy, and structure continue to be areas of serious difficulty during merger implementations, and that provides a fertile field for DSS professionals to plough.

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Zoltay-Paprika, Z.
Keywords:Management Skills Decision Making Styles Economic Transition

Apart from leadership styles, decision-making is influenced by the quality, education, experience, personality and skills of managers. This study reflects the level of skills/abilities of the managers included in our statistical samples. In other words, this paper would like to reveal whether the Hungarian managers have had the proper attitudes/skills to implement the change of the economic system or not.

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Ayestarán, S., Martínez-Taboada, C., Arrospide, J. J. and Garcia, L.
Keywords:Conflict Culture Closed-System Open-System Identification Power

The different ways of handling a conflict have traditionally been considered as behavioural characteristics of the individual. In this paper, we endeavour to analyse the different ways of handling a conflict in relation to the culture of the organisations. We analyse the culture with three dimensions: high versus low identification of the members with the objectives of the organisation; high versus low power distance; closed versus open system. Combining these three dimensions we elaborate different patterns of organisational culture favouring different forms of conflict behaviour. Departing from these suppositions we accomplished an intervention in a sanitary organisation with the general hypothesis that the culture of this organisation responded to the definition of Pattern 4: high power distance + closed system + low identification. This cultural pattern had to strengthen the behaviour of passive competition, based on resistance and control of the programme which the Basque Public Health Service wanted to impose.

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Nappelbaum, E. L.
Keywords:Decision Making Linear Model of Choice Circular Model of Choice Systems Logic Problem Formulation

This paper provides a critique of the traditional practice of developing decision analysis and decision support techniques founded on a linear model of choice to frame the decision problem and its “solution”. Decision problem representation methods generally represent the problem in terms of some or all of the following five components: Alternatives or options, that is, different moulds in which the world around us will be cast as the result of decision; the scope of these alternatives, which outlines the boundaries of the problem as conceived by the decision maker; the decision-makers' preferences, reflecting their attitudes and values as well as their understandings of the interests they have in the problem they are trying to tackle; the logic of choice, that is, the argumentation process through which we are capable of interrelating all the other components to arrive at the final decision; Instrumental intentions of the choice, combining both the reasons about how we are planning to exploit the results and the ideas of how choice is to be implemented. In the conventional linear analysis, the first two components represent the “objective reality” of the choice, while the third (and to a certain extent the fourth) component introduce the subjective dimension of it. “Objective reality” and subjective preferences are inputs to the choice procedure, which completes the analysis, and so instrumental intentions are often neglected. Instead, a circular model of choice is proposed, in which the representation of all the above components can be balanced, and in which the knowledge and subjectivity of all the participants involved in the decision making and implementation process may be considered.

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