Organizing participation to facilitate the structuring of complex strategic problems
Damart, Sébastien (2007), Organizing participation to facilitate the structuring of complex strategic problems, 23rd EGOS Colloquium, 2007-07, Vienne, Autriche
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference title23rd EGOS Colloquium
MetadataShow full item record
Abstract (EN)Problem-structuring methods, often grouped together under "soft operational research" (Soft OR), are generally the result of research by practitioners for whom empirical and pragmatic considerations are fundamental. These methods have increased understanding of the stakes associated with the fact that multiple representations of a problem exist in any given socio-organizational context. Such methods have also contributed to the development of diverse facilitation techniques, which are in turn used to help small groups of participants clarify complex, conflictual or uncertain situations. Soft OR research can thus be distinguished from traditional OR research by its insistence on the "action mode" of the researcher involved and the methodologies used to organize the interaction between the different participants in an action research process (e.g., decision aiding process).Nonetheless, the research about problem-structuring aids has not totally formalized the principles for structuring the participation of multiple actors in the process. The factors that explain the choices made when initiating a group of participants, the methods for dividing a participant group into sub-groups assigned to different theme-based workshops, as well as the expected contributions of each participant and the roles that they will play, are among the factors that the action researcher must take into account. However, these factors have been relatively little explored in the literature. At most, certain aspects—such as participant personality and the constraints caused by the participants' personal and institutional biases—have been evoked to explain the manner in which participation is organized.The proposed communication has two objectives: defining what is meant by "organizing participation" and presenting one method for doing so. The first objective is to define what is meant by organizing participation in an action research process (such as a problem structuring process) and to describe the corresponding stakes. Concretely, the process of action research referred to here consists of one or more researchers intervening in small work groups that have been set up to find solutions to complex organizational and strategic problems. The implementation of a new customer relationship management strategy or the restructuration of an industrial firm's engineering division are possible examples of this type of problem. In such contexts, the purpose of the problem-structuring tools used by the intervening researcher(s) is to facilitate discussion and to help solutions representing the varied viewpoints of all work group members to emerge. Organizing participation in this context means developing a structured form of interaction between the group members. The choice of the extent of each person's participation (Who?), the nature of the participation (What?), the scheduling of the participation (When?) and the methods for dividing the work group into sub-groups (How?) are the key elements involved in organizing participation.The concerns of organizing participation are directly connected to the difficulty of taking two fundamental aspects of the action research process into account: the existence of multiple representations of a single problem and the need to integrate these multiple representations in one shared and representative solution. Our proposed communication will explain these two crucial aspects in detail.The second objective of the proposed communication is to present one possible method for organizing participation. This method calls upon cognitive mapping techniques to facilitate and structure the participation of multiple actors in a problem-structuring process. In addition to the emergence of the shared representation of the problem, the desired outcome of the method is the elaboration of a collaborative problem-solving process that includes all members of the group. The division of the participant group into subgroups, which is the premise of the "project" mode of organization, is thus one of the expected outputs of the process. The proposed method alternates interactive phases of various types so that the dual outcome mentioned above can be satisfactorily achieved.A real case study is presented to illustrate the use of our method. This study is based on our work for a large French industrial firm and works to resolve a problem connected to the combined organization of the firm's engineering and R&D activities.
Subjects / KeywordsParticipation organizing; Problem structuring methods; cognitive mapping
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