This study explores decision premises that were used to manage and stabilise a complex technochange programme in a financial institution. Decision premises were extracted from business maxims, principles and rules using linguistic techniques. In the paper, the premises are juxtaposed with their consequences. The evidence of documents, observable practices and software configurations supports the analysis. It is found that decision premises form a hierarchical, self-causal as well as self-contradictory system of reasoning that was applied over any individual situation, particularly a conflict. By virtue of being several but not many, decision premises reinforce the 80-20 rule of many consequences stemming a few causes. In the case firm, decision premises were used in order to make technochange efficient as well as institute cost-saving and business ownership of software development. But there were drawbacks of intensified politics, software development delays, short-sighted capability decisions and work fragmentation for the front-line employees.
Definition And Dynamics
The term ‘decision premises’ was introduced by March and Simon (1958). Other names were ‘business maxims,’ interpretative schemes, and cognitive maps. I consider three dimensions to a definition of decision premises that shed light on how decision premises operate. The dimensions are presuppositions, frames, and beliefs.
Presupposition is an implication of a statement that remains logically true, whether or not the statement itself is true (Bandler & Grinder, 1975). For example, a business process might or might not have an owner, but it is presupposed that there is ownership. For another example, a decision might be made to fix a flaw in software because it will save future costs, or the same flaw can be left based on the same premise of the necessity of making the most economical decisions about costly IT.
An epistemologist would say that every activity or communication is made within a frame that defines its meaning (Bateson, 1972). Alternatively, meaning of a communication can derive from its context and surrounding communications. Frames are a construct of a higher logical order. For example, the frame of a strategy-away day is different from the frame of a board meeting. The term ‘technochange’ is a frame itself as it regulates broader consequences than the term ‘software update’ would.