Decision Support in Participatory Contexts: The Organisational Design Dimension

Decision Support in Participatory Contexts: The Organisational Design Dimension

Mazri Chabane (INERIS, Verneuil-en-Halatte, France), Alexis Tsoukias (CNRS-LAMSADE, PSL University, Paris Dauphine University, Paris, France) and Katherine A. Daniell (The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 34
DOI: 10.4018/IJDSST.2019070104
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Organizing the participation of multiple stakeholders in decision processes is now a widespread request with a visible consequence being the expansion of the analyst's role from problem solver to facilitator of stakeholder interactions. Within this evolutionary movement, this article claims that an analyst creates the organisation through which the set of stakeholders involved in the decision process interact. This article also claims that the ability of this organisation to fit contextual requirements is of utmost importance for the success of an analyst's intervention. This article is organised to support these two claims. Firstly, it describes the terms of organisational design and the mechanisms through which it may influence the decision processes. Secondly, the authors review how these aspects are already discussed within OR/MS literature so as to highlight current limitations and future possibilities for greater investigation of the place and role of organizational design in OR/MS research and practice.
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Participation can be defined as forums for exchange that are organized for the purpose of facilitating communication between governments, citizens, stakeholders, interest groups and businesses related to a specific decision or problem (Webler & Renn, 1995). Our modern democratic societies are showing an increasing interest in participation-based approaches where each and every stakeholder, including members of the general public, can seek the legitimacy to influence policy elaboration and decisions that affect their lives. In this new era, public policy makers are expected to disclose their decision processes and seek, in addition to the classical technical validity requirements, legitimacy and acceptability of their decisions. Here again, we acknowledge a need for a shift from legitimacy—considered as inherent to decision power or to natural attributes as defined by Weber (1922)—to the need for a legitimisation process where decision makers have to negotiate with stakeholders to build the normative system required to support their action (Laufer, 1996).

For these reasons, managing stakeholder participation has become a key issue for decision makers, and consequently, has entered the sphere of competencies a provider of decision support, the so-called analyst or practitioner, should develop.

Stakeholder participation is an already deeply rooted issue in OR/MS literature. Problem structuring methodologies (Rosenhead & Mingers, 2001), strategic stakeholder management (Freeman & McVea, 2001) (Ackermann & Eden, 2011) or group decision support systems (Gray, 1987) and community operations research or systemic intervention (e.g. Midgley, 2000) are examples of distinct research strands within the OR domain where more attention is given to issues of stakeholder inclusiveness and problem structuring than to mathematical modelling of reality. Within these approaches, the role of analysts is not limited to problem modelling and solving, they need also to be the facilitators of multi stakeholders contributions (Keys, 2006) (Franco & Montibeller, 2010) so as to build a collective commitment for action (White, 2005; Rosenhead and Mingers, 2001).

In this multifaceted vision of analysts’ activities and associated competencies, we believe that one additional role should be brought to light due to its implications for the decision process. Specifically, we claim that each analyst’s intervention in participatory contexts encompasses a large component of organisational design (OD) where the roles and terms of interactions devoted to all the participants are set. Simply defined, organisations can be viewed as “…collectivities oriented to the pursuit of relatively specific goals and exhibiting relatively highly formalised social structures…” (Blau & Scott, 1962). The group of stakeholders engaged in the decision process, including the analyst and the client(s), can be seen as a collectively pursuing, amongst other objectives, the formulation and resolution of one or several problems. Accordingly, analysts must define a set of roles and interaction norms within the decision process that will constitute a more or less formalised social structure. For that reason, one can argue that analyst interventions, especially in participatory contexts, encompass a role of organisational design. For instance, a workshop facilitated by an analyst using decision support systems (DSS) can be seen as a quite simple organisation, where all participants are connected through the DSS and have similar possibilities for submitting views and discussing their relevance.

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