A Formal Framework for Organization Modeling and Analysis

A Formal Framework for Organization Modeling and Analysis

Viara Popova (De Montfort University, UK) and Alexei Sharpanskykh (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-256-5.ch006
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This chapter introduces a formal framework for modeling and analysis of organizations. It allows representing and reasoning about all important aspects of artificial and human organizations structured in a number of views, including performance-oriented, process-oriented, and power- and interactionrelated aspects. The framework provides means to model formal (pre)defined organizational structures and dynamics, informal relations, and behavior of organizational actors. The meaning attached to the modeling concepts is specified based on the literature from Social Science. Unlike many existing organization modeling approaches, the proposed framework has formal foundations based on the order-sorted predicate logic which enables different types of analysis of organizational specifications of particular views and across views. The framework allows scalability of modeling and analysis of complex organizations, by considering them at different aggregation levels. Furthermore, the framework provides support for real- time management of organizational processes. The framework was applied in several case studies, one of which is discussed here.
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The modern world is unthinkable without organizations. The rapid scientific, societal and technological development of the last centuries, coupled with the changed environmental conditions gave rise to a great diversity of organizational forms and types of interaction between them. The structural and behavioral complexity of organizations is interdependent on the complexity of the environment, in which these organizations are situated. The complex, dynamically changing environment with insufficient resources often creates challenging obstacles for the satisfaction of the primary goals of any organization – to survive and prosper. To be successful, an organization should effectively and efficiently organize its internal structure and activities so that the fit with the environment is achieved. In reality these requirements are difficult to fulfill, since no universally applicable recipes exist that ensure the successfulness of an organization at all times and all cases. Therefore, most modern organizations suffer from various performance inefficiencies and inconsistencies that may have consequences for the organizational vitality. Often only a small number of these flaws can easily be identified, but can be revealed using more profound analysis methods.

Many of the techniques for analysis of organizational performance developed in organization theory are informal and imprecise, which undermines the feasibility and rigor of the analysis. For more precise evaluation of the organizational performance, for identification of performance bottlenecks and conflicts, detailed organizational analysis based on a formal organization model should be performed. Furthermore, a formal organization model constitutes a basis for many automated processes within enterprises (e.g., computer integrated manufacturing) and provides a foundation for inter-enterprise cooperation.

To enable formal analysis, this Chapter introduces a formal modeling framework that allows representing diverse aspects of organizational reality, within several perspectives, e.g. the process-related, performance-related and organization-related perspectives. Since individuals often exert significant influence on the organizational dynamics, also aspects related to human behavior are considered explicitly. The characteristics of the framework include:

  • it allows the representation and analysis of organization models at different levels of abstraction in order to handle complexity and increase scalability;

  • it enables formal verification and validation of models of different perspectives on organizations;

  • it enables simulation for experimenting and testing hypotheses on the organizational behavior under different circumstances;

  • it proposes computational analysis methods across multiple perspectives on organizations;

  • it supports and controls the execution of organizational scenarios and the evaluation of organizational performance.

The framework proposes a wide spectrum of means for modeling and analysis of structures and dynamics of organizations of different types including mechanistic organizations that represent systems of hierarchically linked job positions with clear responsibilities and organic organizations characterized by highly dynamic, constantly changing, structure with non-linear behavior. Although the structure and behavioral rules for organic organizations can hardly be identified and formalized, by performing agent-based simulations with changing characteristics of proactive agents, useful insights into the functioning of such organizations can be gained. Furthermore, the framework supports reuse of parts of models.

The chapter is organized as follows. First the related literature is presented. Then the formal foundations of the framework are described. After that the case study used for illustration is introduced. An overview of the four modeling views is given. It is then discussed how the framework can be used in practice. Finally, the methods for organizational analysis are described. The Chapter ends with conclusions and future research directions.


This Section provides a general overview of organization modeling and analysis approaches and techniques developed in three areas: organization theory, enterprise information systems and organization-oriented multi-agent systems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Formal Organizational Modeling: Organizational modeling using formal methods.

Formal Organizational Analysis: Organizational analysis using formal methods.

Constraints: An expression over objects and/or processes that limits the organizational behavior.

Process-Oriented Modeling: Modeling of organizational flows of control, resources.

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