Advertisement

Designing semi-confusing information systems for organizations in changing environments

  • Bo Hedberg
  • Sten Jönsson

Abstract

Organizations have many stabilizers but quite often lack proper destabilizers. They establish fixed repertoires of behavior programs over time, and many grow too rigid and insensitive to environmental changes. Drifting into changing environments, they react with delayed and improper responses.

Current information — and accounting — systems do more to stabilize organizations than to destabilize them. They filter away conflicts, ambiguities, overlaps, uncertainty etc. and they suppress many relevant change signals and kill initiatives to act on early warnings.

Organizations in changing environments need information systems which enable them to stay alert and to detect problems, changes, and conflicts in time. Accounting information can be used to stimulate organizational curiosity, facilitate dialectical decision processes and increase organizations’ ability to cope with variety in their environments. This paper formulates some principles for design of information systems that can destabilize organizations with planned confusion — in times when they ought to be confused.

Keywords

Decision Maker Cognitive Style Cognitive Structure Cognitive Complexity Design Information System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography

  1. Beer, Stafford, Platform for Change (London: Wiley, 1975).Google Scholar
  2. Boguslaw, Robert, The New Utopians: A Study of Systems Design and Social Change (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965).Google Scholar
  3. Box, George E.P. & Draper, Norman R., Evolutionary Operation (New York: Wiley, 1969).Google Scholar
  4. Briefs, Ulrich, Information Systems and Workers’ Participation in Decision Making, in Enid Mumford and Harold Sackman, (eds.) Human Choice and Computers (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1975).Google Scholar
  5. Brunsson, Nils, Propensity to change (Gothenburg: Business Administration Studies (BAS) No. 27, 1976).Google Scholar
  6. Burns, Tom & Stalker, G.M., The Management of Innovation (London: Tavistock, 1961).Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, Donald T., Reforms as Experiments, American Psychologist (1969), pp. 409-429.Google Scholar
  8. Cyert, Richard M. & March, James F., A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963).Google Scholar
  9. Dahrendorf, Ralf, Towards a Theory of Social Conflict, in A. and E. Etzioni, (eds.) Social Change (New York: Basic Books, 1964).Google Scholar
  10. Dill, William R., Environment as an Influence on Managerial Autonomy, Administrative Science Quarterly (1958), pp. 409-443.Google Scholar
  11. Emery, Fred E. & Trist, Eric L., The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments, Human Relations (1965), pp. 21-32.Google Scholar
  12. Emery, Fred E. & Trist, Eric L., Towards a Social Ecology (London and New York: Plenum Press, 1973).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Galbraith, Jay R., Designing Complex Organizations (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1973).Google Scholar
  14. Gershefski, George W., Building a Corporate Financial Model, Harvard Business Review (1969), pp. 61-72.Google Scholar
  15. Glimell, Hans, Designing Interactive Systems for Organizational Change (Göteborg: Business Administration Studies, 1975).Google Scholar
  16. Gordon, G., Tanon, C. & Morse, E.V., Hospital Structure, Costs, and Innovation, Working Paper, Cornell University, 1974.Google Scholar
  17. Grinyer, Peter H. & Norburn, David, An Empirical Investigation of Some Aspects of Planning for Existing Markets; Perceptions of Executives and Financial Performance, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, (1975).Google Scholar
  18. Harvey, O., Hunt, D. & Schroder, Harold, Conceptual Systems and Personality Organization (New York: Wiley, 1961).Google Scholar
  19. Haseman, William D., & Whinston, Andrew B., Design of a Multidimensional Accounting System, The Accounting Review (1976), pp. 65-79.Google Scholar
  20. Hedberg, Bo, On Man-Computer Interaction in Organizational Decision-Making: A Behavioral Approach (Göteborg: Business Administration Studies, 1970).Google Scholar
  21. Hedberg, Bo, Growth Stagnation as a Managerial Discontinuity, in Proceedings of the INSEAD Seminar on Management under Discontinuity (Brussels: European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management, 1975), pp. 34–59.Google Scholar
  22. Hedberg, Bo, Mott ett manövrerbart industrisamhälle, in Birgitta Hambraeus and Emin Tengström, (eds.), Vad kan du och jag göra åt framtiden? (Stockholm: Bonniers, 1976), pp. 131–139.Google Scholar
  23. Hedberg, Bo, How Organizations Learn and Unlearn, in Paul C. Nystrom and William H. Starbuck, (eds.), Handbook of Organizational Design, Vol. 1, Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific (in press), 1978).Google Scholar
  24. Hedberg, Bo, Edström, Olof & Glimell, Hans, Man-Computer Interference? The Development of a Marketing Information Systems, in Sandor Asztély, (ed.), Budgetering och redovisning som instrument för styrning. (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1974), pp. 107–149.Google Scholar
  25. Hedberg, Bo, Nystrom, Paul, C. & Starbuck, William H., Camping on Seesaws: Prescriptions for a Self-Designing Organization, Administrative Science Quarterly (March 1976), pp. 41-65.Google Scholar
  26. Hedberg, Bo, Nystrom, Paul C. & Starbuck, William H., Designing Organizations to Match Tomorrow, in Paul C. Nystrom and William H. Starbuck, (eds.), Prescriptive Models of Organizations, (North-Holland/TIMS Studies in the Management Sciences, 1977), pp. 171-181.Google Scholar
  27. Hedberg, Bo & Jönsson, Sten, Strategy Formulation as a Discontinuous Process, International Studies of Management and Organization (1977).Google Scholar
  28. Jönsson, Sten, Decentralisering och utveckling. En fälstudie av utvecklingsbolagens planeringsproblem (Göteborg: Business Administration Studies (BAS) No. 21, 1973).Google Scholar
  29. Karlins, M., Conceptual Complexity and Remote Associative Proficiency at Creativity Variables in a Complex Problem Solving Task, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1967), pp. 264-278.Google Scholar
  30. Karlins, M. & Lamm, H., Information Search as a Function of Conceptual Structure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1967), pp. 456-459.Google Scholar
  31. Kelly, George Alexander, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Vol. 1 and 2, (New York: Norton, 1977).Google Scholar
  32. Kolb, David A., On Management and the Learning Process, in David A. Kolb, Irwin M. Rubin, and James M. McIntyre, (eds.), Organizational Psychology: A Book of Readings (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974).Google Scholar
  33. Lakatos, Imre, Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs, in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  34. Landau, Martin, Redundancy, Rationality and the Problem of Duplication and Overlap, Public Administration Review (1969), pp. 346-358.Google Scholar
  35. Landau, Martin, On the Concept of a Self-Correcting Organization, Public Administration Reveiw (1973), pp. 533-542.Google Scholar
  36. March, James G. & Simon, Herbert A., Organizations (New York: Wiley, 1958).Google Scholar
  37. Mason, Richard O., A Dialectical Approach to Strategic Planning, Management Science (1969), pp. B403-B414.Google Scholar
  38. Mason, Richard O. & Mitroff, Ian I., A Program for Research on Management Information Systems, Management Science (1973), pp. 475-487.Google Scholar
  39. McCall, Jr., Morgan, A Systematic Look at Nonsense, The Congruous Side of Incongruity, Working paper, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, N.C., 1975.Google Scholar
  40. Miller, Danny & Gordon, Lawrence A., Conceptual Levels and the Design of Accounting Information Systems, Decision Sciences (1975), pp. 259-269.Google Scholar
  41. Mintzberg, Henry, Planning on the Left Side and Managing on the Right, Working paper, Institut d’Administration des Enterprises, Aix-en-Provence, 1975.Google Scholar
  42. Mitroff, Ian I. & Betz, Fred, Dialectical Decision Theory, A Meta-Theory of Decision Making, Management Science (1972), pp. 11-24.Google Scholar
  43. Mitroff, Ian I. & Kilmann Ralph H., On the Importance of Qualitative Analysis in Management Science: The Influence of Personality Variables on Organizational Decision Making, Working paper, No. 67, University of Pittsburgh, PH, 1974.Google Scholar
  44. Mowshowitz, Abbe, The Conquest of Will: Information Processing in Human Affairs (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1976).Google Scholar
  45. Nystrom, Paul C., Hedberg, Bo L.T. & Starbuck, William H., Interacting Processes as Organization Designs, in Ralph H. Kilmann, Louis R. Pondy, and Dennis P. Slevin, (eds.), The Management of Organization Design (New York: Elsevier, 1976), pp. 209–230.Google Scholar
  46. Ornstein, R., The Psychology of Consciousness (New York: Jonathan Cape, 1975).Google Scholar
  47. Pareto, V., Sociological Writings, selected and introduced by S.E. Finer, (New York: Praeger, 1966).Google Scholar
  48. Schroder, Harold, Driver, Michael J. & Streufert, Siegfried, Human Information Processing (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967).Google Scholar
  49. Smelser, Neil J., Theory of Collective behavior (New York: Free Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  50. Starbuck, William H., Systems Optimization with Unknown Criteria, Proceedings of the 1974 International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 1974), pp. 67–76.Google Scholar
  51. Starbuck, William H., Information Systems for Organizations of the Future, in E. Grochla and N. Szyperski, Information Systems and Organizational Structure (New York: de Gruyter, 1975), pp. 217–230.Google Scholar
  52. Starbuck, William H. & Hedberg, Bo L.T., Saving an Organization from a Stagnating Environment, in Hans B. Thorelli, ed., Strategy + Structure = Performance: The Strategic Planning Imperative (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  53. Streufert, Susan C., Success and Response Rate in Complex Decision Making, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (1972), pp. 389-403.Google Scholar
  54. Streufert, Susan C., Effects of Information Relevance on Design Making in Complex Environments, Memory and Cognition (1973), pp. 224-228.Google Scholar
  55. Suefeld, P. & Hagen, R., Measurement of Information Complexity, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1966), pp. 233-236.Google Scholar
  56. Thompson, James D., Organizations in Action (New-York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1967).Google Scholar
  57. Ullrich, Robert A., Organizational Design, Employee Motivation and the Support of Strategic Management, in H.I. Ansoff, R.P. Declerk, and R.L. Hayes, (eds.), From Strategic Planning to Strategic Management (New York: Wiley, 1976).Google Scholar
  58. Watzlawick, Paul, Weakland, John H. & Fisch, Richard, Change; Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution (New York: Norton, 1974).Google Scholar
  59. Wildavsky, Aaron, The Self-Evaluating Organization, Public Administration Review (1972), pp. 509-520.Google Scholar
  60. Wolfe, Joseph, Learning Styles Rewarded in a Complex Simulation with Implications for Business Policy and Organization Behavior Research, Proceedings, 36th Annual National Meeting of the Academy of Management, 1976.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bo Hedberg
    • 1
  • Sten Jönsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Business AdministrationUniversity of GothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations