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The Virtual Design Team: A Computational Simulation Model of Project Organizations

TitleThe Virtual Design Team: A Computational Simulation Model of Project Organizations
Publication TypeWorking Paper
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsLevitt, RE, Christiansen, TR, Cohen, GP, Jin, Y, Kunz, J, Nass, CI
Date Published03/1994
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsartificial intelligence, Center for Integrated Facility Engineering, CIFE, Collaboration Technology, Coordination Theory, Information Processing, Organization Design, Organization Theory, Simulation, Stanford University, Symbolic Modeling
AbstractThis article describes the early stages of the "Virtual Design Team" (VDT) research program, whose long range goal is to develop computational analysis tools for organizational (re)engineering. The work described here is aimed at developing, testing and calibrating theory that can eventually support systematic organizational analysis. We layout the requirements for a micro-contingency theory of organizations and conclude that such a theory is tractable for routine, project-oriented design tasks. We describe a specific micro-contingency theory that operationalizes Jay Galbraith's well-known information processing framework, and adds to it ideas about attention allocation. This theory models the ability of organizations engaged in routine, project-oriented tasks to handle the information processing load arising from direct work and coordination. We implement the theory as a computational symbolic model that simulates boundedly rational actors carrying out information processing tasks. The framework explicitly models actors, activities, communication tools and organizations. We use a structured methodology to analyze the organization's task in order to specify activity complexity and uncertainty, and interdependence between organizational actors. Using these attributes to model the coordination load imposed on the organization by a given design project, the simulation framework generates measures of overall project duration, cost, and coordination quality as emergent from work by, and communications between, actors. We present results of three empirical tests of the computational model on large-scale, capital facility projects. We found threeway qualitative consistency among predictions of the simulation model, of organization theory, and of experienced project managers. The results of these initial attempts to validate VDT indicate that the model has the representational power to capture aspects of organizational information processing load and capacity that could not previously be modeled. In addition, VDT's detailed micro-contingency framework can make qualitatively correct predictions about organizational efficiency and effectiveness.
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Citation Key1142