Data and Language in Organizations: Epistemological Aspects of Management Support Systems

Lee, R.M. (1983). Data and Language in Organizations: Epistemological Aspects of Management Support Systems. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-83-046

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This book contributes to the literature on management decision support systems (DSS). DSS research is motivated by the observation that much of what managers do involves unstructured problem solving. For the reason, the structured, procedural models implemented in management information systems (MIS) have had little impact on actual managerial practice.

Actually, the terms "decision" and "problem solving" over-simplify the image of managerial activity, if what is meant is choosing from a set of well-defined alternatives. Management also includes such aspects as reality testing, problem finding, scenario generation, and just plain muddling through. A broader conception of management cognition -- of which decision making is only a part -- is therefore adopted. The challenge to technology development is to support these unstructured managerial activities. The emphasis is to amplify managerial cognition and to improve decision effectiveness. However, to achieve this we must go beyond platitudes and come to a better understanding of what managers actually do.

The activity of managers is almost entirely linguistic. Computers, as symbolic processors, ought to be an effective complement. However, a fundamental problem, stressed repeatedly throughout the book, is semantic change. The context of managers is always changing, whereas computational inference depends on fixed semantics. Herein Lies the basis for a theory of management support systems. The theory takes the form of an applied epistemology: how do managers know their world and detect its changes?

Thus, while this book is oriented towards improving information technology, its attention is primarily to the content of management information and only secondarily to technology. Technological innovations abound. What is needed now is a better understanding of what these technologies are to do.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Clearinghouse and Networking Activities (CLH)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:53
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:11

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