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Supporting strategic conversations : the significance of a quantitative model building process

Howick, Susan and Eden, Colin (2011) Supporting strategic conversations : the significance of a quantitative model building process. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 62 (5). pp. 868-878. ISSN 0160-5682

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This paper reports on the use of a quantitative system dynamics simulation model building process that followed on from a ‘soft OR’ strategy making intervention with a top management team. The work was carried out for the Chief Constable and top team of a UK police force. The output of the ‘soft OR’ strategy making process provided the reason for, and so focus of, the simulation model. The focus of the strategic conversation was on exploring the tension between the supply of resources (in this case police officers) and the demands placed on those officers. The project involved a series of strategic conversations with members of the top team that were stimulated through the process of building a system dynamics model. The process was facilitated by two modellers—one focussing on managing the strategic enquiry, while the other considered the implications of the conversation for the construction of the system dynamics model. Through the process of gradually building the system dynamics model, a number of issues and lessons were raised for the development and delivery of effective strategy making and the strategic management of public organisations. In addition there were implications for operational research model building processes, especially when operating at senior levels and within a strategic context.