Contrasting GDSSs and GSSs in the context of strategic change : implications for facilitation

Ackermann, Fran and Eden, Colin (1997) Contrasting GDSSs and GSSs in the context of strategic change : implications for facilitation. Journal of Decision Systems, 6 (3). pp. 221-250.

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Abstract

This paper reports on research undertaken within the context of two sets of computer supported strategy workshops. Each of the series of five one—day workshops were designed within the context of a project aimed at planning and implementing major strategic change within the organisation. In these workshops the SODA methodology was used in conjunction with the multiple workstation system allowing all participants to interact with the modelling process, and, in addition, with a number of manual techniques which were designed to interface with the methodology. Thus “manual group support” (MAGS) was used alongside, and interacting with, both 'Single user group support” (SUGS) and “multi-user group support “(MUGS). The purpose of this paper is to report on a comparison between two series of events. The comparison is set as a set of implications which differentiate, in important ways, the role of a facilitator using group support systems (GSS) to their role in the use of group decision support systems (GDSS). The project reported in this paper involved over fifty senior managers during a two—year period. The project enabled a number of exceptional opportunities to be tapped including i) a researcher as observer throughout the process, ii) video taping every one—day meeting, and iii) in—depth interviews of one—third of the participants. The subjects of the research had to deal with the reality of an organisational history, and, even more importantly, the knowledge that their contributions to the meetings would influence their future as a manager. The conclusions may be taken as a contribution to the design and facilitation of each type of meeting, and to the effective design of the each of the systems (GSS and GDSS). The research raises issues about whether systems should be designed to operate in both Group Support and Group Decision Support modes, or whether it is more appropriate to design specifically for one or the other purpose.