The focus of this paper is on a comparison made between two series of computer supported strategy workshops. Each of the series of five one-day workshops was designed within the context of a project aimed at planning and implementing major strategic change within the organization and the project reported involved over fifty senior managers during a two year period. 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 managerial group. The project enabled a number of exceptional opportunities to be tapped including i) a researcher as observer throughout the process, and ii) videotaping of each one day meeting. The first series of workshops was designed to generate and structure the strategic issues and context that were to be worked upon during the second series of workshops. Thus the first workshops used a group support system designed toprovide high levels of participation in raising strategic issues, and the second series, a group decision support system designed to enable decisions to be made and implementation plans to be created. These design objectives closely correspond to the tasks set out by McGrath (1984) where a GSS was defined as a support system to primarily aid creativity/idea generating tasks and a GDSS was to support planning/evaluation tasks. The workshops were each embedded within the Strategic Options Development and Analysis methodology (SODA) (Eden and Ackermann, 1992) and, involved a number of different support technologies. In these workshops the usual facilitated procedure was used in tandem with a multiple workstation system which allowed participants to interact with the modelling process, and with a number of manual techniques which were designed to interface with the approach. Thus "manual group support" (MAGS) was used alongside, and interacting with, both facilitator driven "single user group support" (SUGS) and "multi-user group support" (MUGS). To achieve this interweaving of modes the software COPE was used directly in both the SUGS and MUGS modes of support and the underlying concepts used during the MAGS mode mirrors the COPE software. The difference between the two series of workshops comprised i) the purposes behind the usage of each mode of working, and ii) the combinations adopted, i.e. the choice of using particular modes in a particular order which both have implications for facilitation. As a result of the comparison a set of implications which differentiate the role of a facilitator using group support systems (GSS) to the use of group decision support systems (GDSS) has been produced. The implications may be taken firstly as a contribution to the future design and facilitation of each type of meeting, and secondly to the effective design of the each of the systems (GSS and GDSS). The paper begins by considering some of the issues around the research method adopted, provides details of both of the workshop series, lists the characteristics which emerged as a result of the workshops and have implications for facilitation, and then briefly touches on the conclusions.
Ackermann, Fran and Eden, Colin, "Contrasting GDSS's and GSS's in the context of strategic change-implications for facilitation" (1995). AMCIS 1995 Proceedings. 58.