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Tools for Inventing Organizations: Toward a Handbook of Organizational Processes

  • Thomas W. Malone

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • Kevin Crowston

    (Center for Science and Technology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York)

  • Jintae Lee

    (University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii)

  • Brian Pentland

    (School of Labor and Industrial Relations, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, Michigan)

  • Chrysanthos Dellarocas

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • George Wyner

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • John Quimby

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • Charles S. Osborn

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • Abraham Bernstein

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • George Herman

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • Mark Klein

    (Center for Coordination Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

  • Elissa O'Donnell

    (Fidelity Investments, Boston, Massachusetts)

Registered author(s):

    This paper describes a novel theoretical and empirical approach to tasks such as business process redesign and knowledge management. The project involves collecting examples of how different organizations perform similar processes, and organizing these examples in an on-line "process handbook." The handbook is intended to help people: (1) redesign existing organizational processes, (2) invent new organizational processes (especially ones that take advantage of information technology), and (3) share ideas about organizational practices. A key element of the work is an approach to analyzing processes at various levels of abstraction, thus capturing both the details of specific processes as well as the "deep structure" of their similarities. This approach uses ideas from computer science about inheritance and from coordination theory about managing dependencies. A primary advantage of the approach is that it allows people to explicitly represent the similarities (and differences) among related processes and to easily find or generate sensible alternatives for how a given process could be performed. In addition to describing this new approach, the work reported here demonstrates the basic technical feasibility of these ideas and gives one example of their use in a field study.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.45.3.425
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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 45 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 3 (March)
    Pages: 425-443

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:45:y:1999:i:3:p:425-443
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