Loughborough University
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An investigation of the socio-technical implications of a computer based walk optimisation system

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posted on 2012-10-12, 12:35 authored by Debbie M. Philpott
This research utilises existing problem solving and decision making theories to explain the complex organisational process by which Royal Mail revises Postal Officers' walks in mail delivery. A field study in the RM demonstrates that this is a complex task involving a political / negotiation process comprising many stakeholders with different agendas. Two conclusions are drawn. First, a pluralistic model of decision making is required to explain this process. Second, the model that guides the RM is a rational / optimal decision making model. The RM has employed computer-based systems to support the revision process. Case studies are reported of the revision processes undertaken with and without computer aids. These demonstrate that the existing computer system provides limited assistance and its use is sporadic. A new Walk Optimisation system was being considered for purchase and development and the thesis follows the processes employed. Three conclusions were drawn. First, the development process for the new system utilised a technical agenda similar to the rational model of decision making. Second, by reference to the case study material, it was likely the new system would have organisational implications which could lead to dysfunction. Third the current development process being followed would not address these issues. In the final part of the thesis a series of Future Implementation Scenario workshops are described which attempted to assist the RM staff in identifying the organisational implications of the WO system before it was implemented. The scenario exercise explored three characteristics of participants; knowledge of the stakeholder roles affected, knowledge of the RM, and knowledge of the WO system. The workshops succeeded in revealing many organisational issues which need addressing if the new system is to improve decision making in the Revision Process. Contrary to expectations the greater knowledge of participants did not translate into a richer analysis of the implications. The thesis concludes that a full understanding of organisational decision making requires the integration of rational, bounded and social / political approaches, and that this also applies to systems design process. It also concludes that the models and methods used within organisations need to be broadened and recognise the social / organisational agenda but that the methods currently available are difficult to apply. Funhennore, by continuing with a rational / technological approach to decision making, organisations limit their future decision making options and the process is, therefore, self-perpetuating.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© D. M. Philpott

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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