Friday, May 09, 2008

Managers as designers (part 1/3)

Managers are, or should be, involved in design activities related to managerial and organizational issues. We will take a closer look at different ways in which managers are engaged in design activities.

Managers are confronted with organizational problems: mismatches between the desired and the actual situation of their organization. So problem solving is a core concern for management. Managers can approach these problems with a decision attitude or with a design attitude (Boland & Collopy, 2004). Imagine having to decide upon the introduction of a new service that can either be of low quality at low cost or of high quality at higher costs. Would you do user studies to find out what the customers prefer? Would you calculate the business case for both alternatives? Or would you try to devise an alternative with high quality and low costs? Traditionally, managers are often inclined to pursuit a decision attitude: assuming it is easy to come up with a number of alternative solutions but problematic to decide upon the right solution (Boland & Collopy, 2004). A design attitude to problem solving, in contrast, assumes it is difficult to design a good alternative, but once a truly good solution had been developed, the selection of the alternative becomes easy. For example, for the introduction of tele-health services it may be more useful to design innovative business models, such as a model inspired by the rising interest in wellness, then to calculate an expected ROI based upon current health insurance practices. While managers need both attitudes, the capabilities of managers as designers are often not addressed and also design tools for managers are relatively underdeveloped compared to the decision-making techniques.

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