PLANNING (Interactive) 2)4)

"A methodology for solving an interrelated set of problems" (G.A. BRITTON & H. McCALLION, 1994, p.503).

According to these authors, widely inspired by R.L. ACKOFF's "Interactive Planning", the methodology includes five interconnected phases:

"Mess formulation: an analytical phase that results in a clear description of the problems and opportunities confronting an organization

"Ends planning (which) involves developing an idealized design and comparing it with the mess formulation to identify the gaps that need to be filled by planning

"Means planning (during which) alternate ways are invented to achieve the planning gaps identified during ends planning

"Resource planning (which) involves determining the resources that are available, the resources that are required to implement the means plan, comparing the resources required with the available resources to identify the resource gap, inventing and evaluating alternative ways to meet the resource gap, and selecting an appropiate resource plan.

"Implement means: the last phase, to identify the tasks required to implement the means plan, to assign these people for execution, and to design and establish a control system to monitor and control the execution" (p.504).

"The purpose of interactive planning is to enable the stakeholders of an organization to progress more rapidly toward the ideal of omnnicompetence. The idealized design of the organization should be more adaptive and better at learning than the existing organization" (Ibid).

ACKOFF insists on three basic needs to enable interactive planning:

1) A multidimensional organization with three basic ones: inputs (resources); outputs (products and services) and market (customers)

2) A circular organizational structure which "prescribes how the hierarchical command structure can operate to facilitate participative planning and decision-making"

3) A responsive decision system to "prescribe the essential properties of a stand-alone system to control the implementation of decisions and how a set of these can be interlinked recursively" (p.505).

(For very important developments, see reference).

There are of course some question marks, as for example: – Who defines who are the stakeholders

- Where and when are the interactions of the organization with its environment (e.g. impact of new technologies, ecological problems) discussed, if at all ?)

- How and when are the views and proposals submitted to critique, and by whom (What is, for instance, an "idealized" design? Who defines what is "ideal", for whom, under which criteria?)

M.C. JACKSON offers a complementary viewpoint from a different perspective: "Three principles underpin interactive planning… The first is that the process of planning is more important than the actual plan produced. It is through involvement in the planning that stakeholders come to understand the organization and the role they can play in it… All those who are affected by planning should be involved in it…

"The second principle is that of continuity. The values of stakeholders will change over time, and this will necessitate corresponding changes in plans. Also unexpected events will occur… No plan can predict everything in advance, so plans, under the principle of continuity, should be constantly revised…

"The final principle is the holistic; we should plan simultaneously and interdependently for as many parts and levels of the system as possible. This can be split into a principole of coordination, which states that units at the same level should plan together and at the same time (because it is the interactions between units that give rise to most problems), and a principle of integration, which insists that units at different levels plan simultaneously and together (because decisions at one level will usually have effects at other levels as well" (1992, p.147).

BRITTON suggested integrating interactive planning with BEER's viable system model, that could be used for diagnosis and design purpose. The methodology could also be combined with J. WARFIELD's Generic Design, Generic Planning and Interactive Management, which include techniques to avoid "underconceptualization", i. e. narrowness of perception and understanding of complex situations features.

According to WARFIELD the successive planning phases should be:

1. Approach to issue, on base of triggering and generic questions, using Nominal Group Technique and Interpretive Structural Modeling.

2. Issue exploration.

3. Issue definition (using the same techniques)

4. Design of alternatives (again using the same techniques, with triggering and generic questions)

5. Choice of alternative (still in the same way)

This secures that, as much as possible, nothing is taken for granted and that the participants do not remain stuck in uncriticized assumptions.

As a group process in which an ideal future of a system is designed, interactive planning is a specific application of participative design.

J. JOHANNESSEN states: "The basic idea of interactive planning is that the environment of the organization does not exist as given objects, but is created as an integrated process from various systems. The organization can choose between taking part in this process or passively adapting to the environment. The first angle of incidence is active and creative. The second one is passive and adaptive" (1991, p.46).

According to RAVN, as quoted by JOHANNESSEN: "Interactive planning is a method for breaking down mechanistic and bureaucratic social structures, and bringing out human and social potential in a new and more refined way".

Interactive planning implies the participation of every interested people or group, each of whom can bring into the process specific knowledge, models, viewpoints and methods.

It is necessarily a dynamic process, since it must take in account continuous change in the environment and also in the personal needs, motives and information of the participants.

JOHANNESSEN proposes an interesting use of J. MILLER's taxonomy of living systems as base for the construction of a matrix of interactions between the different roles of the participants within the organization. Such a coupling matrix is quite useful to discover "who is who" and "who does what", thus producing a most complete view of how structures and processes are associated to people. Such a knowledge of the organization is basic before launching any process of interactive planning.

2) methodology or model

4) human sciences

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