Modeling Effects of Organizational Structure and Communication Tools on Design Team Productivity

John C. Kunz, Geoffrey P. Cohen, Raymond E. Levitt

This paper reports the initial development and testing of an AI symbolic model of some aspects of the behavior of an engineering design organization. The model explicitly represents concepts from organization theory, the social science discipline that describes the ways that differentiated groups communicate and function in integrated ways in a business organization. This paper discusses aspects of that theory and how we represented it in the model. The Virtual Design Team (VDT) model is a formal symbolic computational discrete event simulation model based on organization theory. It includes a high level of detail about tasks, actors and communications tools, describes static relationships among these entities, and uses simulation to predict their dynamic behavior and to predict project performance. Its behavior also compares well with observed behavior of two actual Civil Engineering design projects. The simulation model can be "run" relatively quickly. Thus, it can serve as a facility to formulate and test large numbers of precise conjectures regarding how changes in management structure or use of new communications tools will affect the organization’s performance. Engineering disciplines have long had mathematical and, more recently, computational models in support of analysis and optimization of physical systems. This work shows that AI symbolic modeling can be used to express and to test social sciences models applied to real organizations. This work demonstrates the applicability of AI symbolic modeling techniques for making models that describe the detailed structure and predict the behavior of social theory and human organizations.

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