DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
              August 29, 2004 -- Vol. 5, No. 18
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 


* Ask Dan! - How do decision-making models relate to the design and use 
of DSS?
* DSS News Releases


Ask Dan!
by Dan Power

How do decision-making models relate to the design and use of DSS?

This Ask Dan! about decision models was posted by Ecstazy, a student 
studying DSS from Australia, on June 12, 2004 in the Free DSS Forum at 
DSSResources.COM. He wrote "Hi Dan, How do Decision Making Models (like 
Heuristics, Rationality, Garbage Can, etc.) relate to the design and use 
of DSS?" Ecstazy explained "I tried to search for a comprehensive 
explanation on the webs and books, but most of them don't really 
specifically discuss the relationship between those models and the 
design/use of DSS ... Please help me out." I tried, but this is a broad 
question that could be included on a Ph.D. comprehensive exam. The 
question demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of research and 
thinking about computerized decision support. Ideally an answer should 
draw upon knowledge of both organizational and behavioral 
decision-making theory and research and Decision Support Systems theory, 
research and practice. So what's the answer?

A quick response is that descriptive decision-making models help "fit" a 
specific Decision Support System to user needs and limitations. 
Normative or prescriptive decision-making models help DSS developers 
identify opportunities to intervene in decision making activities and 
processes and potentially improve decision-making effectiveness and 
other metrics of decision-making success. Some of the descriptive and 
normative models are at the individual level of analysis and some are at 
the organizational level. Exploring both levels of analysis can be 
useful in building computerized Decision Support Systems.

A longer answer might begin by mentioning that "models" is a very broad 
term. Each decision-making model has a unique history and relevance to 
DSS design and potentially to understanding the use of DSS. Let me touch 
on some of the specific "models" mentioned:

1) Heuristic models -- Quantitative heuristic models can be used to 
build model-driven DSS; a search heuristic model like backward chaining 
is used in some rule-based, knowledge-driven DSS. Heuristic is derived 
from a Greek word meaning "steersman for a ship". A heuristic is a rule 
of thumb or a decision-making guide. Some heuristics are normative 
guides and evidence indicates people use heuristics to help make 

2) Rationality or a rational choice model -- This concept of rationality 
may refer to a descriptive model of individual or organizational 
behavior, but rationality is also a prescription for decision-making 
behavior. When rationality describes behavior, goals and attitudes in a 
decision situation, then a DSS is more likely to be used, to be useful 
and to influence decision behavior. Many of us strive for rationality in 
our decision-making, but a variety of cognitive, environmental and 
behavioral decision-making models describe the limitations of 

3) Garbage can model -- This is a macro-organizational behavior model 
(cf. Cohen, March & Olsen, 1972). The garbage can is a descriptive 
metaphor for how organizational decisions are made. For those 
situations where the methaphor seems appropriate, DSS can be used by 
people to bring problems and solutions together and to facilitate 
decisions when a decision opportunity is presented. DSS can help manage 
the "garbage can" if participants so desire.

The "garbage can" model is often perceived as political or 
anti-rational, so let's explore it in more detail. Cohen, March and 
Olsen's (1972) model specifies that: Problems identified in 
organizations usually require attention. Problems are the result of 
performance gaps or an inability to predict the future. Thus, problems 
may originate inside or outside the organization. Traditionally, it was 
assumed that problems trigger decision processes; if a problem is 
sufficiently threatening, this may happen. Usually, however, managers 
and other participants go through the "garbage" and look for 
interesting, suitable or important "problems" and "solutions". Managers 
often "seek" problems.

According to Cohen et al., solutions are ideas that have been identified 
to "solve" one or more "problems". Solutions are independent and 
distinct from the problems which they might be used to solve. In some 
cases, solutions are answers looking for a problem. Participants may 
have ideas for solutions; they may be attracted to specific solutions 
and volunteer to play the advocate. Choice opportunities or choice 
situations are occasions when people in organizations expect to produce 
behavior that can be called a decision, a plan or an "initiative". 
"Decision opportunities" can be created by internal or external events 
and circumstances. Participants (people, decision makers, managers) come 
and go in the "garbage can"; the participation of specific decision 
makers varies for each problem and each solution. Participation may vary 
depending on the time demands of participants or on other situational 
factors. Also, participants may have favorite problems or favorite 
solutions which they promote and advocate.

Cohen et al. wrote: "An organization is a collection of choices looking 
for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in 
which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they 
might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work (1972, p. 2)."

4) Satisficing -- Another important decision-making model was developed 
by Herbert Simon. He described a "satisficing" model of individual 
decision making. A satisficing conception of rationality denies that 
rational decision makers must always seek the "best" or the "optimal" 
means to desired ends. Rather Simon suggested that people choose the 
first alternative that is "good enough" or satifies choice criteria or 
aspiration levels.

According to Simon, rational man is a satisficer and not an optimizer. 
Professor Simon (1976) wrote: "The social sciences suffer from acute 
schizophrenia in their treatment of rationality. At one extreme, the 
economists attribute to economic man a preposterously omniscient 
rationality. Economic man has a complete and consistent system of 
preferences that allows him always to choose among the alternatives open 
to him; he is always completely aware of what these alternatives are; 
there are no limits on the complexity of the computations he can perform 
in order to determine what alternatives are best; probability 
calculations are neither frightening nor mysterious to him ... At the 
other extreme, are those tendencies in social psychology traceable to 
Freud that try to reduce all cognition to affect. Thus we show that 
coins look larger to poor children than to rich, that pressures of a 
social group can persuade a man he sees spots that are not there, that 
the process of group problem-solving involves accumulating and 
discharging tensions, and so on."

In general, the development of computerized Decision Support Systems 
assumes a rational, analytical model of human and organizational 
decision-making. If another model better describes the actual behavior 
in a situation, for example, a garbage can model, then a DSS may serve a 
very different purpose than trying to enhance rationality. In a garbage 
can situation, a DSS may help in rationalizing a match between a problem 
and a solution.

This Ask Dan! question is perhaps the start of a research paper or the 
stimulus for further thought and inquiry by readers. Please add you 
comments, thoughts and replies on the DSS Forum at . 



Cohen, M. D., J. G. March, J. P. Olsen, "A Garbage Can Model of 
Organizational Choice," Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 
1. (March 1972), pp. 1-25.

Power, D. J., "Is there a theory of Decision Support Systems?" DSS News, 
Vol. 2, No. 12, June 3, 2001.

Simon, H.A., Administrative Behavior, Third edition (New York: The Free 
Press, 1976), pp. xxvi-xxvii. 

Simon, H.A., "Rational Decision-Making in Business Organizations," 1978 
Nobel Lecture,


   Put your ad here! Reach specialists interested in DSS 
         Email for details


DSS News - August 15 to August 28, 2004
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

08/26/2004 Collaboration initiatives a rising priority in US Federal 
Government according to new Larstan Research.

08/26/2004 University of Maryland B-School gives Nextel BlackBerry 7510 
handhelds to MBA students.

08/25/2004 Loyola University Chicago receives $1.31 million donation.

08/25/2004 DataScan Technologies to deploy high tech handheld devices 
for floorplan audit services.

08/25/2004 Oracle claims 2004 Intelligent Enterprise Reader's Choice 
Awards in two categories.

08/25/2004 Business Objects again rated number one by readers of 
Intelligent Enterprise for Customer Analytics.

08/24/2004 Hyperion Financial Management continues to gain momentum 
globally with customers.

08/24/2004 New Microsoft Streets & Trips 2005 with GPS Locator puts end 
to 'Are we there yet?'.

08/24/2004 Plumtree unveils nine customer case studies; ROI ranges from 
564% on one deployment to $4 Million on another.

08/24/2004 Experian presents Vision 2004 Conference October 24-28 in 
Boca Raton, Florida.

08/24/2004 arcplan launches dynaViewer business intelligence for ad-hoc 
analysis and reporting.

08/23/2004 Databeacon cures sales reporting ailments for the Harvard 
Drug Group.

08/23/2004 Blue Pumpkin wins 'Best of Show' award in performance 

08/23/2004 Hummingbird's end-to-end matter lifecycle management solution 
enjoys widespread acceptance by legal community.

08/20/2004 Alienware workstations dominate the competition in graphics 

08/20/2004 BASF implements AspenTech's Manufacturing Information 
Management solution.

08/18/2004 iPhrase and KnowledgeBase Solutions join forces to deliver 
content authoring.

08/18/2004 Turning competitor data into strategy: best practices in 
managing the competition.

08/17/2004 Get the complete Oracle story at Oracle(R) OpenWorld San 
Francisco 2004.

08/17/2004 Reveleus signs up North America's mortgage lending leaders 
for advanced analytics.

08/17/2004 SimSci-Esscor releases enhanced flowsheeting and process 
optimization solution.

08/17/2004 Intergraph awards University of Calgary $2.6 Million 
education grant.

08/17/2004 Syntel and MicroStrategy strengthen global alliance.

08/17/2004 Hewitt upgrades client benefits portal for open enrollment 

08/16/2004 SAS ships Learning Edition 2.0; new version enables users to 
customize, analyze and visualize tasks better.

08/16/2004 Text Analytics 6.0 platform drives unified business 


Subscribe to DSSResources.COM. One month $10, six months $25. 


DSS News is copyrighted (c) 2004 by D. J. Power. Please send your 
questions to 

DSS Home |  About Us |  Contact Us |  Site Index |  Subscribe | What's New
Please Tell 
Your Friends about DSSResources.COM Copyright © 1995-2021 by D. J. Power (see his home page). DSSResources.COMsm was maintained by Daniel J. Power. See disclaimer and privacy statement.