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Garbage and goals : toward a prescription for research that would lead to a technology of foolishness

Botha, Helet (2013-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The purpose of this thesis is to develop a framework for research that will lead to a “technology of foolishness”, à la James March (1972). This is done by a) analysing the nature and b) evaluating the results of case studies that employ the garbage can theory within the field of organisational decision making. The garbage can is used since it was developed to describe decision making within organised anarchies. These are organisational contexts characterised by ambiguous goals, amongs other traits. Thus, one of the aims of the theory was to describe how decisions are made in the face of goal ambiguity. In this thesis nineteen case studies that were published between 1976 and 2010 are analysed. Only studies where the garbage can theory’s components are brought to bear on the data in a significant way are included in the scope of the study. This means that data has to be structured according to the theory, or that the authors’ conclusions address the theory specifically. It was found that the case studies produce very few insights on goal ambiguity which can be put to use in developing a technology of foolishness. Based on the analysis of the nature of the garbage can theory and the studies in the sample, a new way of doing research on goal ambiguity is put forth. Based on the insights on goal ambiguity that were produced, the themes that need researching are suggested. A core discovery is that although the garbage can in used as a process theory very often, the interpretivist tools that fit within this approach are seldom used. The normative strategy that is put forth includes incorporating the role of active decision making entities into the garbage can theory, or using the garbage can theory in conjunction with a model that does provide for the role of these decision making entities. It is important to note that these entities need not and should not be subjected to the principles of rational choice theory. It is also proposed that the garbage can theory be utilised as a process theory of decision making and that theoretical tools that are appropriate to this kind of theory be used. These tools would form part of theories designed for analysing and understanding organisational narratives. Themes that need to be researched include symbolic expressions (such as metaphors), tactile or visual experiences, the role of intuition and emotional expression in decision making processes, the role of identity (that of the focal decision makers and the people he comes into contact with) and, lastly, the idea that the world is enacted, rather than having to be predicted.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis het ten doel om ʼn raamwerk vir navorsing daar te stel wat sal lei tot die ontwikkeling van ʼn ‘tegnologie vir dwase optrede’, à la James March (1972). Dit word gedoen deur a) die aard en b) die resultate van gevallestudies wat die vullisdromteorie op besluitneming in organisasies toepas, te analiseer. Die vullisdromteorie word gebruik omdat dit ontwikkel is om besluitneming in ‘georganiseerde anargieë’ te beskryf. Georganiseerde anargieë word, onder anadere, gekenmerk deur dubbelisinnige doelwitte. Dus was een van die mikpunte van die model om besluitneming te beskryf wanneer doelwitte dubbelsinnig is. In hierdie tesis word negentien gevallestudies, wat tussen 1976 en 2010 gepubliseer is, bestudeer. Slegs studies waar die komponente van die teorie beduidend in die data neerslag vind, word ingesluit by die omvang van die studie. Dit beteken dat die data volgens die komponente gestruktureer is, of dat die navorsers die evaluering van die teorie eksplisiet by hulle konklusies insluit. Die bevinding is dat die gevallestudies baie min insigte rondom doelwitdubbelsinnigheid bied wat binne die raamwerk van ʼn tegnologie vir dwase optrede pas. Op grond van die analise van die oorhoofse eienskappe van beide die vullisdromteorie en die studies in die steekproef, word daar ’n nuwe normatiewe raamwerk vir die benadering tot navorsing omtrent doelwitdubbelsinnigheid voorgestel. Op grond van die insigte omtrent doelwitdubbelsinnigheid wat wel deeluitmaak van die resultate, word temas vir navorsing voorgestel. ʼn Kern-ontdekking is dat ofskoon die vullisdrom gereëld as ʼn prosesteorie aangewend word, die interpretivistiese instrumente wat tot hierdie benadering hoort, selde gebruik word. Die nuwe normatiewe strategie is dat die vullisdromteorie as sodanig aangepas word dat dit voorsiening maak vir aktiewe besluitnemende entiteite. ʼn Ander werkbare opsie is om die vullisdromteorie te same met ’n teorie wat wel vir hierdie entiteite voorsiening maak, aan te wend. Hierdie entiteite hoef en behoort egter nie gemodelleer te word volgens ’n rasionele keuse teorie nie. Daar word ook voorgestel dat waar die vullisdromteorie aangewend word, dit as ’n prosesteorie vir besluitneming aangewend word en dat teoretiese instrumente wat binne die raamwerk van prosesteorieë pas, benut word. Hierdie instrumente sluit metodes en teorieë wat geskik is vir die analisering en verstaan van narratiewe in organisasies in. Temas wat nagevors moet word is simboliese uitdrukkings (soos metafore), ervarings wat tas- en sigsintuie insluit, die rol van intuïsie en emosionele uitdrukking in die besluitnemingproses, die rol van identiteit (van die fokale besluitnemer sowel as ander entiteite met wie hy in kontak kom) en, laastens, die idee dat die wêreld geskep word deur aksies, eerder as dat dit voorspel hoef te word.

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