IFORS – Barcelona 13 -18 July 2014
Coat-tailing behaviour in decision
Leroy A. White & Isabella M. Lami
• Organizations and organizing are increasingly
accomplished through the complex interaction of
people, artifacts, instruments and interventions
(Clegg et al 2002).
• OR interventions are exemplary but there is a gap
in our knowledge in understanding effect on
people/outcomes, and OR interventions in situ
• The importance of studying the effectiveness of OR
perspective have been previously highlighted
(White, 2006a; White, 2006b).
• However,
epistemological challenges remain in the study of
group learning processes (Packer & Goicoechea,
• We explore the use of activity theory as one means
to study interventions as complex interaction of
people, artifacts, instruments and context.
White & Lami
Outline of the presentation
Introduce our context: Infrastructure
Introduce AT
Describes somes cases
White & Lami
• Infrastructure poses new challenges
for organizational research (Lami,
2014, Hickman and Banister 2014,
Bond et al. 2010).
• Most research focus on infrastructure
assets rather than infrastructure as
organization that is open to the
organizational theory/studies.
• We
infrastructure as organization and
focus on a few examples of
infrastructure; i.e., railway, transport
and communication infrastructure in
a city/urban/regeneration context.
White & Lami
Application of OR on infrastructure/1
• Many tools available to design and
analyse infrastructure, ranging from
approaches to MCDA (Lami 2014,
Browne and Ryan 2011).
• Data and approaches do not
entirely correspond to the fears and
desires of local population, even to
the public authority (this problem is
called here “territorial conflict”) (eg
high speed train route (HS2) 3°
runway at Heathrow, High speed
France and Italy “Corridor 5”.
• There is thus a need for new
approaches, but also a need to
understand the efficacy of these
White & Lami
Application of OR on infrastructure/2
• These
themselves to be evaluated,
• Why?
– They are normally, one-off,
– Often
counterfactual or comparator,
– They are often social processes,
where the behavioural aspect of
the group and the group’s
interactions with the process are
little known.
• We explore AT as a way to study
White & Lami
Activity Theory – AT /1
• In this paper, we use Activity Theory (AT) to (re) examine the
• AT sees interventions as social practices, which should be
understood as tool-mediated activities (Engestrom et al 1997)
• AT considers an entire work/activity system (including teams,
organizations, etc.) beyond just one actor or user.
• This system includes the object (or objective), subject,
mediating artifacts (models, signs and tools), rules,
community and division of labour
• AT suggests that human activity is directed towards an
object, mediated by artifacts or instruments, and socially
constituted within the surrounding environment (Bertelsen
and Bodker 2003)
White & Lami
Activity Theory – AT /2
• The subject is the active element of the
process; it can be either an individual or a
• The object transformed by the activity can
be either an ideal or material object
(Fuentes et al. 2003).
• The transformation process is enabled and
supported by various instruments, either
physical or logical.
• The basis of the analysis is that during the
interaction, subjects internalize and/or
externalize their cognitive schemes and
their understanding of the relationship
between themselves and the external
objects, instruments, surroundings, and
other factors
White & Lami
Activity Theory – AT /3
• AT suggests three interrelated levels of
• Coordination- what are people doing
independent of each others action in the
achievement of the common task
• Co-operation-social
doing things together
• Co-construction
communication on meta-level
• To manage these artifacts (models) are
used to serve as anchors between the
White & Lami
Doing AT
• Anchoring is important and focuses on the interconnectivity
between mediational artifacts in order to solve inherent
contradictions of an actvity system.
• Contradictions are important for system design, in that they indicate
emergent opportunities for activity development and can be used
as sources of improvement (Kuutti 1991).
• Contradictions may take place either inside the key constructs (e.g.,
subject) or between them (Engeström 1999). In the context of our
cases, there may exist a number of contradictions among the sites
and activities
White & Lami
AT framework
mediating artifacts
social issues
technical issues
division of Labour
White & Lami
AT structure
The requirements for the methodology are :
• The unit of analysis is neither the individual nor the organization, but
the system of activity (Engeström, 2001) (Cobb and Bowers,1999),
• the analysis of activity systems involves the identification of material,
social and linguistic material that make knowledge possible
(Engeström, 2001), and
• explanatory properties devised to understand perception and
action must have a relational nature,
White & Lami
Case studies: port of Genoa /1
Subject: Genoa shipowners and terminal operators,
experts from the Institute o f Research Siti
Object: Transformation of port considered as an
“island” and railway link with a dry port beyond the
Apennines via an around 20 kilometers tunnel
reserved for goods transport via electric powered
Community: Genoa Port Authority, shipping
operators, Ligurian and Piedmontese Local
Authorities, workers and white collars, citizens of
Genoa, National Minister of Transport, other Ligurian
Instrument: Projects, specific studies, economic
evaluations, video simulations, public presentations.
Rule : Port master plan
Division of labour: One of the Genoan shipping
operator had the idea, Siti analyze all the technical
aspect to make this “vision” real with the
White & Lami
of the whole group of the shipping
Case studies: port of Genoa /2
• between rules and object: In this case, we propose a transformation
implemented by private individuals, with a complete transformation of the
technologies to be used in port and be developed with project financing. The
breaking of this project compared to the past is the total
•between the object and the instruments. This project is based on an idea of the
port management completely disruptive with the past. The fact that It was
discussed in public before the development of evry technical details (and also
before a complete political agreement settled) generated huge debates and
distrust in many stakeholders .
•in the division of labour itself. the shippers and terminalists, who are extremely
rich because they know how to act in the port according to its conformation,
seemed extremely worried about a possible radical transformation of the port.
I.e: they were officially in the group to study and develop the project, but I often
had the impression that they wanted to check and know what might
happen here it is possible to develop also some reflection about the
White & Lami
Case studies: Turin railway station/1
Subject: City of Turin, experts from the Institute o f Research Siti.
Pre-feasibility study in order to assess the opportunity of an
intervention of urban redevelopment linked to the infrastructural
reorganization of the railway areas between Porta Nuova and Lingotto.
Community: The Italian Railway Company (RFI): actor directly affected
obviously by any transformation of the stations, but NOT directly involved in
the study, at least at the beginning. In the first part of the study all the data
about the trains’ operation was SIMULATED by Siti because RFI didn’t want to
City of Torino, citizens, commercial and tourists activities located nearby the
Instrument: Each phase of the study was characterised by the creation and
assessment of different explorative scenarios
Rule : Railway masterplan and urban masterplan,
Division of labour: Siti did the study, designing the scenarios of possible
transformations, the City of Torino chose the preferred one among the four
White & Lami
Case studies: Turin railway station/2
between rules and object: Siti was studying
possible transformation of a very peculiar area
without, at the beginning, any collaboration
with the owner of the real estate. This is
particularly strange because, even if this study
was requested from the City who has the
resource of the masterplan (legally binding in
Italy), we had no power at all to suggest what
to do on that surfaces, because the urban
masterplan is NOT legally binding on the areas
of RFI
White & Lami
Case studies: Zurich railway station/1
Subject: The Swiss Railway company (DB)
Object: design of a new master plan for Zurich
Central Station
Community: DB, Post Office (one of the owner
of the area interested by the redevelopment
operation), City of Zurich, citizens.
Instrument: Three international design firms
were invited to take part in the competition
structured in the form of a workshop. The Swiss
railways adopted a very active policy when
evaluating their property, based on the
assumption that ¾ of the net value to be
created must be obtained before the actual
Rule. Negotiations, urban plan, participatory
Division of labour: DB promoted the
competition for the master plan and
attempted to work closely with the city of
White & Lami
Zurich since the beginning of the process.
Case studies: Zurich railway station/2
• between the subject and the community: instead of blindly pursuing
opposite interests (the railway authority and Post Office, which owned the
site, aimed at achieving a very high index, while the City, on the other
hand, wanted a moderate density), they channel diverse interests into the
project, combining the different strategies
•between the object and the rules. The political issues were separated from
technical ones, particularly separating the idea of urban quality from the
definition of building density indicators
White & Lami
Case studies: Bristol future city /1
• Arup and UoB appointed to assist Bristol City Council to help clarify
thinking on the development of a Future (SMART) City service for the
• Partners (subject) identified the value provided by providing a single
point of access to the City Council, and in facilitating the
“ecosystem” of partners in Bristol (object)
• Smart projects need a range of public, private and third sector
stakeholders to work together in delivery (rules), and so the
importance of the Future City service’s role in bringing together these
disparate partners should not be underestimated (contradiction
relate to private, public and NGO value differences).
• Outcome:
Bristol as a ‘Laboratory for Change’,
Use data and infrastructure effectively to solve city challenges, building on success
and opportunities from other projects.
Continue to develop relationships with partners across sectors, giving the future city
agenda a visible presence, and enabling co-creation of solutions with citizens, SMEs,
industry, the public sector and academia.
Be strongly anchored with the City Council, the council as public broker
White & Lami
Case studies: Bristol future city /2
Insight from AT
•the overall objective and goals of the activities of the many and
diverse actors have to be anchored in order to link coordination and
•co-configuration through models needs coat-tailing, aligning individual
actions to overall (collective) activity of the group and therefore couple
achievement of tasks with the project as a whole
•Organisations coat-tail with each other through building on each
others’ positions therefore leading to doing one thing together
White & Lami
Infrastructure is an important area organisationally to work on
OR has opportunities to be applied to this area
Behavioural issues pertain to application of OR to infrastructure
AT is a useful methods to understand the interventions in this area
Insights from AT include collective behaviour and coat tailings
White & Lami

Coat-Tailing Behaviour in Decision