Boundary games: how teams of OR practitioners explore the boundaries of intervention

Velez-Castiblanco, Jorge, Brocklesby, John and Midgley, Gerald (2016) Boundary games: how teams of OR practitioners explore the boundaries of intervention. European Journal of Operational Research, 249 3: 968-982. doi:10.1016/j.ejor.2015.08.006

Author Velez-Castiblanco, Jorge
Brocklesby, John
Midgley, Gerald
Title Boundary games: how teams of OR practitioners explore the boundaries of intervention
Journal name European Journal of Operational Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0377-2217
Publication date 2016-03-16
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.ejor.2015.08.006
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 249
Issue 3
Start page 968
End page 982
Total pages 15
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Abstract An operational research (OR) practitioner designing an intervention needs to engage in a practical process for choosing methods and implementing them. When a team of OR practitioners does this, and/or clients and stakeholders are involved, the social dynamics of designing the approach can be complex. So far, hardly any theory has been provided to support our understanding of these social dynamics. To this end, our paper offers a theory of ‘boundary games’. It is proposed that decision making on the configuration of the OR approach is shaped by communications concerning boundary judgements. These communications involve the OR practitioners in the team (and other participants, when relevant) ‘setting’, ‘following’, ‘enhancing’, ‘wandering outside’, ‘challenging’ and ‘probing’ boundaries concerning the nature of the context and the methods to be used. Empirical vignettes are provided of a project where three OR practitioners with different forms of methodological expertise collaborated on an intervention to support a Regional Council in New Zealand. In deciding how to approach a problem structuring workshop where the Regional Council employees would be participants, the OR team had to negotiate their methodological boundaries in some detail. The paper demonstrates that the theory of boundary games helps to analyse and describe the shifts in thinking that take place in this kind of team decision making. A number of implications for OR practitioners are discussed, including how this theory can contribute to reflective practice and improve awareness of what is happening during communications with OR colleagues, clients and participants.
Keyword Behavioural OR
Boundary games
Critical systems thinking
Process of OR
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Official 2016 Collection
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