Case Study 1-2

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Case 1-2

Ackoff’s Management
Misinformation Systems

This case is adapted from a classic article entitled “Management Misinformation Systems.” It was written by Russell L. Ackoff and appeared in Management Sciences. In the article, Ackoff identified five common assumptions about information systems and then explained why he disagreed with them. REQUIRED:

Read the five assumptions, contentions, and
Ackoff’s explanation. For each of the five,
decide if you agree or disagree with Ackoff’s
contentions. Defend your stand by preparing a
report to explain your beliefs. Be prepared to
defend your beliefs in class.
ASSUMPTION 1: MANAGEMENT NEEDS
MORE INFORMATION
Assumption 1. Most management information
systems (MISs) are designed based on the assumption that the critical deficiency under which most managers operate is the lack of relevant information. Contention 1. I do not deny that most managers lack a good deal of information that they should have, but I do deny that this is the

most important informational deficiency from
which they suffer. It seems to me that they suffer more from an overabundance of irrelevant information.
This is not a play on words. The consequences of changing the emphasis of an MIS from supplying relevant information to eliminating irrelevant information is considerable. If one is preoccupied with supplying relevant

information, attention is almost exclusively
given to the generation, storage, and retrieval
of information; hence, emphasis is placed on
constructing data banks, coding, indexing,
updating files, using access languages, and so
on. The ideal that has emerged from this orientation is an infinite pool of data into which managers can reach to pull out any information
they want. If, however, one sees the manager’s

information problem primarily, but not exclusively, as one that arises out of an overabundance of irrelevant information, most of which was not asked for, then the two most important
functions of an information system become filtration (or evaluation) and condensation. The literature on the MIS seldom refers to these
functions, let alone considers how to carry
them out.
My experience indicates that most managers receive much more data (if not information) than they can possibly absorb even if they spend all of their time trying to do so. Hence
they already suffer from an information overload. They must spend a great deal of time separating the relevant documents. For example, I have found that I receive an average of 43 hours
of unsolicited reading material each week. The
solicited material is usually half again this
amount.
I have seen a daily stock status report that
consists of approximately 600 pages of computer printout. The report is circulated daily across managers’ desks. I’ve also seen requests
for major capital expenditures that come in
book size, several of which are distributed to
managers each week. It is not uncommon for
many managers to receive an average of one
journal a day or more. One could go on and on.
Unless the information overload to which
managers are subjected is reduced, any additional information made available by an MIS cannot be expected to be used effectively.
Even relevant documents have too much
redundancy. Most documents can be considerably condensed without loss of content. My point here is best made, perhaps, by describing

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CASE 1-2

briefly an experiment that a few of my colleagues and I conducted on the operations research (OR) literature several years ago. By
using a panel of well-known experts, we identified four OR articles that all members of the panel considered to be “above average” and
four articles that were considered to be “below
average.” The authors of the eight articles were
asked to prepare “objective” examinations
(duration 30 minutes) plus answers for graduate students who were to be assigned the articles for reading. (The authors were not informed
about the...
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