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Organization research tends to emphasize the more steady and quantifiable attributes of organizations and their environments, at the cost of the analysis of organizational processes. According to Elias (1971, p. 122), there is a general problem in formulating process theory. The shape of our languages, he claims, requires us to use words that refer to isolated, stable entities, when we are speaking about steady movement or constant change. In the particular domain of organization studies, though, an additional problem is the issue of restricted access. It is often difficult to collect data required for the analysis of organizational processes.
Two kinds of research can be distinguished: autonomous and field-induced research (Lazarsfeld, Sewell, & Wilensky, 1976). Autonomous organization research implies that the researcher wants to collect data, without being invited by actors in the organization to do so. In that case, it is often difficult to obtain sufficient detailed process data, because organizational actors may not like the idea of an outsider taking a look behind the scenes. In the case of field-induced research, a researcher or consultant has to provide answers to more or less specific questions. Restrictions of data collection may concern the subjects to be studied, the time available, or the people to be contacted. Furthermore, this research may be impeded by mistrust of those initiating the research by the actors who are to be observed. Such constraints are likely to discourage the study of organizational processes, the more so because many organization theories and perspectives are available that can be used without needing meticulously gathered process data.
Organizations can be viewed as largely autonomous or as determined by environment. Moreover, they can be viewed as consisting of people and their interrelationships or as independent of the people involved. A particular image such as machine, organism, political system, or other is often used to highlight a particular aspect of the organization. Combining such views has yielded a variety of organization perspectives and theories, many of which emphasize relationships between supposedly stable attributes. They encourage cross-sectional, single measurement studies focusing on the patterns of system properties and the arrangement of system parts (Riley, 1963, p. 567). Obviously, repeated measurement is possible, which, if accompanied by hypotheses to account for the changes observed, renders static analysis into a form of process analysis. To test the hypotheses fundamentally, however, detailed process data are necessary.
The field of organization studies can be criticized for poorly supporting the study of process. Process analysis is valuable for organization theory and practice, and there are options other than resignation to the assumed fact that process data are beyond reach. Field research may serve the purpose of process analysis, if only ways are found to overcome access restrictions. Experimental research may serve the purpose of process analysis also, provided that the method used allows the situation under study to change as a result of actors' behaviors. Many simulation/games meet this criterion. Moreover, simulation/games enable detailed registration and experimental control. Here, a process analysis by means of data gathered in a simulation/game is presented to show the possibilities of the method.
Reasons for Process Analysis
Perhaps the strongest reason for studying social processes is that understanding a situation requires knowledge of its antecedents. Some idea of actors' history is needed to understand actual causal relationships, even if these are assumed to be fixed. This assumption, however, can be challenged. Van der Meer and Roodink (1991) argue that experience with …