Massachusetts Institute of Technology. School of I.

Research and development; report of activities, March 1, 1963 online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryMassachusetts Institute of Technology. School of IResearch and development; report of activities, March 1, 1963 → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

MAR 27 1963


H, X



I f'.iAR 27 1963

Report of Activities '■ Oi^WEY LIBRARY

March 1, 1963


This report was prepared and revised by the entire staff of the
Organization Research Program, and was coordinated and produced by
Marie Kechejian, The introductory pages were drafted by D. G. Marquis.

AUG 26 1975'



School of Industrial Msinagement, MIT
March 1, I963

In the spring of I962 MIT's School of Industrial Management, with the
support of a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
undertook to develop a program of research and education on the problems of
organizing and managing large-scale technology -based enterprises. The studies
under way and planned for the future are focused on the broad problem of
understanding and Improving the effectiveness of R & D activities relative to
their goals. Before describing the specific projects currently in progress,
a brief statement of the underlying concept of research which guides the
program will help place these studies in perspective.


In general, the Organization Research Program associates think in terms
of quantitative open-system concepts; inputs, flows, complex interdepencies,
outputs, and feedback loops. The fundamental processes of R & D are
problem- solving and decision -maJking. Our area of interest excludes highly
programed or routine repetitive activities except as they contribute to
problem- solving (e.g., memorizing).

Research grant #NsG 235-62

^The words research and R&D will be used in this report as synonyms denoting
the entire range of activities from basic science to process improvement, whether
performed by an individual, an organization, or a government. Adjectival
modifiers (e.g., applied research) will be used to denote subclasses of research


Organization Research Program ' ■' Dl -r-'.J. -2-

We think of R & D activ1.ty as a sequence of subactivities , each of which
is essential to the ultimate accomplishment of a useful goal. They may in
some cases be carried out completely by one person or they may be carried out
by many different people in different places. The concept of R & D as a
planned, organized approach by technically trained people to the solving of
certain sorts of problems is a development of the two decades since the Manhattan
Project, but the essence of the research process is as old as Archimedes.
The sequential steps in R & D may be labeled as follows:

I Basic Research


Applied Research


Process Engineering





Operation and Service


Ultimate Purpose

Organization Research Program -3-

From each activity there are feedback loops — a strong one to the
immediately preceding activity and less operative ones to all of the pre-
ceding activities. Some loops such as the one from Development t o Applied
Research are critically essential; others such as from Applied Research to
Basic Research axe often dysfunctional, and barriers to communication in
this loop must be deliberately planned-^ (e«S«^ separate buildings). At the
core of each stage of the R&D process is a problem-solving process. Under-
standing the R&D process thus requires knowledge of problem-solving itself,
as well as of the interconnections among the various problem-solving processes
as they occur in each of the activities listed above.

The problem-solving process consists of a series of imperfectly
sequential activities with feedback loops. The inputs to a researcher are
problems, information, and expected rewards. A problem is defined as a
discrepancy between a present state of affairs and a desired state. The out-
puts are problem solutions of some degree of utility.

This way of formulating the old adage that "applied research tends to drive
out basic research" was presented in a talk to the Sloan Fellows at the School
of Industrial Management by Dr. Jack Morton, Vice-President of the Bell
Telephone Laboratories, and is known as Morton's Law .

Organization Research Program

The steps in problem- solving are as follows:

Recognize Problem

Decide to Act

Improve Knowledge

Diagnose Problem

Factor the Problem

Search for Solutions

Test an Alternative


Communicate Solution


Implement Solution


Evaluate Results

Organization Research Program -5-

Probably the busiest feedback loop is from Test Alternative to Search

for Solutions . It is well known that successful performance is a function of

. k
the number of alternative solutions considered (Allen and Marquis, 15) .

Another important loop is from Evaluate Result s to Recognize Problem , since
the discrepancy between measured output performance and required performance
sets a new problem calling for rework. What is called creativity or
originality is heavily involved in the innovative steps ( Recognize Problem ,
Diagnose Problem , Search for Solutions) , but much less often in the evaluating
or decision-making steps ( Decide to Act , Test an Alternative , and Evaluate
Results ) .

Basic research on multiple goals in problem=solving, information re-
quirements for problem-solving, and the nature of competence in problem-
solving and decision-making is being carried out in several projects
(Soelberg, 2; Bowman and Pounds, 3; Stedry, 4; and Marquis, 7) • These studies
are thus directed both to understanding the problem-solving process as it takes
place at each stage of the R&D sequence of activities and to understanding
the necessary interconnections, informational and motivational, among the
VEirious stages.


When research is performed, as it typically is, through the joint
efforts of two or more people, additional considerations of organization
and management arise from the need for planning, staffing, scheduling,
directing, coordinating, monitoring, and so forth.

^Names followed by a number designate a specific project, described later, which
is directed at the question iinder discussion. In this instance. Project 15,
directed by T. J. Allen and D. G. Marquis is studying factors in the successful
solution of problems arising in the course of proposal preparation.

Organization Research Program -6-

There are many levels of complexity in organizational systems performing
research, and we are concentrating on five:

Individual researchers

Functional groups


Laboratories and research centers

Corporations and government agencies
Work is also focused on that most important interface "between government agencies
and laboratories:

Contracting procedures
The five systems, taken in reverse order, are seen to be systems and sub-
systems. Corporations and government agencies are subsystems of a national
and international socio-politico=aconomie system. The outputs of the sub=
systems are inputs to the supersystem, and this interface defines the vital
questions of the impact of research in general, or of a particular research
agency, on the society, the economy, and the polity of our nation. The
reverse, or feedback loop, raises questions of the adequacy of information
flow in the loop, and of the sensitivity of the agency to its impact on
society. Analysis of flows in both directions are crucial in the definition
of the goals of the agency. We have so far not initiated 8j?„y work in this area
because it is receiving substantial attention from other researchers (e.g.,
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, National Planning
Association,^ the Civilian Industrial Technology Program of the U. S. Depart-
ment of Commerce, the National Science Foondation, the Midwest Research
Institute, the Panel on Civilian Technology of the President's Office of
Science and Technology, and the NASA Industrial Applications Program) .

See Solo, Robert Ac, Gearing military R & D to economic growth. Harvard Business
Review, I962, November- December^ 49-60.

Organization Research Program -J-

Similarly^ Laboratory and research centers are subsystems of Corporations
or government ag enciesj Projects are subsystems of Laboratories and research
centers ; Functional groups are also subsystems of the Laboratories ., with criticeil
interfaces vith Projects (Evan, l6; Thomas, Th) ; and Individual researchers
are subsystems of both Functional groups (the supervisor-subordinate interface)
and Projects (the director-directed interface).

It is not possible to do useful scientific research on R & D at any of
the levels of organizational complexity unless research perfcrmance can be
evaluated. This is the $64 question, and the most serious deficiency in
previous studies. It is, therefore, the problem to which we are directing
major attention and most urgent effort.

Research performance is necessarily evaluated with respect to the
piirposes or goals of the research. Goals must be clearly formulated by some-
one before any next step can be meaningful (Wood, 13 j Voss, Th) . Special
effort is being directed to the theoretical and empirical analysis of per-
formance by projects and by laboratories (Roberts 1, 9; Maffei and Marquis, 6;
Maffei, 8; Alien and Marquis, 15) . Little effort is being devoted to the
performance criteria for individual researchers because this question has
received most attention in previous studies by others, albeit with little
success. We hope eventually to be able to design improved measures of indi-
vidual research performance on the basis of the still unpredictable results
of basic research on the natxire of the problem-solving process in research
(Soelberg, 2) .

Th means thesis ; a list of theses currently in progress is included as

Appendix C~ ~

Organization Research Program -o-

No one knows which are the most critical factors in research performance.
For this reason, as Burton Klein might advise, the Organization Research
Program is undertaking parallel effort in a number of small exploratory studies
with a variety of directions; "fishing expeditions" they are sometimes called.

Principal attention, however, is being directed, at all levels of
organizational complexity, to the following:

Motivational factors , because of the ubiquitous effects of incentives
on every kind of performance.

Information communication factors , since 60^ of research time in a
typical industrial development laboratory was found to be devoted to communi-
cation of one kind or another.

Competence factors , for obvious reasons.

Interpersonal factors , because effective coordination is the crux of
organized research.

Different factors can be expected to exert more or less influence on
research performance at the different organizational levels, and studies are
currently in progress at all levels.

The Individual researcher is the subject of study with respect to his
allocation of effort among multiple goals (Stedry, h; Rubin, Th) , and his
long-term career development (Schein, 5; Joyce, Th) .

The Functional group is the hierarchically organized set of scientists
and engineers, usually in the same field. The process under study is super-
vision, or the superior-subordinate relationship, in all aspects except the
direction of technical work, which is considered below. Particular attention
is given to studies of the long-range career development (growth, fluctuation,
decline) as a function of organizational policy and procedure (Schein, 5;
Coleal, Th; Doty, Th; Levine, Th) .

'National Bureau of Economic Research. The Rate and Direction of Inventive
Activity, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962, 635 PP»

Organization Research program -9-

The Project is the organization for the management of technical work,
and may range in size from three part-time engineers writing a proposal
(Allen and Marquis, 15), to the manned lunar landing. We are focusing on
middle-range projects; large enough ($1M) to involve organization and manage-
ment, and small enough ($20M) so that there will be enough of them to permit
statistical analysis (Maffei and Marquis, 6) . Smaller scale studies are in
progress on the perception by researchers of their technical job role (Stedry, 4;
Rubin, Th), and on sources of bias and inaccuracy in estimating research jobs
(Marquis, J; Hersh, Th; Jacob, Th; Miller, Th; Pope, Th) .

The Laboratory or research center is the next larger unit, comprising
both functional and project organization in varying proportion and with
varying degrees of conflict (Evan, l6; Thomas, Th) . Major effort is directed
to the collection of ten-year histories of large laboratories whose work is
principally government contract R&D (Maffei, 8; Mead, Th; Piselli, Th) .
This field research is in continuous interaction with other research which is
developing mathematical models of the R & D firm( Roberts, 9; Holman, Th;
Kane, Th; Wachold, Th; Welles, Th) . Related special studies are directed to
the effect of communications on work effectiveness (Muller-Thym and Eberhard, 11),
computerized management of information (Emery, 10; Thorpe, Th) , the design of
research space (Eberhard, 12), and criteria for project selection (Cramer, Th) .

The Corporation and government agency are difficult subjects for
scientific reseaj-ch because they are cne-of-a-kind organizations, and comparative
studies are impossible or of dubious validity. We are iindertaking in
collaboration with members of the MIT Political Science Department to study in
depth a series of major decisions at the top of NASA (Wood, 13) .

Organization Research Program -10-

The Contracting process " is at the moment the target of many commissions,
boards, interagency groups, and Congressional investigations. We are keeping
up vith the current news and conducting some field studies to build up our
competence (Roberts, 1^; Allen and Marquis, 15; Maffei, 8; Richard, Th) , and
when the dust has settled a little we will try to determine the unfilled needs
in this area and design some long-range research studies.


The management of the Organization Research Program is vested in a
Steering Committee of seven members (Appendix D) , and in a research director
and an administrative director, who are also members of the Committee.

The direction is typical of academic settings, with "colleague authority"
based on persuasion and wheedling. Each of the research associates (listed
in Appendix D) has joined the Program because he found it more interesting
and challengining than other alternatives open to him. It is easier, however,
to recruit research assistants because graduate students are usually hungry,
and because they welcome a chance to join an active on-going research program.

The research associates come from a motley collection of disciplines:
mathematics, sociology, operations research, psychology, statistics,
economics, engineering, political science, architecture, and philosophy.
But they had already learned to live and work together before this Program
was conceived, and conflict other than intellectual argument is rare.

Coordination is achieved by two seminars which are described in the
next section, by many small infonnal ad hoc groups, and by niimerous luncheon
appointments .

See Peck, M. J. and Scherer, F. M. The Weapons Acquisition Process , Boston:
Harvard Uni-versity Graduate School of Business Administration, 1962, J36 pp.

Organization Research Program -11-

Each new major project (except theses) is reviewed by the Steering
Committee. Half a dozen or more have been rejected and two have already
been terminated. Several have been guided into more promising directions,
and there is a general atmosphere of fluidity and growth.


An important feature of the Program is a weekly seminar throughout
the academic year which is regularly attended by all the research staff and
a number of interested guests from other MIT schools, from industry, and
from NASA. This fall the seminars have served as a forum for progress re-
ports from the individual projects, leading to discussion and debate on the
research design, methods, and in some cases, utility. On several occasions
we have asked an outside guest to meet with us and present a paper growing
out of operating experience or relevant research. The list of topics is
presented in Appendix A.

The graduate seminar in research management which has been offered by
Professor Marquis for the past two years has been changed this spring to a
series of lecture discussions, each led by a different member of the Program
staff. In addition to School of Industrial Management students, the course
is attended by some graduate students from engineering departments and from
Harvard School of Business Administration. The topics and speakers for the
sessions are listed in Appendix B.

The School of Industrial Management has collaborated with the School
of Engineering in designing a new course for the spring term which provides
actual experience in conducting a R & D project. Sixty-five students are

Organization Research Program -12-

enrolled from electrical^ mechanical, aeronautical, chemical and civil
engineering, meteorology, and industrial management. The five graduate
students from the School of Industrial Management belong to the project
management team. The specific task this year is to design an equatorial
earth-orbiting weather satellite; a sorely needed component in the U. S.
meteorological program. The technical and cost requirements, along with engi-
neering guidance, are provided by faculty from the several departments and by
invited outside speakers. The students must organize themselves for the
conduct of the project. Professor Marquis conducted the first session of
the course on the topic of Project Management, including PERT-time. The
academic term fixes the scheduled delivery date as May 21, 1963 and, who
knows, the class may be awarded the follow-on development contract!

A bibliography of carefully selected articles, books, and reports in
the field has been in preparation during the past three years and will be
ready for distribution in May I963. Plans are being formulated now for other
educational activities specially designed for industrial and governmental re-
search managers and ranging in scope from two-day seminars on restricted topics
to longer programs on the broad subject of the organization and management of

The objective of a research program such as this is knowledge. But we
must continually ask, with Robert Lynd, "Knowledge for what?" It is clear
to us that we are seeking knowledge of R & D that will lead to increased
effectiveness, teachability, predictability, and control. Recognizing that

Organization Research Program -13-

behavioral research is often not carried through to the point of developing
policies, procedures, teaching materials, etc. for practical application,
ve explicitly acknowledge our responsibility and intentions in this respect.
Some of the usable outputs will be developed in one year, others in three,
five, or ten years.

In applying to proposed projects the criterion of usable end product,
we have in mind as users those governmental, university £ind Industrial re-
search organizations which contribute to the mission of NASA. Systematic
study of the organization and operation of NASA has been carried out by
interviews with key executives at NASA headquarters, at Langley, Goddard,
Lewis, and Huntsville Centers, and in a number of industrial contractors.
With the valuable help of members of the Office of Administration we have
formulated a set of long-range problems and opportunities in NASA toward which
our efforts are directed.


In the following pages each of the research projects is described in
terms of its c\arrent activities and work plans for the immediate future.

Organization Research Program _l4_

1. The Dynamics of R & D E. B. Roberts

This project is a continuation of research done as part of a doctoral
thesis. The initial phases of the project developed a general theory of


research and development project behavior, created an Industrial Dynamics-'
model of that theory, performed a large niimber of computer simulation studies
of the model, and derived tentative conclusions on government and industry
policy for R&D management. This research is described in Roberts's book.
The Dynamics of Research and Development , vhich will be published later this

Current efforts on this project are twofold: (l) broadened documentation
of the study and its implications for R&D policy; and (2) development of
more simplified representations of important parts of the general project
model, aimed at enhancing the use of the model as a teaching device.

Forrester, J. W. Industrial Dynamics . Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, I961.


Roberts, E. B. The Design of Research and Development Policy. MIT, SIM,
Working Paper No. 8, January I963.

Organization Researcli Program -15-

2. Individual Problem-Solving 0. P. Soelberg

R. E. Good

Study of unprogramed problem- solving behavior has already contributed
centrally to the imderstanding of creative research processes. One strategy
for learning more about thinking and problem-solving is to observe behavior of
human subjects under carefully controlled laboratory conditions. The objectives
of this project are three-fold:

1. Design of an experimental problem- solving environment which is:
(a) sufficiently complex and flexible to vrarrant long-term commitment to it
as an opportunity for systematic investigations of both orthodox and hitherto
unexplored areas of human thinking and decision-making; (b) sufficiently well
specified to permit application of rigorous experimental controls; and (c)
sufficiently quantifiable to allow explicit measurement of behavioral obser-
vations as well as direct comparison of alternative schemes for positive and
normative decision theory analysis.

2. Laboratory tests of certain specified hypotheses of human cognitive
rationality, symbolic information processing, and goal resolution in the
general problem- solving environment defined above.

3. Initiation of a research seminar which, utilizing experimental data
and information processing language simulation techniques, will explore
theoretical and practical pitfalls (and potentialities) of alternative methods
of decision-process data analysis.

Parametric forms of a general experimental environment have already been
designed and programed for two alternatives: real time and time sharing computer
systems. A niimber of pilot studies have been initiated to clarify (l) oper-
ational questions of variables and measures of the general conceptual model;

Organization Research Program -l6-

(2) phenotypic problems of relevant variables and parameters; (3) the inferred
validity of environmental simulation and treatment manipulations; (k) the
adequacy of proposed experimental controls; (5) problems of the information
load on the experimenter; (6) man -machine laboratory communication require-
ments; and (7) estimated manpower and equipment needs, together with projected
cost and time schedules, for completing proposed research runs. These explora-
tory studies are also expected to help reduce the experimental Type II errors,
eliminating the expense of controlling large numbers of variables of minor
operational consequence to particular treatments. Several major modifications
of experimental procedure have already been suggested by the exploratory results.

Plans for the spring and siimmer of I963 caUL for continuation of pilot
investigations leading to a series of formal experimental treatments during
the following year. Studies will first investigate potential interactions
between (1) problem complexity levels, (2) subjective information structures,
and (3) experimental protocol data collection procedvires, with respect to a
selected subset of behavioral process and outcome measiires. Half the
problem solvers will work alone as individual subjects, and the others will
constitute two-person research groups in comparable problem environments
working under partial conflict of goals ajid information.

Organization Research Program -1?-

3. The Process of Managerial Decision-Making E. H. Bowman

W. F. Po-unds

The purpose of this research is to gain greater imderstanding of the
management decision-making process. Search of the literature on management

1 3 4

Online LibraryMassachusetts Institute of Technology. School of IResearch and development; report of activities, March 1, 1963 → online text (page 1 of 4)