A team in a Latin-American Public Foundation

The study of a concrete organization is introduced to illustrate how taking into account group identification can help in auditing organizations or designing policies likely to promote collaboration. TDPM (the Team for Designing a Planning Methodology) is a team inside a Public Foundation that is an agency of the Ministry for Science and Technology of a Latin-American country. This Public Foundation (or the Foundation) is entrusted with the research, development and spreading of socially pertinent free technologies, and conducts various projects. TDPM is in charge of designing a methodology for Institutional Planning in the Public Sector and its functioning evidences in-group identification issues.

The origin of agency: The historical/cultural context of the organization

The motivation for the design and creation of the Foundation was the lack of pertinence of technology, due to certain cultural problems (following Fuenmayor, 2006). A culture is in a good state if people looks for and cultivates/cares common good, and if it is auto-generative. On the other hand, a culture is ill if it is not autonomous, for instance, when it is highly imitative and oriented by external influence, actors and interests, creating some processes of change that disturbs its auto-generative capacities. Associated in part to an ill culture, socially negative attitudes appear in organizations, e.g., workers distract their effort towards activities different from their duties, creating an institutional problem in the public sector.

The Foundation: activities and work process

The Foundation is designed as having four departmental units for its basic activities, supervised by a Management Unit. The basic units are:

  • Pertinence Unit: advises other units about the relevance of technologies. Its main concern is to reflect on the nature of the society, its problems and needs.
  • Research Unit: designs free-technology methodologies, organizational patterns and tools.
  • Development Unit: produces the tools supporting the methodologies.
  • Technological Spreading Unit: spreads the use of the methodologies and tools in the society.


TDPM gathers Foundation’s employees for developing the planning methodology. The work process of TDPM follows the path shown in Fig. 1. The analysis of TDPM organization regarding group identification issues leads to identify seven actors: two actors from the Research Unit, two actors from the Development Unit, and one actor from each of the three other units(namely from the Pertinence, the Technological Spreading and the Management units). We summarize the duties of each actor as follows:

  • Director: It manages the work of others and allocates the means they need.
  • Researcher_C: It designs the planning methodology, and specifies the requirements of the tools.
  • Researcher_W: It operatively helps the Researcher_C in elaborating detailed requirements of the methodology.
  • Developer_C: It designs and develops software tools for the methodology.
  • Developer_W: It helps the developer_C actor operatively, developing particular functionalities of the software.
  • PertAdviser_C: It researches about the social pertinence of the methodologies.
  • TechSpreader_W: It is responsible for spreading the use of the methodology in the society.

The members’ expected and actual behaviors

At the time of its creation, the Foundation was designed assuming workers being highly identified and committed with the Foundation and strongly collaborative with their partners. The workers are expected to show a critical and autonomous attitude, cultivating themselves in this way, in order to find out the sense and pertinence of the technology in the country. As in any organization, the better the collaboration among the actors, the higher the quality of their products.

However, the Foundation suffers from the above mentioned cultural problems and from negative attitudes that prevail in the considered country. A common withdrawal attitude pays little attention to organizational duties and gives preference to personal activities such as the membership to a political party or involvement in the academic milieu. Fortunately, not all actors have this kind of behaviour and there are also actors highly involved with the organization. The actors pertAdviser_C, researcher_C and developer_C reveal to be highly committed while the other four actors are withdrawn at different degrees.


Fig. 1. Main interactions within TDPM for developing the planning methodology. It completes a loop from identifying requirements of the society to spreading the methodology into the society.

Evaluation of commitment vs. withdrawal of the actors

In the SocLab simulation algorithm, actors are mainly utilitarist as they just search to obtain a good level of satisfaction, i.e. the capability got from others to reach their own goals by having a good access to the resources they need. To account for the commitment of an actor, we may assume that an actor is also interested in exerting a high level of influence, i.e. in the capability it distributes to others. As for a withdrawn actor who devotes its energy to another matter than its job, it searches on the contrary to reduce its influence. This leads to consider that the behavior-selecting process of an actor will no longer be driven by just its satisfaction but by its aim, defined for an actor a in a state s, as:

aim(a, s) = (1-abs(GI(a)))*satisfaction(a, s) + GI(a)*(influence(a, s) – influence(a, a, s))

where the abs() function returns the absolute value of a number, and influence(a, a, s) is the actor’s auto-satisfaction

We modeled TPDM as it was expected to operate by its designers, with actors featuring a neutral GI, and then searched for a distribution of GI whose outcomes correspond to the actual observed behavior.

The SocLab model of TDPM

The SocLab model includes the seven actors previously introduced. Each actor controls a single relation that synthesizes its means to influence others. A more extensive description of TDPM and its model are given in (Terán et al., 2013).

Table I shows the actors’ stakes and Table II the effect functions. For instance, Resercher_C depends only for 2 points (stake value) on itself (while others depend on 3 or 3.5) because it is the responsible for the project. The shape of the effect functions is very standard: each one benefices of the work done by others and is fully satisfied by a moderate effort.

Table III shows the solidarities of each actor toward its colleagues that reveal to be reciprocal. It is due to actors common interests and activities related with: (i) academicism, i.e., accumulation of academic curriculum that are beyond the benefice of TDPM and result from a personal interest, in the case of actors TechSpreader_W and Researcher_W; (ii) politicism, related with their participation in a political party that favours the involved actors, in the case of the actors Director and PertAdviser_W. Due to the solidarity between the Director and PertAdvis_C, the former will get a lower satisfaction than the other withdrawn actors, and PertAdvis_C a higher one than the other committed actors.

 Table I. Distribution of the actors’ stakes (in column) on the relation TableITDPM Table II. The shape of the effect functions of each relation (in row) on each actor; the x-axis corresponds to the state of the relation and the y-axis to the resulting capability for the actor. The table shows only the first two rows, the effects of the relations projectSupport and researchMeth_C. The effect functions of other relations are similar regarding the shape of the function for the actor controlling the relation and the shapes of the functions for other actors. tableIITDPM Table III. The solidarity of actors (in row) toward its colleagues


Simulation Results

Table IV shows that withdrawn and committed actors have similar satisfactions when all GI are null (the slight difference 0.81 comes from the responsibility of the project for the Researcher_C committed actor), and that the formers take advantage of whatever departure from this situation. The higher involvement of committed actors increases the gap between the withdrawn and committed actors, what decreases the global satisfaction: a systematic cooperation of committed actors ensures withdrawn actors a high level of satisfaction and by the way exempts them to cooperate, what has a negative impact on the whole organization. In average, the increase of commitment from 0 to 0.5 increases the gap by 4.3 while the increase of withdrawal from 0 to -0.5 increases the gap by 5.1. In general, as can be seen in Sibertin-Blanc and Terán (2014): the effect of withdrawal is much more important than that of commitment – withdrawal and commitment are not at all opposite phenomena.

The GI distribution -0.3 for withdrawn actors and 0.2 or 0.3 for committed actors is quite close to the observed configuration, even if more precise distributions distinguishing the GI among the withdrawn and among the committed actors should be considered (for more details about this model, see (Terán et al., 2013) and (Sibertin-Blanc and Terán, 2014)).

Table IV. The gap between the mean satisfactions of withdrawn and committed actors depending on the GI level of withdrawn (in row) and committed (in column) actors

  0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5
 0 0.81 2.69 3.59 4.44 5.05 5.73
-0.1 2.19 3.27 4.50 4.78 5.66 6.28
-0.2 4.70 6.47 7.10 7.79 7.64 8.57
-0.3 9.02 10.08 11.25 11.95 13.16 13.43
-0.4 11.02 12.37 13.42 13.83 14.66 14.60
-0.5 5.82 7.47 8.98 9.69 10.21 11.08


Fuenmayor Ramsés. 2006. El Estado Venezolano y la posibilidad de la ciencia (The Venezuelan State and the Possibility of Science). Edited by Fundacite-Mérida, Mérida, Venezuela. http://www.cenditel.gob.ve/carpetas/archivos/fuente/291

Terán, Oswaldo, and Sibertin-Blanc Christophe. 2013. Social Model of a Team Developing a Planning-Methodology. OpenAbm http://www.openabm.org/model/3983/version/4/view

Oswaldo Ramon Teran VillegasChristophe Sibertin-BlancBenoit Gaudou. Modeling and Simulating Moral Emotions in Organizations: exploring its impact on collaboration. Congress of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics (WOSC 2014)bagué (Colombia)15 – 18/10/2014University of Ibagué, p. 726-734, (diploma commendations).

Christophe Sibertin-BlancOswaldo Ramon Teran VillegasThe Efficiency of Organizational Withdrawal vs Commitment.  Social Simulation Conference (SSC 2014)Barcelon (Spain)02-05/09/2014, Francisco J. MIGUEL, (Eds.), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

Oswaldo Teran, Sibertin-Blanc, Christophe, Gaudou Benoit (2013). Identifying Emotions in Organisational Settings: Towards Dealing with Morality. Presented at ICAART-2014.