Core Elements of Models

This page presents the elements of the model of an organization’s structure as it is edited in SocLab.

Contents :

Actors and Relations
Resources and Relations
Actors and their stakes
Organization’s state, Power and Action Capacity
Satisfaction and Influence
Group Identification

Actors and Relations

Actors and Relations : the Organization’s structure core

The structure of an organization complies with the meta-model represented on the upper figure as a UML class diagram. Accordingly, the structure of an organization includes a set of Actors and a set of social Relations that are linked by the Control and Depend relationships. The actors are the active entities who handle the relations. When an actor acts(), he moves() the states of the relations he controls, and he is the only one to be able to do so. An actor also depends on some relations, most often including the ones he controls. He distributes stakes on each of these relations, and the impact of a relation upon an actor is the value of the effect() function applied to the state of the relation weighted by the stake. Consequently, an actor gets some capability, or action capacity, as an aggregation of the impacts he receives from the relations he depends on, and he exerts some power, as an aggregation of the impacts he grants to the actors who depend on the relations he controls.

The complete meta-model

Resources and relations

Every relationis founded on an organization’s resource, or a set of resources that are used in conjunction with one another. Resources are concrete or abstract, material or cognitive, entities or entities’ qualities which are involved in actors’ activities and whose availability is somehow necessary or useful to achieve actions in the context of the organization.

There is a social relation between actors (one who controls the relation, one or several others that are dependent) when they repeatedly interact about a specific kind of access to a resource (or a set off related resources), and the relation is the persistent matter of these interactions. The actor who controls a relation is in a position to define how the resource is available to the others, and thereby, he controls to what extent the dependent actors will be able to reach their goals.

A key idea of SOA is that every relation is an unbalanced power relationship: there is always an actor who dominates the others in every relation. But it is a mutual dependence that is never definitive: an actor a dominated by an actor b in a relation, can dominate b in another relation, possibly via a third actor c.

The state attribute of a relation stands for the behavior of the actor who controls the relation, i.e. his policy with regard to the access to the supporting resource. The state of a relation measures to what extent the relation is managed in a cooperative way. The value of the state of a relation is defined inside a space of behaviors, representing the set of all the behaviors that the controller actor can adopt in the management of the relation. This interval is oriented: the lower bound represents the least cooperative behaviors, the upper bound represents the most cooperative behaviors, while the zero value stands for neutral behaviors that comply with the norms and may be qualified neither as cooperative nor as uncooperative.

The state of a relation– in fact the behavior of its controller actor – has an effect upon the actors who depend on this relation: it determines the availability of the underlying resource perceived by each actor and to what extent he is granted to use the resource according to his goals. Effects take values on a bipolar arbitrary scale from -10 prevention) to 10 (facilitation) measuring a capacity of action:

worst access =-10, strongly prevented = -8, …, neutral =0, …, good =6,…, optimal =10.

The greater the effect for a given actor, the more usable the resource for his intents, and the larger his capability to realize his aims. When the controller of a relation r chooses a state value s in the space of behaviors of the relation,the effect on a dependent actor a is given by effect_r(a, s). More formally, the effectr() function of a relation r is defined as:

effect_r : A \times SB_r \rightarrow [-10, 10] ,

where A is the set of actors, SBr the space of behaviors of relation r and [-10, 10] the range of the capability to use a resource. As an actor cannot be indifferent to its own behavior, he depends on the relations he controls.

Actors and their Stakes

Actors and relations are defined in relation one to another, in a dialogical way: something is a relation if and only if some actors depend on it, and someone is an actor if and only if he controls some relation. Actors of an organization are either individual actors, collective actors, that is groups of individuals that interact with others as a single entity in the considered context of action, or plural actors, that is sets of individuals that interact each one on his own but in a similar way so that their behaviors may be averaged.

How much an actor depends on a relation is determined by the necessity of the related resource for the achievement of his goals and the relative importance of this goal. This is depicted by the stake attribute of the depend relationship. The more valuable a relation is for an actor, the higher his stake on this relation. Stakes are represented by numerical coefficients, on an arbitrary scale from 0 to 10:

null =0, negligible =1,… ,significant =5,… , critical =10.

In order to provide every actor with the same degree of investment in the organization, each actor distributes a total amount of 10 stake marks.

The SOA analysis of an organization focuses on what the actors need to reach their goals rather than on the nature of these goals. SOA does not try to analyze the world of the goals, that are quite opaque, confuse and most often incoherent; it just considers the actors’ stakes, that are the projection of these goals in the phenomenological world of the observable behaviors. Under the rational behavior assumption, actors with different aims but similar stakes will have similar social behaviors.

Organization’s state, Power and Action Capacity

The state of the organization, or one of its possible configurations, is the vector of all the relations’ states. For each actor and each relation he depends on, we define the relation’s impact as its effect weighted by the actor’s stake. The aggregation of the impacts of an actor depicts his overall ability to access the resources he needs to reach his goals, weighted by their relative importance regarding his goals. It measures the configuration-dependent actor’s capability to reach his goals, by having the means required to this end.The capability of an actor a, when the organization is in the state s, is defined by:

\begin{array}{rcl} capability(a,s)&=& \sum_{r \in R} stake(a,r)*effect_r(a,s_r)\\&=&\sum_{r \in R} impact(a,r,s) \end{array}

where stake(a, r) is the stake of a on relation r and effectr(a, sr) is the effect on a of the relation r being in the state sr.

Since any actor controls some relations, he contributes to the capability of actors who depend on these relations. The global influence of an actor on the capability of others, i.e. to what extent his behavior contributes to their ability to reach their goals, fits the concept of power, a core concept in SOA. The power exerted by an actor a upon an actor b when the organization is in the state s, is defined by:

power(a,,bs)= \sum_{r \in R,\ a\ controls\ r} stake(b,r)*effect_r(b,s_r)

where R stands for the sot of the relations, and A stands for the  set of Actors.

It is also relevant to consider the cooperative_power (i.e. the sum of positive contributions/impacts) and the uncooperative_power (i.e. the sum of the negative impacts) of an actor. The absolute power is the sum of contributions absolute values.

Solidarities, Satisfaction and Influence

The interactions among the actors of an organization are not totally framed by resource-based relations. They are links outside the organization that influence the way they consider each other such as kinship links, common social conditions, scholarships or membership to another organization. They are also links tied inside the organization such as esteem, recognized shared or opposite interests that would be artificially represented by resources of the organization, while they clearly affect the actors’ behaviors. That leads us to introduce the solidarities the actors maintain between them, to model how they account each other.

Solidarities are represented by a function which measures the degree of solidarity solidarity(a, b) that an actor a puts on an actor b:

solidarity: A\times A \rightarrow [-1, 1] such that $latex \forall a \in A, \ solidarity (a,a) = 1$

where negative values represent hostility, zero represents disinterest, and positive values real solidarities.

The introduction of solidarities leads us to consider two quantities, in addition to the capability and power, to characterize a social configuration: Satisfaction and Influence. When an organization is in a state s, the satisfaction perceived by an actor a is the sum of the capabilities of all the actors, weighted by his solidarities for them:

satisfaction(a,s)=\sum_{b\in A} solidarity(a,b)* capability(b,s)

The capability of an actor evaluates his effective freedom of action while his satisfaction accounts for the representation that guides his behavior.

In the reverse way, the influence exerted by an actor a on another actor b is the sum of the impacts of the relations controlled by a, weighted by the solidarities of b over all the actors:

influence(a,b,s)=\sum_{c \in A} solidarity(b,c)*power(b,c,s)

Group Identification

Actors’ group identification is highly important for norms compliance, and collaboration (e.g., in a System of Organised Action (SOA)). In (Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy, 2014, section “5. Social Identity”) group identity/identification is defined as that component of an individual’s self concept derived by his membership to a group, along the value and emotional significance of such membership. As far as an individual becomes part of a group, and characterizes himself as part of the group, his perception of the self, aswell as his motives, are affected and modified in an impersonal form in dimensions that characterize the group. As a consequence, behavior in favor of the group in detriment of out-group members, and of self interest, appear.

Similarly, Simon (1998) defines organisational identification as organisational loyalty, which is both motivational and cognitive. The motivational component of group identification is conceived as “the attachment to group goals and a willingness to work for them even at some cost of personal goals. (In effect the group goals become personal goals).” (pp. 43-44). The second component, the cognitive one, is defined as the picture of the world, or point of view, of the individual created by the specific organisational information, conceptions and frames of reference (different from those of people outside the organisation). This view point is a simplified view of the world given that we, humans, have bounded rationality.

These ideas of group identification are important to explain why many human activities occur in organizations (when compared, e.g., to markets).In fact the action of little engaged/identified actors of an organization might resemble the action of actors in a market. Simon suggests using this notion to identify the borders between markets (where self interest prevails) and organizations (where collaboration in terms of achieving a common goal is fundamental).

Factors related with GI.

The GI degree of an actor with his SOA can be associated to certain characteristics of GI. Some features of GI suggested in (Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy, 2014, section “5. Social Identity”) are: i) similarity among members of the group, ii) group cohesion, iii) tendency to cooperate in order to achieve common goals, iv) shared attitudes and beliefs, and v) conformity to group norms.

On the other hand, March and Simon (1993, section “3.4. motivation to produce”) consider that GI is strongly related with: i) frequency of group interaction, ii) extension at which the goals of the group are shared, iii) degree at which the needs of the individual are satisfied in the group, iv) perceived prestige of the group, and v) amount of competition in the group. Some of these factors are related with the above mentioned ones; for instance, frequency of group interaction is related to the factors i), and iv) mentioned above. Additional elements useful for describing identification are given by March and Simon (1993), for instance, in relation to the intraorganisational conflict, and to the perception or situation of an actor (Section 5.3: “Organizational conflict: Intergroup Conflict Within an Organization”, and Section 6.3. “Perception and Identification”).

We will briefly discuss some GI factors that deserve particular attention:

First, similarity among a set of actors (e.g., in terms of attitudes and goals) might occur is they share a common interest and background; e.g., if they are, and have been, part of the same communities and groups.

Second, no conformity to the group norms can sometimes be checked by looking at the between actors solidarities, and internal coalitions. For instance, if solidarities indicate that coalitions among members of the group, or any other kind of interest contrary to the interest of the SOA exist, then norm compliance by the involved actors in such groups is uncertain, and must be checked. Norm compliance is also dubious if an actor’s collaboration is low; for instance, if what an actor gives to the others in relation to what it can give to the others is scarce, then the actor might be violating norms of collaboration. In both of these cases, some actors have particular interests, which are in conflict with those of the SOA, and to which them direct effort and cognitive attention, probably becoming weakly engaged and rather distanced from the SOA.

Third, in general the tendency to cooperate in a SOA can be related with two issues: the individual interest of the actor and its relation with the interest of the SOA, and the morality of the actor and its general tendency to cooperate. The former issue can be described as the extent to which the interest of the actor and its hierarchy of objectives (especially middle term and long term objectives) are close to the SOA/group goals – if they are close enough, the achievement of the goals of the actor will benefit from the achievement of the goals of the SOA –. Let us illustrate this point with an example: if the main goal of the SOA is to increase care of nature and protection of local environment, and additionally the actor has the following goals/interests: to spend their life in that locality and to have a high level of weather quality, then the disposition of the actor to cooperate takes a high value. In SocLab this means that the global satisfaction of the SOA coincides with the actor’s satisfaction. The latter issue is the extent to which the actor itself is willing to give more than to receive in the common activities it is engaged in life, i.e., this variable is the level of engagement that usually the actor shows in group action in which it takes part.

Four, group cohesion is a relational component of group identification. Some researchers define cohesion as the number of independent paths in the social network (the SOA in our case) under consideration.

Defining the aim of an actor in SocLab.

An actor’s group identification is then linked to its disposition to collaborate in a group in favor of the interest of the group. As long as an actor identifies with an organization (e.g., a SOA), it adopts the organisational norms, view point, interest and goals. This strongly influences the decision making process of the actor. In particular, an actor adherence to an organisation’s norms and the actor’s identification with this organisation are highly correlated.

The specific interrelationships between pairs of actors in an organization, as long as they contribute with the achievement of the organisational goal, are relational elements of (group) identification with the organization. For instance, what an actor gives to some other actor (level of collaboration) might be considered as a partial measure of this relationship; i.e., as a measure of group identification. An actor’s total or organizational identification could be defined as the aggregated value of the values of these between actors measures (it represents the total given by the actor to the others).

Similarly, an actor disposition to give to the organization is associated to his GI. Consequently, the aim of an actor can be defined as a linear combination of what it receives and what it gives, pondered by its GI. More concretely, in a state s of a SocLab simulation, the aim of an actor acan be defined as:

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

where the abs() function returns the absolute value of a number. Thus, GI defines how important is for the actor a what it gives to the organization (influence), in comparison to what it receives (satisfaction). For more about this, see the case: A team in a Latin-American Public Foundation.


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