[Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | | 0 comments ]

those are the words of Russell Ackoff who, according to wikipedia, is "an American organizational theorist, consultant, and Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Ackoff is a pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking and management science."

about three decades ago, ackoff -- then an operations researcher himself -- wrote a pair of papers titled "The Future of Operational Research is Past" and "Resurrecting the Future of Operational Research". (for those who are curious about minutiae, the acronym OR translates to Operations Research in the US but into Operational Research in Europe, probably for historical reasons.) these articles were published in successive issues of the Journal of Operational Research Society.

ackoff makes several damning indictments of the field of OR. it is not my intent to defend OR. it could be argued the fact that OR survives thirty years after those papers were written is defense enough. nevertheless, there are several points that ackoff makes that ought to be of interest to this audience. practitioners of OR may recognize that some of the criticism he offers is valid to this day.

the two papers are worth reading in their entirety. given that you're reading this blog, i suspect that you may not be inclined to read something quite as heavy as a pair of journal papers. in my opinion, ackoff's paper is better nibbled on and chewed carefully rather than swallowed whole. to make it easier for you, i plan to produce excerpts from those papers and comment on each of them. each entry in this series is intended to highlight an aspect of ackoff's pronouncement of the death of OR or an element of his recommendation for its resurrection. stay tuned ...


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