Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 171–195 | Cite as

The virtual design team: A computational model of project organizations

  • Yan Jin
  • Raymond E. Levitt


Large scale and multidisciplinary engineering projects (e.g., design of a hospital building) are often complex. They usually involve many interdependent activities and require intensive coordination among actors (i.e., designers) to deal with activity interdependencies. To make such projects more effective and efficient, one needs to understand how coordination requirements are generated and what coordination mechanisms should be applied for given project situations. Our research on the Virtual Design Team (VDT) attempts to develop a computational model of project organizations to analyze how activity interdependencies raise coordination needs and how organization design and communication tools change team coordination capacity and project performance. The VDT model is built based on contingency theory (Galbraith, 1977) and our observations about collaborative and multidisciplinary work in large, complex projects. VDT explicitly models actors, activities, communication tools and organizations. Based on our extended information-processing view of organizations, VDT simulates the actions of, and interactions among actors as processes of attention allocation, capacity allocation, and communication. VDT evaluates organization performance by measuring emergent project duration, direct cost, and coordination quality. The VDT model has been tested internally, and evaluated externally through case-studies. We found three way qualitative consistency among predictions of the simulation model, of organization theory, and of experienced project managers. In this paper, we present the VDT model in detail and discuss some general issues involved in computational organization modeling, including level of abstraction of tasks and actors' reasoning, and model validation.


organization design simulation organization modeling organizational analysis tools 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yan Jin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raymond E. Levitt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles
  2. 2.the IMPACT LaboratoryUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringStanford UniversityStanford

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