Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Carbon Mgmt. Practices versus Carbon Mgmt. Systems

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Brian Pentland and Martha Feldman discuss “the folly of designing artifacts, while hoping for patterns of actions” in a 2008 paper published in Information and Organization (citation below):

Using the example of a failed software implementation, we discuss the role of artifacts in shaping organizational routines. We argue that artifact-centered assumptions about design are not well suited to designing organizational routines, which are generative systems that produce recognizable, repetitive patterns of interdependent actions, carried out by multiple actors. Artifact-centered assumptions about design not only reinforce a widespread misunderstanding of routines as things, they implicitly embody a rather strong form of technological determinism. As an alternative perspective, we discuss the use of narrative networks as a way to conceptualize the role of human and non-human actants, and to represent the variable patterns of action that are characteristic of ‘‘live” routines. Using this perspective, we conclude with some suggestions on how to design organizational routines that are more consistent with their nature as generative systems. [my emphasis in bold]

Could this be happening in the carbon management system (CMS) context? Organizations might want better monitoring, reporting, and overall management of their carbon emissions (routines). However, could adoption of developed CMS systems (artifact) be a case of “artifact-centered assumptions about design” not being “well suited to designing organizational routines”?

Put another way: what are the desired organizational routines concerning carbon management and how might they be embedded in designs of carbon management systems? The authors provide some guidance here:

  • consider the ostensive aspects (recognizable patterns)
  • consider point of view of each actor
  • create ruts in the road for desired actions (e.g., incentives)
  • think of users as designers
  • lock in events you care most about.
  • be prepared for continued engagement with “live” routines

Adapting the idea of routines to the carbon management system context suggests not only why failure might occur, but more importantly,  how to avoid failure in the first place.

Pentland, B.T., and Feldman, M.S. “Designing Routines: On the Folly of Designing Artifacts While Hoping for Patterns of Action,” Information and Organization (18:4) 2008, pp 235-250.


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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