Build activity models


Building activity models means putting together the activities needed to describe the transforming process, in other words defining and linking the activities needed to achieve the transformation process. It is about the activities which do the transforming. Every phrase in the root definition should lead to something in the model, and every activity in the model must be linkable to something in the root definition.

The purposeful activity models can never be descriptions of (a part of) the real world. They model only one way of looking at reality, one world view. Activity models are devices which make sure that the learning process is not at random, but organized.

In addition to the root definition, it is useful to include control and monitoring activities by thinking about performance criteria, such as efficacy, (is the intended outcome produced?), efficiency (is the transformation achieved with a minimum use of resources) and effectiveness (does the transformation help achieve some higher-level or longer term aim?)

Activity models do not model the current ways of working but rather the concepts in the root definition. The aim is to question current practice by comparing the model to the real world situation.

It is useful to make models of purposeful activities whose boundaries cut across organizational boundaries, instead of accepting the organizational boundaries as a given. Purposeful activities are often institutionalized within departments, divisions, sections etc. Therefore it is tempting to model activities along internal organizational boundaries. Although this is not wrong, one should be conscious about the limitations this brings about. For example, organizational boundaries of departments are often linked to power play going on in organizations, because it is about allocating resources. To stimulate the (out of the box) thinking of the researchers it is useful to make models of purposeful activity cutting across organizational boundaries, hence independent of existing structures. You should not be modelling the current ways of working, but rather questioning current practice and build theoretical activity models, which are next compared to the real world. Also remember to stay focused on the root definition when building the model. Notice that the activity models do not purport to become accounts of what we would wish the real world to be like. They could not, since they are artificial devices based on a pure worldview, whereas human groups are always characterized by multiple conflicting worldviews (even within one individual) which themselves change over time.


The following steps could help you to build activity models:

1)     Assemble the guidelines: PQR, CATWOE etc.

2)     Write down three groups of activities – those which concern the thing which gets transformed, those activities which do the transforming, and any activities concerned with dealing with the transformed entity.

3)     Connect the activities by arrows which indicate the dependency of one activity upon another.

4)     Add the three monitoring and control activities.

5)     Check the model against the guidelines.  Does every phrase in the root definition lead to something in the model? Can every activity in the model be linked back to something in the root definition?

As a guideline, the operational part of the model could contain 7+/-2 activities.