Abstract for: The Seen and Unseen: Emergent Control and Project Progress in IS Integration Efforts

This simulation study proposes a theory of emergent control of collaborative group process that relies on feedback loops containing both tangible accumulations of work-in-process and intangible accumulations of individual and group understanding and engagement. The theory was constructed through a series of group model building sessions among action researchers who had worked as participant-observers in National Science Foundation-sponsored initiatives to integrate information systems of New York’s criminal justice agencies and offices. The paper’s contributions are 1) articulating a “control theory” appropriate for emergent, collaborative processes that must rely on reinforcing feedbacks, as well as negative feedback loops; 2) proposing a coherent explanation with which scholars and practitioners can understand and manage the interplay of tangible and intangible accumulations generated by purposive group activities; 3) demonstrating an innovative approach to theory construction through the group model building process.