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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Business School : Common Courses (Management School)

Postgraduate Course: Governing Decision-Making Through Data Visualisations (CMSE11441)

Course Outline
SchoolBusiness School CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits15 ECTS Credits7.5
SummaryThe course aims to equip participants with a critical understanding of the functioning and use of financial data and metrics in real business situations in order to manage complexity and uncertainty. It will enable students to acquire new principles to design management control systems, data visualisations (e.g. dashboards) that enable managers to govern complex organisations and major programmes in order for them to cope with complexity and uncertainty.
Course description Academic Description
The course will provide a critical understanding of data visualisations (e.g. dashboards) to equip managers with practical tools to govern ambiguity, complexity and the management of unknown-unknowns in decision-making processes. It draws on theories developed in interdisciplinary accounting, science and technology studies, rhetoric and communication studies blending them in ways that equip students with a novel understanding of the roles that data visualisations and financial representations play in organisations and megaprojects.
At the end of the course, participants are expected to:
- Understand the use in practice and limitations of basic financial techniques to assess the viability of major investment decisions;
- Link various degrees of risk to different financing options and understand how financial metrics may distort our perception of risk and feasibility;
- Design data visualisations to monitor performance, stimulate collaboration and mediation of conflicting interests, question taken-for-granted assumptions when making decisions;
- Utilise performance measurement and control techniques to mobilise change, increase chances of success and avoid failure;
- Be aware of the organisational, political and social role that accounting figures can play in practical settings where stakeholders have varied and conflicting interests.

Outline Content
The first Sessions (1 to 4) are dedicated to introduce the overall themes of the course, its structure, the role of the participants in class and, above all, the approach followed in treating issues of management control under situations of risk and uncertainty, especially in relation to large organisations and megaprojects.
We will move beyond a conventional view of management control as a mere technical matter based on objective accounting calculations to introduce various roles that these play in organisations and programme management.
While the first 4 sessions serve to identify various roles that management control practices play in organisations that operate under conditions of risk and uncertainty. This second block of sessions (5 and 6) is used to discuss some technical issues and calculative practices, and assess their pros and cons when used for supporting large infrastructural and industrial investment decisions. Specifically, we will look at risks entailed by cash flow discounting techniques in assessing viability of such investments and the factors to take into account when evaluating large infrastructure investments. We will also discuss how financial numbers can be used in managing stakeholders and media when communicating (intermediate and final) financial results.
The remaining sessions (7 to 10)of the course will explore how to build effective management control systems in situations of ambiguity and uncertainty, introducing issues related to assessing performance and risk, and controlling the ongoing development of the venture. Here we will identify a series of principles that can be used to design effective data visualisations in order for them to work as tools to govern uncertainty and manage the complexities entailed by unknown-unknowns.

Student Learning Experience
The course combines traditional lecturing, with case study discussion and workshop with group work and peer learning.
The course requires students to prepare the cases to be discussed before class. It is envisaged that each case requires two hours of preparation.
The course is run more along the lines of an executive education course than a conventional MSc class. This is in line with recent innovations in the delivery of business education also at the post-graduate level which sees the increasing importance of group activities within settings that are more similar to a workshop than a traditional front lecture. The combination of lecturing with supervised workshop and outside class work also enables an effective combination of abstract academic knowledge with the enhancement of practical skills. More generally, a good combination of lecturing and active student participation avoids loss of attention and helps focusing.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand complexities in change and project management, and illustrate the effect of these complexities on financial management
  2. Create a model describing the various roles accounting and management control play when facing increasing degrees of uncertainty and complexity
  3. Understand how to use data visualisation as tools to govern complex organisations and programmes in order to scrutinise uncertainty and risk and explore unknown-unknowns, and understand how data visualisations play different roles (from providing answers to help learning, via mediating political and contextual issues) in various phases of the decision making processes.
  4. Understand issues in stakeholders' and media management when communicating financial results to internal and external audiences
  5. Understand the basic economics of large infrastructure and industrial investments, the advantages and risks involved in using calculative techniques in assessing the financial viability of such investments.
Reading List
Macintosh, N. Quattrone, P., (2010). Management Accounting and Control Systems: An Organizational and Sociological Approach. New York: John Wiley (ISBN:978-0-470-71447-8): Chapters 3, 8, 9, 10, 11.
Molloy, E and Van Donk, D, (2008) From Organising as Projects to Projects as Organisations. International Journal of Project Management, 26(2): 129-137
Porter, TM., (1994). Making things quantitative, in Power, M. (ed.) Accounting and Science: Natural inquiry and commercial reason, pp. 36-56. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Quattrone, P. (2017). Embracing ambiguity in management controls and decision-making processes: On how to design data visualizations to prompt judgement. Accounting and Business Research, 47:5, 588-612.
Simons, R., (1995) Control in an Age of Empowerment, Harvard Business Review, 73(2):80-88.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will contribute to the majority of the skills required in the Business school matrix. It will enhance General Skills Attributes such as written and oral communication, teamwork (through class participation and group work), analytical and reflective thinking (through the reflection components of the course), understanding of ethical issues (by unpacking the classificatory and at times discriminatory power of calculative practices), application of knowledge (by applying data visualisation design principles to their group work).

Being the course on data visualisations and how they serve as tools of governance, the course will also map nicely against other more specific skills described in the matrix, especially in relation to Digital leadership skills, flexibility (especially when discussing agile and evolutionary methods of control), diversity and multicultural environment, numeracy and big data.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Paolo Quattrone
Course secretaryMrs Kelly-Ann De Wet
Tel: (0131 6)50 8071
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