School of Business and Economics


Professor L. Alberto Franco

Professor Franco and members of the VDP-RIG conduct research on the tools that organisations use to inform decision making

The VDP-RIG has associates throughout Europe and in America

Visual Decision Practices Research Interest Group (VDP-RIG)

Leader: L. Alberto Franco, Professor of Management Sciences

The overall purpose of the Visual Decision Practices Research Interest Group (VDP-RIG) is to study the visual tools that organisations use to perform their decision making practices.

Within and across organisations, visual tools are being increasingly adopted by managers, policy makers and teams to inform their decision making, from simple 2x2 matrices built with post it notes on flipcharts, to sophisticated computer-aided designs and simulation models. Many of these tools have been developed by academics or consultants, and their adoption is commonly linked to specific methodologies (e.g., SWOT analysis, Six Sigma, Scenario Planning, Decision Analysis, Group Model Building) deployed within particular organisational settings (e.g., workshops, meetings).

While published studies on visual tools have mainly assessed the adoption rates of particular tools, research on how they are used in practice have only started to attract academic attention. The VDP RIG will thus explore this under-researched aspect of visual decision practices by drawing on its collective multi-disciplinary expertise (operations management, organisational behaviour, problem structuring, simulation) with a view to assess the extent to which current and new visual tools are delivering their expected value. Specifically, the VDP-RIG will undertake empirical research to:

(1) assess the status of visual decision practices in organisations, and their use;

(2) assess the impact of current and emergent visual tools within their context of use, and identify areas for improvement; and,  

(3) design effective visual decision practices.

Current and recent research projects have encompassed the following themes:

  • The visual dynamics of knowledge production in strategy workshops
  • Managing operations and teams visually
  • Design and use of communication boards for team decision making
  • Using facilitated simulation modelling to evaluate Integrated Care Services
  • The role of objects in building design innovation

Academic Members:


Associate Members:

  • Alice Comi, University of Reading
  • Martin Eppler, University of St Gallen
  • Lise Justesen, University of Copenhagen
  • Isabella Lami, Politecnico di Torino
  • Mie Femo Nielsen, University of Copenhagen
  • Thanos Papadopoulos, University of Sussex
  • Sotirios Paroutis, University of Warwick
  • Marshall Scott Poole, University of Illinois


Papers in refereed journals

Gogi, A., Tako, A.A. and Robinson. S. (2016). An Experimental Investigation into the Role of Simulation Models in Generating Insights. European Journal of Operational Research, 249 (3), pp. 931-944. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2015.09.042


Monks, T., Robinson, S. and Kotiadis, K. (2016) Can involving clients in simulation studies help them solve their future problems? A transfer of learning experiment. European Journal of Operational Research, 249 (3), pp. 919-930. (OPEN ACCESS)


Robinson, S., Worthington, C., Burgess, N. and Radnor, Z.J. (2014).  Facilitated Modelling with Discrete-Event Simulation: Reality or Myth? European Journal of Operational Research, 234, pp. 231–240. doi: 10.1016/j.ejor.2012.12.024

Paroutis, S., Franco, L.A., & Papadopoulos, T. (2014). Visual interactions with strategy tools: Producing strategic knowledge in workshops British Journal of Management

Tavella, E., & Franco, L.A. (2014). Dynamics of group knowledge production in facilitated modelling workshops: An exploratory study. Group Decision and Negotiation 

Franco, L.A. (2013). Rethinking Soft OR Interventions: Models as boundary objects. European Journal of Operational Research, 231, 720-733.

Franco, L.A., Meadows, M. & Armstrong, SJ. (2013). Exploring the Impact of Individual Differences in Scenario Planning Workshops: A cognitive style perspective. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80, 723-734.

Franco, L.A. & Rouwette, EAJA. (2011). Decision Development in Facilitated Modelling Workshops. European Journal of Operational Research, 212, 164-178.

Robinson, S., Worthington, C., Burgess, N. and Radnor, Z.J. (2014).  Facilitated Modelling with Discrete-Event Simulation: Reality or Myth? European Journal of Operational Researchforthcoming. doi: 10.1016/j.ejor.2012.12.024

Robinson, S., Lee, E.P.K. and Edwards, J.S. (2012). Simulation Based Knowledge Elicitation:Effect of Visual Representation and Model Parameters.Expert Systems with Applications, 39, 8479–8489. DOI: 10.1016/j.eswa.2012.01.170

Sage, D., Sircar, I, Dainty, A, Fussey, P, Goodier, C (in press) Understanding and Enhancing Future Infrastructure Resiliency: A Socio-Ecological Approach, Disasters: The Journal of Disaster Studies, Policy and Management

Sage, D. (2013) 'Danger building site-keep out!?': A critical agenda for geographical engagement with contemporary construction industries, Social and Cultural Geography, 14(2), pp.168-191.

Schmidt, R, Sage, D., Eguchi, T, Dainty, A (2012) Moving architecture and flattening politics: Examining adaptability through a narrative of design, Architectural Research Quarterly, 16(1), pp.75-84.

Sage, D. and Dainty, ARJ (2012) Understanding power within project work: The neglected role of material and embodied registers, Engineering Project Organization Journal, 2(4), pp.202-215.

Kotiadis K, Tako A.A. and Vasilakis C. (2013) A participative and facilitative conceptual modelling for discrete event simulation studies in health care. Journal of the Operational Research Society,  doi:10.1057/jors.2012.176.

Kotiadis, K, Tako, A.A., Rouwette E, Vasilakis, C, Brennan J, Gandhi P, Wegstapel H, Sagias F and Webb P. (2013) Using a model of the performance measures in Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) to take action: a case study in health care”, Journal of the Operational Research Society, 64, 125-137.

Radnor, Z. and Robinson, S. (2015). Evaluation of interventions and the application of rapid modelling techniques, to support the development of patient centric integrated services to reduce emergency hospital admissions and improve the user experience. Loughborough Enterprise Projects Group, £107K.

Tako, A. and Robinson, S. (2015). What and How can we Learn from Wrong Models? SIMUL8 Corporation, £3,000.

Dan Sage:

Past projects where ‘the visual’ has been central both to the framing of the research problem and its examination:

  • Resilient Futures; Research Associate; £1.4 million: funded by ESPRC/EPSRC
  • The Role of Objects in Building Design Innovation; Research Associate; £65,000: funded by IMCRC-EPSRC
  • Understanding Project Failure; Research Associate; £250,000: funded by IMCRC-EPSRC


Impact generation

L. Alberto Franco:

  • Guest Editor, Euro Journal on Decision Processes, Special Issue on Problem Structuring Research and Practice (
  • External Advisor to NATO’s Code of Best Practice for Judgment-Based Operational Analysis project (
  • Development of visual interactive decision support systems to prioritise emergent threats in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and value-for-money studies in the National Audit Office (NAO)


Seminars and networking

The VDP-RIGs meets several times through the year for open discussions and seminars.

The programme for 2017 is shown below and will be updated with more details as they become available:




Andrea Lagna: visuality in finance

Semester1 TBA

details to come

Peter Gardner: communication boards experiments

Feb 2017

details to come

Alberto Franco: Video-based research methods

March 2017

details to come

Emma Bell  - guest speaker

May 2017

details to come

Visual Finance workshop

May 2017

details to come


Past events:




Meeting leader

28 January 2015


SBE: Room BE0.25a

Info coming

Alice Comi (Reading University)

4 February 2015


SBE: Room BE2.50

Management accounting in a lean operations environment:  Resolving the illusion of management control through organised dissonance?

Will Seal and Nicola Bateman, SBE 

22 April 2015


Info coming


20 May 2015 11am–1pm  info coming TBC
15 January 2014 12-1pm Simulation-based knowledge elicitation Stewart Robinson, SBE
11 February 2014 12-2pm Use of communications board for team decision making current and future practice 
Nicola Bateman, SBE
20 March 2014 12-1pm Is the God’s eye view from above and afar a masculine way of understanding the world? Dan Sage, SBE
23 April 2014 304pm A systemic approach to visual methodology Donna Champion, Cranfield
13-14 May 8am-6pm International Workshop on Visual Decision Practices L. Alberto Franco, SBE
4 June 3-4pm Exploring the effectiveness of visual features of simulation models in creative problem solving (see ‘video snapshot’ of a simulation model:  Anastasia Gogi, SBE
3 December 2014 12-2pm The materiality of mathematics: Presenting mathematics at the blackboard Christian Greiffenhagen (Social Studies)