Fransoo, Jan C. and Vincent C.S. Wiers

Action variety of planners: Cognitive load and requisite variety

Journal of Operations Management, 24 (6): 821-813, (2006).

Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1016/j.jom.2005.09.008

Abstract: The complexity of planning tasks have increased over the past decade. There is relatively poor understanding what the implications are of increased task complexity in planning and scheduling operations. Previous work in the behavioral sciences have investigated the concept of cognitive load, addressing both task complexity and task workload or stress, and have concluded that decision makers tend to resort to routine action and reduce the variety in their actions with increasing complexity and workload. Alternatively, control theory suggests that a higher variety of actions is needed to deal with more complex problems. In this paper, we investigate the effects of task complexity in a chemical plant on the variety of actions deployed by the planners. The single work center resource structure and the availability of actual planning data from an MRP-application database allows us to both use field data and study a situation which is simple enough to measure the main effect. Our results suggest that increased task complexity without time pressure does indeed lead to increased action variety deployed by the planners. Keywords: Cognitive load; Task complexity; Field study; Chemical industry; Requisite variety

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