Obstructions to Development in a University Facilities Department: A Systems Approach

Date of Submission


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Science in Management Systems (Sc.D.)




Abbas Nadim

Committee Member

Louis Mottola

Committee Member

Steven Goldberg

LC Subject Headings

College facilities--Planning, Universities and colleges--Administration

Call No. at the Univ. of New Haven Library

AS 36 .N290 Mgmt. Syst. 1994 no.1


The Facilities Department of an east coast university was being reviewed and evaluated to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of some of its functional responsibilities. This provided the opportunity, in a systems-based, single site, action research mode, to explore these research questions: How are obstructions to development manifested in a higher education setting? How can these obstructions be dissolved, that is, what are some methods for the removal of the obstructions? What are some interventions to test certain of these methods for the removal of obstructions?

Using the Interactive Planning Model and the Soft Systems Methodology as the basis of the research methodology, observations, interviews, joint problem solving, and documentation reviews were used to uncover and describe eleven significant obstructions to development. These included hopelessness, lack of a shared image of a desired future, fear of loss of identity, ignorance, sense of powerlessness, aberrant foci of power, fear of losing legitimacy of power, insufficient resources, fear of appropriation of one's wealth, and two forms of conflict. Nineteen interventions were implemented to test methods of obstruction removal. The learning from the study was reintroduced into the change activities. System redesign was also undertaken. Additional situational revelations were presented, including the need for continuous obstruction analyses, without which progress towards an idealized design is not possible. An evidence gathering tool was developed to facilitate the journal review, and an Interactive Action Method for obstruction dissolution and problem solving was developed from the two systems models utilized in the study.