Analyze actors' games
The MACTOR Method
The MACTOR method of analyzing actors' games seeks to gauge the balance of power between actors and study their convergences and divergences when faced with a certain number of associated stakes and objectives.
By means of this analysis, the MACTOR method aims to assist in making decisions so that actors can implement their alliances and conflicts policies.
Description of the method
The MACTOR method comprises seven phases :
• Phase 1 : Constructing the table of actors' strategies
The construction of this table involves the actors who control the key variables generated from the structural analysis. The interaction of these driving force actors explains the evolution of the variables ordered. The ideal number of actors is between 10 and 20.
The information gathered about the actors is set out in the following way :
• Phase 2 : Identifying strategic stakes and associated objectives
The meeting of actors according to their goals, projects and means of action brings out a certain number of strategic stakes on which actors have convergent or divergent aims.
• Phase 3 : Positioning the actors in relation to objectives and identifying convergences and divergences (simple position)
During this phase, the attitude of each actor in respect to each objective must be described in a actors x objectives matrix by indicating agreement (+1), disagreement (-1) or neutrality (0).
In order to compile a list of sets of possible alliances and conflicts, the MACTOR method specifies the number and objectives over which the actors, in pairs, converge or diverge.
First, two complete diagrams of convergences followed by possible divergences are made. They enable one to visualize the groups of actors that have a convergence of interest, to assess the degree of apparent freedom, to identify those actors who are potentially the most threatened and to analyze the stability of the system. The following diagram therefore illustrates the absence of common objectives between the Paris Airport, for example, and its administrator, the State.
• Phase 4 : Ranking the objectives for each actor (valued positions)
The previously constructed diagrams remain fairly elementary since they take into account only the number of convergences and divergences of objectives between actors. To bring the model nearer to reality, one must also take into account the hierarchy of objectives for each actor. The intensity of each actor's positioning is thus evaluated using a specific scale.
• Phase 5 : Evaluating the balance of power between actors
A matrix of direct influences between actors is constructed using a strategic table of actors by analysing each actor's means of action. Balance of power is calculated by the MACTOR software package, taking both direct and indirect means of action into account, e.g., an actor being able to have an influence on another through a third person.
An influence-dependence plan of the actors is then made. Analysis of the balance of power between actors represents the strengths and weaknesses of each actor, their blocking possibilities, etc.
• Phase 6 : Incorporating the balance of power into the analysis of convergences and divergences between actors
To say that an actor has twice as much weight as another in overall balance of power implicitly gives double weight to his/her involvement in the objectives that interest him/her. Indeed the goal of this stage consists in incorporating all the actors balance of power into the intensity of their positioning in relation to the objectives.
New diagrams of possible convergences and divergences between all actors can thus be obtained. The comparison between the series of diagrams enables one to observe how potential alliances and conflicts become deformed by taking account of the hierarchy of objectives and the balance of power among actors.
• Phase 7 : Formulating strategic recommendations and key questions for the future
The MACTOR method brings to light the interplay of potential alliances and conflicts among actors and in this way helps formulating key questions for prospective and strategic recommendations. For example, the method helps to question the evolution of the relationships between actors, the emergence and disappearance of actors, role changes, etc...
Usefulness and limitations
One advantage of the MACTOR method is that it works for a wide range of strategies involving several actors using a series of stakes and associated objectives. In this, it is different from research coming from game theory which often results in the construction of models which can be applied but are not applicable. Nevertheless, significant progress may be made through a closer relationship between the concepts of game theory and the MACTOR method.
The MACTOR method contains a certain number of limitations concerning the gathering of necessary information. A certain reticence on the part of the actors may be observed when they are asked to reveal their strategic projects and external means of action. There is the insurmountable element of confidentiality (one can nevertheless cross-check the data). Furthermore, representing an actor game on the basis of this method presupposes consistent behaviour on the part of each actor in relation to the outcome, which is often contradicted in reality. In terms of tools, MACTOR software currently requires only two tables of data from which several pages of result listing and diagrams can be obtained. Yet, this is the main danger that lies in wait for MACTOR’s users seduced, even carried away by the tide of results and comments generated, they forget that everthing depends on the quality of the input data as well as the ability to pick out the most relevant results.
At a practical level, the time it takes to analyse an actor's game in the MACTOR method (2 to 5 months) is generally shorter than it is required for a structural analysis. The time needed for gathering and checking the information and then analysing it, however, must not be underestimated. Althought the MACTOR method fits into the scenario method, it can also be used on its own, either for prospective purposes or for the analysis of a given strategic situation.
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