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This is the recreation of the Cohen, March and Olsen (1972) Garbage Can Model or organizational decision making
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Garbage_Can_Model ver 4.0

This is the recreation of the Cohen, March and Olsen (1972) Garbage Can Model of organizational decision making using Python 2.7.6 and numpy

I wanted to recreate the model and rewrite it in Python to better understand how it works. I don't know Fortran but I managed to use the original code from the Appendix as a guide in building the model.

For those interested in how the model works I would point you to the original article first. You can then use the Python model I created to recreate the original results and play with the assumptions. Wherever possible I tried to preserve the original names of variables, vectors and matrices.

You will need numpy, random and xlwt to run the model. At the end you will receive a summary Excel file (remember to edit the destination for the file). The file contains the results of the simulation for each of the combination of parameters (net energy load, energy distribution, problems-to-choices access matrix, choices-to-decision makers access matrix).

The output has 81 rows, one for each combination of parameters and 18 columns for results, which are (per number of column)

  1. net energy load option

  2. energy distribution option

  3. problems-to-choices access matrix

  4. choices-to-decision makers access matrix

  5. mean # of resolutions

  6. mean # of oversights

  7. mean # of flights

  8. mean # of quickies (my addition)

  9. mean # of unresolved

  10. mean # of problems shifting

  11. mean # of active problems

  12. mean of problem latency

  13. mean # of active decision makers

  14. mean # of shifts for decision makers

  15. mean energy spent

  16. mean excess energy

  17. mean # of unresolved choices

  18. mean # of active choices


This code has been tested using Python 2.7 through the Anaconda Python distribution

Required modules:

  • random
  • numpy
  • xlwt


Cohen, Michael D., James G. March, and Johan P. Olsen. 1972. "A garbage can model of organizational choice." Administrative Science Quarterly: (17)1: 1-25.

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