Application of Soft Systems Methodology By Name Course Professor University City/State Date In management, problematic situations often arise. Some from a need to harmonize different peoples’ perceptions, some from need to expand the business and others from the need to start new projects The soft system methodology is a general approach for addressing real-world difficult situations in management.
It has been developed with time as a result of extensive research by Peter Checkland and Brian Wilson among others. It grants a framework for a step by step enquiry and knowledge concerning the organization. It provides a clearly defined research approach that is action based to assist in addressing iniquitous problems. It concerns developing models that don’t represent the real world but allows people to structure their thinking about the existent world through the use of systems principles and rules.
It constrains thinking with an intention of eventually expanding it. It all begins with a real world problem and it is from the problem that the model is created. It makes some assumptions: That most organizational and management problems cannot be perceived as wholesome systems problems because the system is too complex to analyze and it also assumes that applying a complete approach to a non-systemic problem is important.
There are the factors that make it suitable for use in projects: It is suitable for complex, messy situations, it is adaptable to the real world, it culminates into a learning process, it teases the problem situation thus making it more creative in the problem solving process and it is excellent at pointing lines and/or areas of weakness and also at spotting relationships, a vital aspect in project management. The client’s project brief helps in identification of the firm’s goal, the strategic direction that the firm can use to achieve the goals.
From it we can also identify the contrasting poles; the two options that can be taken towards achieving the goal. This makes it a complex problem, a specialization of Soft Systems Methodology. It has seven stages addressing both the conceptual and real worlds. The first stage is the problem situation that is considered difficult and messy. This stage is in the real world and it involves acknowledging, investigating and defining the problem. At this stage, there are no constraints caused by organizational boundaries or strict definitions.
Data is collected in whatever form and using any statistically appropriate method. In the second stage, the problem is somehow expressed in the totality of its richness using the data collected. It should include processes, climate, issues that people express, people, conflicts and structures. According to Checkland, the best way of executing this stage is by the use of pictures. These inclusions should be evaluated to deduce what they entail. The third stage is about root definitions.
A root definition is a sentence put across in usual language, consisting of elements according to the mnemonic CATWOE, whereby C stands for customers who are the victims of the transformation, A for Actors who perform the transformation, T for the transformation process, W for Weltanschauung which is the world view that makes the transformation meaningful in a perspective, O stands for owners that are able to alter the transformation and E for environmental constraints; elements that the system takes as given.
It is in the conceptual world and is mooted as the most difficult stage of the methodology. First and foremost, understanding of the different perspectives’ concepts that can be drawn from the rich picture is crucial. In the words of Checkland, they are called holons. Stage four is the development of the conceptual model using the root definitions. The conceptual model is the planned set of activities that logic calls for in a speculative system which essentially is the one described in the root definition. Stage five entails comparing conceptual models with the reality.
Different models formulated can be compared in order to get the best model. Pitfalls of the model are outlined for improvement. Stage six involves outlining possible adjustments that are feasible and advantageous and finally, stage seven is the implementation of the approved changes at stage six. SSM ANALYSIS 1-Client’s perspective In the first stage we start with the situation that needs intervention in this project. The company is in the process of expanding to levels that it will be able to compete with the best in the United Kingdom.
As the company expands, so do its responsibilities; to the industry, to the community and future trends. It has a responsibility to the environment. However, as it strives to fulfil its responsibilities to the environment, there are several other factors that have to be put into consideration. The other factors that come into play can be researched by the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. This would help to produce results as per the different perspectives of the company’s employees and those it affects.
In the second stage, our problem situation is how to fulfil the company’s responsibility to the environment. Prospective clients I can’t affords that Competitors Will customers support the change? I think I can afford CompanyCustomer Will the change be very costly? I better clean it myself Will the changes be sustainable? It will all depend on the quality * Improved performance * Services that are environment friendly * Services at affordable cost Shareholders Environmentalregulators Root Definition
A system that is jointly owned by the client and its consumers with the available cleaning resources to ensure that the consumers get cleaning services at an affordable cost and in a way that will not impact negatively on their environment by using environment friendly cleaners within the constraints of time and budgetary allocations while meeting the high standards expected by the shareholders, prospective clients and environmental regulators and ensuring it does not give competitors an edge. The customers are the consumers of the service that the company provides. The actor is the company (the client).
The transformation is to ensure the consumers get cleaning services. The input for this transformation is the cleaning services to be offered while the output is the cleaning services offered. The Weltanschauung is at an affordable cost that will not have negative impact on the environment. The system is jointly owned by the client and consumers of its services. The environmental constraints are time, budget allocated to the service and living up to the standards set by the environmental regulators, shareholders and the watchful eye of competitors and prospective clients.
After that we have to make a conceptual model that captures the root definitions in a conceptual world. Below is the activity model taking the client’s perspective. Know about the available cleaning resources Establish what a complete cleaning service is. Assess what an affordable cost entails. Determine available time Provide cleaning services Assess what negative environmental impact is Assess whether the service was high quality Establish the funds available Ensure that the service satisfies the quality standards set by shareholders and environmental regulators.
It should also attract new customers and keep competitors at bay. Control action Controlac Efficiency (‘doing the thing right’; ‘is there least use of funds? ’) entails cost and process management, and is an interior weight of the managerialist model in principle and specifically project management literature. A lot of work has been prepared in generating methods to intensify the power exerted by project implementation teams, and thus progress project efficiency. A project is efficient if it brings the planned yield within the budgeted inputs and on time.
Within particular constraints, the efficiency of a project is a factor of the management aptitude of the implementation team. SSM emphasizes efficiency since a system is prone to fail to achieve the desired results without a wealth of resource usage. Efficacy (‘doing a successful thing’; ‘does the way work? ’) regards the pros of the assumption of change of a given project. Every aid project is based on an inherent ‘theory of change’ that supposes that the outputs of the project will advance changes in knowledge, approach or practice among persons with whom the project relates.
That is, the degree to which the ‘means’ generate the projected ‘ends’. Efficacy is usually the focus of most appraisal literature and is a function of the design—the level to which the causality of the project is based in ingrained understanding and uses apposite means of social renovation. A project design may be adjudged efficacious when the yields of the project lead to the estimated outcomes. SSM is keeps a keen eye on efficacy because a system could fail if the means chosen to convey about the intended transformation does not work. Effectiveness (‘doing the right thing’; ‘is this the right thing to do? ) encompasses the thoughtful and developmental value or aptness of an idea. Eventually, effectiveness is decided by the environmental, social and economic sustainability of intercession and therefore is a function of the guidelines and strategies espoused by the project implementing agency. Effectiveness is holistic in nature (i. e. the whole program or approach) to which any set project plays a role. That is, given a project considered to be efficacious, effectiveness is into whether or not the project result contributes to the expected impact.
In a nutshell, effectiveness is a gauge of the degree to which certain system adds to the more comprehensive perspective that gives that system meaning. SSM B In this analysis, I’ll look at it from the view-point of the different departments of the company. The problem that needs intervention is the fulfilment of the company’s corporate responsibility and the departments, though in the same company, have different perspectives of how they view the situation. Some of them can be viewed differently are: * Clients are not sure if the increase in cost will be forwarded to them. Clients prefer degrading of environment to increase in prices. * Will clients support the new environment friendly approach? * Consider products practices if they are pleasing to the public. * Lessen environmental impact * Changing is likely to be more costly * [Don’t want to] change prices and practices * Clients might not support the change and go elsewhere * Operate at national level in the long term * Adding a recycling service * Tie in well with existing services These are even what the rich picture would most constitute. CATWOE elements of fulfilling environmental responsibility.
This would be better expressed through a rich picture that would capture the perspectives of the different stakeholders in the company. The inter-relationships of the different people would also come out. The subsequent analysis will go through the players in the system and then I’ll take a look at the impediments and catalysts of the implementation of the submissions and recommendations made. ANALYSIS I This centres on the roles of different people in the company. The interaction between the consultancy firm and the company is indicative that there has been established that there is a need for intervention.
There are also those that can be affected by the whole intervention, those that the intervention revolves around. They include: a) The company’s clientele who have to be satisfied that the service is value for their money. As the price hike is implemented, they must feel that the marginal price is equivalent to their marginal utility in terms of quality of service and environmental conservation. This quality should have a good face value. b) The company’s management should ensure that as the company grows it at the same time meets its goals and objectives. ) The sales office must ensure that the addition of the proposed quality does not affect the company’s sales negatively. d) Employees in general should feel that the project does not unnecessarily increase their work load without a perk associated with it. e) The environmental regulator should also feel that the company is true to its pledge towards environmental conservation. CULTURAL ANALYSIS (II) Information about the cultural dynamics in the company is scanty. This is because the project brief only explains what they want to implement but they don’t explain how different people behave or relate in the company.
However, it is common knowledge that there are stakeholders in the company and to be specific, the sales office, the company’s employees, the finance office and the customers. The sales office is represented by the national sales manager Stephen Grant, a person whose character cannot be depicted from the interview but since there is a scheduled meeting, it will pose an opportunity to know him better. Information on employees is non-existent but in liaison with relevant departments with the company we’ll get it.
This is critical because the change will directly affect their work load and how they respond to the changes is likely to alter the direction of the company. The national sales manager will also provide us with information about the constraints that face the financial office and the behaviour of their clients, another bunch that is meant to be affected by the changes. ANALYSIS OF POWER (III) In this section, I will look at the different interests at play and how the company will take care of all the interests in the system. The same issue owners wield the instruments of power in the company.
Therefore, they will be Stephen Grant (national sales manager), finance department, clients (customers), Environmental regulators and employees. The finance department holds the financial power and goodwill of the company. Any tendency by the department to frustrate the project implementation can take it (the project) down. The employees on the other hand must feel motivated to work for the company and support the project. If the terms are not improved and the workload increases, they are likely to go in search of pastures new and this would not help in the success of the project.
The clients also hold a very powerful position in the system; if they feel that the company’s project does not add value and decide to seek the services from another company the company’s sales will go down and this would mean the project has not succeeded. The environmental regulators who double as government agencies also wield some power and could influence the success of the project. They would like to see that the company is steadfast in its efforts to conserve the environment and also comply with the tax regimes that are forthcoming when the project is implemented.
The national sales manager is also powerful owing to his role in deciding price floors and ceilings and would detect when sales falter. He is therefore in a position to influence the success of the project. The perspectives of different primary stakeholders are also of utmost importance in this project. They are the same issue owners save for the employees who in this case are replaced by the company’s management. Clients’ perspective PQR P- Responding to the company’s advances R-To help the company to implement its project on environmental conservation CATWOE
C-Consultancy team A-Clients themselves and the consultancy team T-Making their feelings known to the consultancy team W-Working towards a higher quality, competent service that is environmental friendly. O-Clients E-Time and mindset Management’s perspective PQR P-Put up systems that are both customer and environmental friendly Q-Investigating the available options and decide which one is best placed to achieve the objectives. R-In order to adapt an environmental friendly model and become more attractive to attract new customers CATWOE
C-The Company itself, Government and environmental regulators, consumers A-Company’s management, Stephen grant, Consultancy team T- Introduces practices and products that are environmental friendly. W- Practices that can improve the image of the company to the genral public and the world at large. O- Company’s management. E- Budget, Time, market forces, conflict of interests. Consultancy team’s perspective PQR P-Perform the task requested by Forebys. Q- By doing research and presenting a clear report on ways in which Forebys could achieve its goals and objectives. R-In order to improve the image of the company
CATWOE C- Forebys A- Consultancy firm. T- Preparing a report that will give Forebys a clear direction on the practices and products they want to introduce. W- Forebys expects a comprehensive report that will be value for money. O- Forebys E- Budget, Time, expectations of Forebys, availability of information. Stephen Grant’s Perspective PQR P- To introduce environment products and practices by the company. Q- By hiring a consultancy firm to do the analysis and come up with a workable model R- In order to be competitive in the market and offer services that are environmentally sound.
CATWOE C -Consumers, Company’s board A – Stephen Grant, Consultancy firm T- Introducing new products and services to the market W- Becoming an environmental friendly company in all aspects O- The company’s management E- Budgetary constraints, the customers’ desire, time, Competitors 3Es Efficiency- is there least use of funds? Efficacy- does the way work? Effectiveness- is this the right thing to do? Briefing Notes Objectives of the Meeting i. The most pressing objective for the consultancy firm is winning the contract. ii. To familiarise itself with the dynamics of the company.
Background of Company and Project (From project brief) i. Having been in operation for 4 years, the company has stretched its muscles to whole of west midlands and plans to go full throttle in the next five years. It offers cleaning and gardening services; it started as a window cleaning company but extended its services to cleaning houses after floods and fire. ii. Besides expanding, it desires to adopt an environmental friendly model which they have come up with two options that can be adopted to achieve it. However, none of these options have been ratified and so they have to be investigated.
They are: * Introduction of products and practices that are environmental friendly. * Setting up a recycling service that would be incorporated by its existing networks and operations. Deliverables * The consultancy firm aims at doing a comprehensive investigation that will deliver beyond the scope of the firm. * The consultancy is dedicated to delivering highly feasible and easy to implement mechanism to achieve the intended goals. * We will gear our efforts towards a lucid, concise working formula to make it easy to achieve intended goals and objectives in a timely manner. Preliminary Analysis
A preliminary analysis shows that: * Customers should be the focal point when carrying out this whole investigation because their choice to shift allegiance would mean total collapse of not only the project but also the company. * Shareholders should also be willing to inject new finances to the company for a better future. * There will be conflicts of interests in the drafting and implementation of the projects and so it will be upon the company to balance the interests. Bibliography Wilson, B. 2008. Soft Systems Methodology: Conceptual Model Building and Its Contribution. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
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