Individual Assignment Compare and contrast two problem-solving methodologies, select one of these and apply it to a situation in your organisation. The latter should be written in a `case study` format Introduction What is a Problem? In an individuals professional and social life, they will have objectives or desired outcomes that they aim to reach. These may be in preparing to take a family holiday or meeting a high sales target at work. During the course of attaining that goal they will encounter either an occurrence or obstacle that prevents the person achieving the desired aim or objective. This “circumstance” or “discrepancy” is a problem. It is preventing the individual from achieving their desired state of affairs in the manner that they had planned or had perceived it would be achieved.
The problem solving methodology that an organisation will choose to attempt to solve these problems will determine their strategy and general approach to problem solving. It will determine what tools and techniques they use to assist in their processes. The comparison between a hard systems approach to problem solving and a soft systems approach provides us with two very different outlooks and are based on differing fundamental assumptions on how human beings interact. Hard Systems Thinking – Optimisation In the years after the Second World War, when lessons from military operations were applied to industrial companies and Government agencies, an interest in systems ideas developed in many fields. This interest was signalled by the formation of the Society for General Systems Research in 1954, a group of people who were interested in applying systems thinking in traditional disciplines. The basic principle that a hard system thinking emphasises is the use of quantification and measurement to understand systems.
This strategy is intended to reduce the level of uncertainty that is associated with confronting problems and the possible options that are available to attempt to solve the problems. The core belief of hard systems approaches are that rationalisation and systematisation of problem-solving processes will lead to the best decisions being made. Soft Systems Thinking Appreciation Soft systems thinking and the associated approaches to problem solving have developed primarily over the past two decades. The approaches are based on the belief that because individuals views are subjective experiences, there is no single reality. This means that individuals will view and interpret activities differently based on their own social, cultural and political experiences. As people view situations differently, it is not possible to accurately define a problem and as a result, there is no opportunity to produce a perfect solution. Soft systems thinking addresses organisational problem solving through the use of continuous learning and communication.
These will increase an organisations` capacity for problem solving. The fundamental aim is to create a Learning Organisation whose` goals are not to solve problems instantly, but to consider problematic areas as the organisations` members of awareness of the issues related to the areas broaden and deepen. The Comparison between Hard and Soft Systems Problem Solving Methodologies Hard systems approaches are characterised by the fundamental assumption that a definitive problem statement can identify the problem solving process. This clearly defined problem forms for foundation for all the subsequent structured steps. The end point of the process is to change the system in a way that eliminates the problem.
Once a problem has been clearly identified, the process that follows focuses on identifying and evaluating alternative solutions. By contrast, soft systems problem solvers believe there are no problems waiting to be solved because the problem is being enacted through an individuals conditioning and perception. As a result of this thinking they recognise that there are no permanent solutions, only improvements. These become a continuous series of on going improvements, which are regarded as accommodations. A useful way of comparing the two methodologies is to consider two different models that have been developed that use the alternative principles as discussed above.
N. K. Kwak and S. A. DeLurglo  have developed a seven stage problem solving process that is based on the principles of Operations Research (OR). OR is an application of hard systems thinking that uses different mathematical techniques to solve specific types of problems.
It approaches problems by using the scientific method of inquiry. Peter Checkland`s  soft system methodology as similarly a seven step sequential model. It is an example of a model that uses interactive planning. “Interactive planning is participative. It requires the direct involvement of stakeholders. It asks stakeholders to make plans to achieve whatever they believe to be important.” Stage1 of the OR process is the problem formulation. This includes defining the object of the study, measures of effectiveness and efficiency and the boundaries to the system.
It identifies controllable variables and uncontrollable variables. This approach in itself does two things. It is immediately implying that we will come to a finite result at the end of the process. It is also acknowledging that it is not in a closed system. In other words, it is qualifying the process by stating that there are elements that may well effect the situation but are beyond the control of the systems capabilities. Stages 1 and 2 of Checklands model are based on finding out about the situation.
These include identifying the stakeholders of the problem, the social and political environment that surrounds the situation, and the roles that individuals are playing and who has ownership of the areas that may be effected. The principle is to generate as much understanding of the variety of views that people will have and how they may benefit the possible change. Stage 2 of the OR model is about specifying the model to be used. These are normally in forms that are scaled down representations of the overall system. The model will apply statistical evidence to help understand the variation that may exist within a situation and the most effective solution.
Some of the tools that can be used include Cause and Effect diagrams, Flow Charts, Scatter Diagrams and Selection Grids. By contrast, Stage 3 of the soft systems approach requires the use of root definitions. These examine the relationship of the following relevant subsystems: customers, people active in the system, the world view, the owner (who the people in power will respond to the activity) and the environment. The comparison between the two methodologies is quite evident. The hard approach acknowledges the influences on the system but makes judgements to not address the impact the problem may have on them whereas the soft approach attempts to consider the interests of all the elements that it feels has a concern in the situation. Stage 3 of the hard systems model involves the validation of the model.
This includes checking that assumptions, variables, parameters and relationships that have been previously proposed are valid. Stage 4 moves onto the derivation of the solution. This in effect is the result of the model process and would hopefully provide the expected solution that can be implemented. Stage 4 of the Che …