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Model Answer Operations Analysis and Planning Compare hard systems analysis and soft systems analysis in solving

g organizational problems and their role in improving the quality of decision making. In 1945-55, Ludwig von Bertalanffy et al. proposed a general systems theory to understand the nature of large and complex systems. The aim was to develop a general systems theory that could explain all systems in all fields of science. A system is defined as a set of interrelated elements, with inputs and outputs, and with a set of processes (transformations) that convert inputs into outputs. It has a permeable boundary with the environment. It comprises of subsystems that are interrelated to each other for a purpose. When systems are hurriedly viewed as closed systems for the purpose of problem solving it can simplify the situation on a short term basis but the problems may continue to erupt. The contention being that a solution that may improve performance in one aspect may actually deteriorate performance in another. In addition, it may improve immediate problems while initiating adverse problems in the wider system. Systems thinking emerged as an approach to aid good problem diagnosis by undertaking the holistic view of the situation, with a view to improve the way in which decision makers define problems and the effectiveness of decisions. Modest improvement in overall performance of the much wider system is considered as the achievable goal. Many structured methodologies assume that there exists an optimal solution through the analysis process. Lifecycle/Waterfall approach, CASE tools, prototype, RAD/RSD, JAD and Object oriented methodology are all part of the continuously expanding list of Hard Systems Approach (HSA). The focus is on providing something to meet the need. HSA is linked closely with the organizations goal and objectives with a very disciplined way to finding facts about the system, problems, opportunities and data. Soft systems Analysis (SSA) by Peter Checkland, 1981) emerged as an alternative to HSA that assumed that people will react in a rational way to find an optimal solution to a problem and that the external environment is stable and unchanging. When the situation is unstructured, and goals not clearly defined, and when there are cultural and political factors present, technology centered methodologies are not enough. Premised on the social construction (Gasson, 2005) paradigm, SSM provides a mechanism to allow relevant human, social, political and cultural factors to form structure and act as explicit entities in the system. Thus it is important to try to understand the different ways in which the different stakeholders may frame the issues being addressed in the study. The focus is on how not what? (Checkland and Scholes, 1990). The primary focus of SSM is on the people involved with the problem and the secondary focus is on the problem. The assumption is that the 'problem' cannot exist independently of the perceptions of the stakeholders. It is a user-centered design approach. While HSA begins with the awareness of the nature of

the problem, the SSA tries to uncover the unstructured problem situation by collecting all sorts of information regarding the structure of the organization, the processes involved and the issues that are expressed and felt by the organization. There exists a philosophical barrier between the hard and soft approaches as to how a problem is viewed. The hard approach is more ontological (a branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of beings; the soft approach is more epistemological wherein it deals with the nature o knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity. Pidd (1996) makes a distinction and goes on to say that , soft approaches do not assume that organisations are just 'human machines' in which people are organised according to their functions, all of which are geared to some unitary objective. Soft approaches do not take the nature of the organizations for granted assuming that organizations are just human machines where people just fit into a predetermined structure. Instead, people may assume their own roles and create an informal structure of their own. It takes the view that the human aspects are open and non-deterministic. Methodologies must take into account the importance and complexity of the human element. The diagramming techniques is HSA take the form of structured flowcharts that reveal the processes involved in the organization, or mathematical representations that use the management science technique to organize data. The diagramming technique in SSA takes the form of rich pictures that are cartoon like representations of the organization. The not only include hard information like structure, departments, significant individuals, assets, products, key activities, statistics; but they also include soft information like norms of behaviour, social processes such as gossips and grapevines, hostilities, conflicts, loyalties, friendships, climate, culture and so on. In most Japanese companies, employees play an essential role in the continuous efforts to improve business process. Such an organization culture provides an excellent environment for implementing soft system methodology (Qura and Kijima, 2001). Ingram (2000) emphasizes the importance of SSA especially for the hospitality industry that is characterized by complexity and where soft HRM problems are not properly considered (Green and Francis, 2005). The assumptions that HSA operates on is the principle of Reductionism that assumes that each system can be broken into a number of subsystems. Each component of these subsystems can be identified, quantified to provide the explanation of the workings of those subsystems. Added together the subsystems form a whole. The SSA takes a Gestalt view of the system that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The methodology guards against the pitfalls of narrowing the scope of investigation down too early or organizing a structure too soon. The information elicited may be incomplete and contain ambiguities and contradictions. HSA is linked closely with the organizations goal and objectives with a very disciplined way

to finding facts about the system, problems, opportunities and data. Unlike HSA, the information about the system is more likely to be qualitative rather than quantitative. The diagramming techniques is HSA take the form of structured flowcharts that reveal the processes involved in the organization, or mathematical representations that use the management science technique to organize data. The diagramming technique in SSA takes the form of rich pictures that are cartoon like representations of the organization. The not only include hard information like structure, departments, significant individuals, assets, products, key activities, statistics; but they also include soft information like norms of behaviour, social processes such as gossips and grapevines, hostilities, conflicts, loyalties, friendships, climate, culture and so on. Hard and soft approaches differ in the view they take of the models themselves. (Pidd, 1996). The hard approach views a model as a proper representation of the real world. It may be a simplified version of the real world that has to be validated thoroughly against the part of the real world being modeled. Many modeling techniques like linear programming, statistical analysis area available that would evaluate routes to objectives based on quantifiable criteria. In contrast, the soft approaches do not model as a representation of what does or does not exist in the real world. The model is a representation of what is necessarily implied by relevant systems. It describes what needs to be done not how it should be done. It is not real in terms of proposal for implementation. Models are developed for people to think about their own positions and to engage in debates among themselves for possible action. Incrementalism and trial and error are the best approach. Model validation becomes a problem for soft approaches and the confidence that can be placed in the model becomes questionable. Although the objective of both systems is to create and implement a desirable system, SSA has been under criticism for lack of theoretical rigour and practical value since its inception. Pidd (1996) clarifies in his paper that unlike hard approaches where there is a definitive outcome or product as learning, soft approach does not guarantee a set of recommendations or a definite product will emerge from a project. Further, Couprie et al. stress that although the changes in structure or procedure that SSA specifies may be easy to implement, changes in attitude are rather difficult. It emphasizes on human facilitators to manage the process and requires more than one participant (which may not always be the option in requirements elicitation). Many times use of SSM results in the restructuring of an organisation (costly, time consuming, maybe not what was sought).

Zhou in his paper suggests an integration of SSA and HSA. He acknowledges the value of SSA in its recognition of the importance of human/soft factors in organizational and social systems, the multifaceted nature of system rationality, and the role of incremental learning. However, the fact remains that SSA is crticised by hard core technology centered people for its non practical approach. The methodology suggested by Zhou has two cycles. The first cycle of SISTeM (SSA using IS analysis tools and techniques)

follows the seven stages of SSM resulting a high level decision to act to accommodate the requirements of multiple stakeholders. The second cycle focuses on realizing the high-level decision arrived at the first cycle using HSA. The contention is that both the approaches are not mutually exclusive and its important to identify their strengths and the constraints under which either operates in order to use them judiciously.