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The industrial atmosphere is becoming highly competitive and most critical. The challenge is increasing where joint ventures, partnerships and sub-contracting agreements are involved. The traditional approaches to construction management often fail to perform in these situations, and managers need to consider adopting alternative approaches to solve these difficult problems. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is a systems approach that is used for analysis and problem solving in complex and messy situations. SSM uses systems thinking” in a cycle of action research, learning and reflection to help understand the various perceptions that exist in the minds of the different people involved in the situation. It is particularly suited to complex management systems, and seeks to evaluate as many different options as possible.
APOLLO TYRES LTD. :
Apollo Tyres limited is one of India's biggest chemical manufactures. The Company is one of the biggest manufactures for chemicals used in the tyre and latex industry. Its Clients include Indian tyre majors like MRF , CEAT and international manufactures like Bridgestone. Apollo Tyres limited manufactures various rubber, chemicals used in the production of various rubber products. The company enjoys a major market share of these products in India and also exports large quantities to South East Asia, Europe, etc. It has four Factories and employs nearly 500 employees. The company's factories are located mostly in industrial areas. However the company's only business is chemicals and it has not yet diversified.
Apollo limited had established a name for it, however in recent years it facing problem and losing reputation and also loosing customer and hence the company has to find ways of improving service, efficiency and again establishing themselves as the leaders in the segment
Identifying the cracks in the organizational and solving them, giving priority to the one that need more attention and use of information technology for improving productivity and research
Methodology : SSM
Use the SSM Methodology to improve the company situation while giving priority for culture and present values, which hold the company, but compare it with real world situations.
Inquiry goal is to improve the situation, by first improving the goal specification of the inquiry.
Analyze problems from the stake holders point of view while bearing in mind the need to tease out the particular goal specifications. The main output of the study is to solve the problems, improve the present situation and use information technology to improve the overall business
Changes by adapting in new changes, new business rules and use of information technology
Areas which need to be concentrated are employee relations, quality ,environmental issues and use of new information technology tools.
Table 1.0 represents the activity and description of the Apollo Tyres Ltd.
In Recent years the business environment has changed rapidly. Chemical business has been in a state of flux, with new products frequently coming to market. Many small and efficient firms have managed to take advantage of this situation to establish them and to gain a reputation for producing and delivering chemicals quickly and cheaply to customer requirements.
Apollo has been unable to adapt satisfactorily to change circumstances and this has shown in disappointing financial returns. Its research and development is not functioning properly and the company is not getting the investment returns. Inevitably it has fallen behind its competitors in product development.
It takes time for problems to show big impact on companies. When a company grows big it is very difficult to find a solution as each problems are interrelated. Use of Various methodologies' gives a solution, which can improve the situation. Lets us analyze and solve Apollo problems using Soft system methodology.
SOFT SYSTEMS METHODOLOGY:
SSM has been developed at Lancaster University over the last 30 years, through action research. The methodology has developed mainly as a result of consultancy work. As more experience was gained dealing with different sorts of problem situations, the learning was analysed and incorporated into the methodology. What we have as a result is a generic methodology which should be adapted to any given situation.
SSM study is all about finding the stages of the problems, the outcome of which is captured in a "rich picture" of the problem situation. A rich picture is a representation of the problem situation, presented usually in the form of a drawing, which makes explicit a range of diverse viewpoints concerning issues, conflicts and difficulties. It draws attention to cultural and political aspects of the problem situation and attempts to provide a complete picture of the real situation.
SSM deals with problem formulation at the strategic level. It partly aims to structure previously unstructured situations, rather than to solve well-structured problems. It deals with "fuzzy" problem situations - situations where people are viewed not as passive objects, but as active subjects, where objectives are unclear or where multiple objectives may exist.
Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) has long been involved in information systems development through the medium of action research. Its social constructivist paradigm and managerial focus distinguish it from most software engineering development approaches. Check land's underlying view of systems development, however, is heavily influenced by traditional waterfall models - something of a contradiction
CHECKLAND'S SOFT SYSTEMS METHODOLOGY:
The Checkland methodology, or the seven-stage model, is considered by most people to be the SSM. However, SSM covers a range of methodologies developed to deal with different situations.
The seven stages are:
1 The problem situation unstructured;
2 The problem situation expressed;
3 Root definitions of relevant systems;
4 Deriving conceptual models;
5 Comparing conceptual models with the "real" world;
6 Defining feasible, desirable changes;
7 Taking action.
PROBLEMS FACED BY APOLLO TYRES LTD.
The Company had to face many problems in employing employee relation the situation within the production function itself was also at crisis. Traditionally Apollo's Managements felt that employees didn't work hard and impose close supervision and control over subordinates. This had thus degenerated into management by threat as market pleasures and procedures being enforced. There were many errors and mistakes leading to high levels of waste, spoiled works and low quality problems, and this has increased cost. Morale was extremely low and often resulted from the poor quality materials with which they were worked, they refused to collaborate with their supervisors and industrial relation problems between management and unions or shop stewards were frequent.
The Problems faced by the company has to be viewed in terms of the SSM methodologies. The inbuilt differences in management systems prevailed in the company have concentrated small issues that could have been solved easily into big problems that cast a lasting shadow on the company as a whole itself. This state of affairs of the company can be explained in terms of the problems it faces. Some of them are listed below:
- Decreased market share
- Profit has declined
- Low employee morale
- Frequent individual actions
- Hostile environment
- Decreased Quality
- Failure to the cope with the emerging trends as a result of liberalization and globalization.
If the Company could address these problems effectively it can come out of this mess. These problems are basically structural in nature, not technological. Hence by using SSM Methodology these problems could be tackled.
In terms of external and internal problems the company could have done with a well-trained and highly aware management team. Infact this was lacking .The management jobs were specialized and there was little team spirit or there was not a will to change
It was all working fine for the company when the people staying in the local area started agitating for closure of its major factories due to pollution issues. Due to this production had to be stopped for a couple of months, during which the company lost nearly 12 lakhs rupees a day. The Factories had to be then locked, after the court gave order for closure of factory due to pollution. However again after two months the company obtained a stay order from high court with conditions of not producing some chemicals until some checks have been made. This led to low production and low capacity utilization, which affected the company's overall financial results.
Even though the company was able to solve its problems in courts, it was not able to settle issues with the agitating people in the local areas who always tried to create problems there, which in turn reflected the company's image. Agitations led to low level of productions and company's competitors began to improve their market presence.The company didn't maintain a good public relations and it didn't have anyone in the top Management to deal with these issues. The Company didn't have good communication with the outside world. It Public relation was so bad that it didn't do any thing to respond to the news which came on newspaper and televisions.
Due to heavy agitation on pollution issues, some local political organization began to extend their support and sympathy to those people keeping in mind the vote bank of that area. Also the state is dominated by many trade unions, which are communist, and soon political groups soon started creating problems for Merchem. A Company, which was for years talking care of its employees by themselves, found it hard to deal the situation as its management has less experience in dealing with political parties
The management was not able to deal nicely with the unions and they felt humiliated. The unions hence began interfering in all the company activities
SSM FOR MANAGEMENT:
One of the major reasons for the problems of the company was the management's inability to understand the complex situation in the organization. Unlike many companies it was not professionally managed but was managed by family. The management was actually driven away by the firm's previous success and assumed that the company's present name would keep the company going on. They were wrong, because market changed, people changed not the management
SSM FOR HR:
One of the major areas where we had to use SSM and where we didn't use SSM was Human Resources management's. SSM can be used as a vehicle for developing competitiveness in human resource management. The benefits of SSM are based on its underlying interpretive assumptions, the distinctive way in which conceptual models are used to create learning and insight, and other aspects of systems thinking, notably the guidance embodied in its technology, and its use of the systems concepts of hierarchy and holism. Any information, which is a potential source of insight about the kinds of competences, needed, either currently or in the future, are relevant and should be included. In most organizations people hold differing opinions on the aims being pursued and the problems and issues in the situation as it currently exists, or as it might exist given certain defined scenarios. The rich picture should embody the full diversity of these viewpoints. At this point there should be no attempt to deny the applicability or relevance of minority opinions, or opinions which run counter to the official line. In fact, counter-viewpoints can lead to creative insights, which may not emerge if discussion is limited to perspectives compatible with the currently prevailing ideology. In the rich picture it should be possible to visualize how individual activities, issues or problems fit into the broader context within which these are located.
After the initial rich picture has been developed and broad themes identified, a range of task and issue models based on different Weltanschauungen should be constructed and contrasted with the real world situation. In most SSM projects, a combination of task and issue systems is included, and this is advocated here. Task systems represent official pronouncements about the identity of an organization or what a particular job involves. Issue systems may represent continuous aspects of a job or contain ideas about what it means to be a member of a particular organization, which are not formally sanctioned. Often, when individuals are being questioned directly about competences, these unofficial aspects of work do not surface. They can, however, be very important. Cultural and political aspects of work, for example, are especially important, and often warrant further attention. Sometimes achieving a better "fit" between individuals and these contextual and informal features of their work is more important than ensuring that individuals satisfy technical competence criteria.
The problem is most noticeable when a group of individuals are placed in a focus group and asked to recount their ideas about the competences required in their work, or to describe the differences between good and bad performers. Difficulties arise when such beliefs are abstracted from the broader pattern of ideas and worldviews, which give them meaning. When the data are aggregated, as they usually are, much of the meaning is lost. In SSM, the concern, always, is with wholes and the underlying worldviews, which provide the crucial meaning. Meaning is explored and made explicit. It is not neutralized through a process of aggregation. If one accepts the idea that potentially there are a number of possible ways of doing a job well, aggregating data does not make a lot of sense. The results can be costly. Potential recruits may slip through the net because they fail to match aggregated criteria, which, at best, may bear only a tenuous relationship to the way in which the job would be done. At worst, the criteria may be completely irrelevant. Equally, current staff can become dissatisfied and disillusioned when meaningless criteria are applied in evaluating their performance.
To the extent that any aspect of the HRM process privileges a particular worldview and takes this as a given aspect of the design brief, it suggests an orientation towards hard systems thinking. Often HRM appears to assume that the overall aims and objectives of the organization, or any of its sub-units, may be defined unequivocally without any serious investigation or reflection on the veracity of dominant viewpoints. Moreover it often appears that analyzing job or organizational requirements is largely unproblematic, that these may be defined objectively and unambiguously. To some extent this is true. There are basic skills associated with the job of brain surgeon that are fundamentally different from those required of a social worker, for example. Clearly as one move away from broad technical competences into the domain of attitudes, values and behavioral styles, the idea that such requirements may be defined objectively becomes increasingly less tenable.
SSM FOR QUALITY:
Merchem being a big player in chemical industry the problem was always maintain the quality issues. The company was able to maintain quality, but due to problems it was not able to maintain consistency in quality. The company has to establish a prevention approach to quality. The aim should be to get the right things from output requirements that should be regulated immediately. Nonconformance to requirement was eliminated. Employees should be motivated to own quality themselves.
SSM FOR MARKETING:
Marketing knowledge is accumulating in an inexorable, although slow, process, through the exchange of knowledge, mainly via the print media (systems). Various journals have taken an explicit interest in this process. The inputs to this are primarily submitted or commissioned articles/books (product) - generically the expression of ideas. The communication organs - primarily books and journals - generally involve independent editorial (including double-blind refereeing) (technique) and organisational and financial inputs (transactions). Through the conventions of attribution of sources, the stock of knowledge potentially passes into collective ownership (implementation).
According to Checkland a root definition is well formulated if it covers the elements in the mnemonic CATWOE.
C : (customers). Who are the system's victims or beneficiaries?
A : (actors). Who would do these activities?
T : (transformation process). What input is turned into what output?
W : (Weltanschauung). The worldview that makes this definition meaningful.
O : (owners). Who could abolish this system?
E : (environmental constraints). What does this system take as given?
Nevertheless, the written expression of a root definition should be concise and capture a particular, but not the only, view of the human activity system. The creation of a root definition should interact, through iteration, with the step where there is comparison of the conceptual models with the problem situation as expressed.
The firm has poor communication with its markets and plays no role trying to nurture its environment. Apollo marketing has been far too passive in the face of aggressive tactics from competitors. It sales force lacks proper training and professionalism and doesn't seem motivated to establish and develop customer relations. Sales people are not able to service customers properly because of the simple lack of knowledge about what the company can offer.
The structured thinking, basically aims to bring about improvements in a situation. We must express a paradigm that is “in terms with epistemology.” No automatic assumptions can be made, and each approach must be made with concise on moving from one world to another. This approach, which was designed to be used in many different situations, may be interpreted differently by each user. This system as explained above is used or derives from what our own worldviews and language are. It is meant to be interpreted rather than expressed from the paradigm. Meaning each person is to make his or her own viewpoint, not one viewpoint for everyone. Each person must take the paradigm/concept given and make his or her own ideas
- High standards of quality and product consistency should be maintained.
- Enhanced quality management program
- New approaches like using systems that might help them to improve its quality program.
- Efficient planning process for Human resources and training.
- The environmental issues can be solved by decreasing the pollution.
- The political issues can be solved by making the union leader understand about the employee benefits.
- Use of
- Information Technology
- Intranet and E mail
- B2B E-Commerce and
- Self-reflective Learning