Investigation Of Soft Systems Methodology Construction Essay

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This essay investigates Soft Systems Methodology, which is a way of dealing with problem situations in which there is a high social, political and human activity component. SSM varies from other methodologies as it does not deal with the HARD problems that are more technically oriented but instead it deals with SOFT problems. Organizations are making large investments in construction projects. Many factors affect the successful achievement of projects, and to be considered successful, project objectives and specifications must be achieved on time and on budget, also projects should meet Stakeholders expectations and realize measurable benefits. But construction projects are often difficult to estimate and manage; some projects are cancelled or reduced in scope because of overruns in cost and or time, or failure to produce expected benefits. That what makes risk management for construction projects a challenging task.

FIGURE 1

SOFT SYSTEM METHODOLOGY:

Soft System Methodology is the brainwave of Professor Peter Checkland. The methodology was devised as a result of "consultancy work" (Platt, 1995). Hutchings (2006) explains this development as an approach which can be accessed in the situation where Hard System Methodologies are fruitless. He writes, 

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"When confronted with complex real world problems which cannot be defined solely in the scientific terms, Checkland was forced to abandon the classic system engineering thinking which could not describe fully the situation he faces. This led to a fundamental reappraisal of the classics "hard" approach and the subsequent development of the Soft Methodology".

                                                                             

Hence, SSM is classified as "a generic methodology" (Wilson, 1992) which should be adapted to any given situation. 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 (Rosenhead, 1989). This is explained as human activity system (HAS) - a collection of activities, in which people are purposefully engaged, and the relationships between the activities (Platt, 1995). Hence SSM is a qualitative technique that can be used for applying System Thinking to non-systematic situations. It follows its progression in seven stages as laid down by Checkland in seven stage model "which is considered by most people to be the SSM" (Platt, 1995). The seven stages are incorporated into two parts: the real world and systems thinking, as illustrated in Figure 2. The diagram is divided into two halves. The upper half (Stages 1, 2, 5, 6, 7) are activities that take place in the 'real world' "that is they are based on the knowledge and experience of the participant of how things are to them" (Beckford 1998) and therefore should involve people in the problem situation. The bottom half (Stages 3,4,4a,4b) are 'systems thinking' activities which are carried out in the language of systems and may or may not involve people in the problem situation, depending on the circumstances of study (Johnson, 1999). 

FIGURE 2: LEARNING CYCLE OF SSM

Effective Risk Management:

Project risk management consists of two stages: Risk Assessment, and Risk Control. Risk Assessment is an iterative process; it can take place at any stage and during any time of the project lifecycle, though the sooner the better. Risk Control cannot be effective without a previous risk assessment.

TYPES OF RISKS IN CONSTRUCTION:

Risk in the design (Flanagan, Norman): 

The design risk includes: 

Errors in the drawing and design by the architects, structural engineer,  Risk of finishing the drawing in the agreed time, Risk due to number of revisions made in the drawings, Risk due to the mistake in estimation and costing.

 

Risk arising by the contractor: 

Risk occurring due to the in experience of the contractor in doing the kind of project, Risk occurring due to the lack of coordination with the sub contractors and the suppliers which results in delay of the work, Risk due to the manpower mismanagement and also due to the issues regarding claims, disputes, Risk due to the delay in payment of bill to the contractor by the client.

 

Risk arising by the client: 

Risk due to not giving insufficient information on the clients needs to the contractor, Risk due to delay in making important decision, Risk due to the wrong selection of procurement route to construction of the building, Risk of delay due to changes in the architectural drawing and the design calculations,.

 

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Risk arising in the site: 

Risk due to improper soil investigation in the site which results in problems like water logging, Risk due to problem with the transportation facility to the site which delays in the delivery of the materials to the site.

 

Other miscellaneous risks:

 

Risk in delay of the project due to the delay in the approval from the local authorities, Risk due to some political interferences, Risk due to the problems raised by the neighbourhood property owners, Risk due to the existence of previous building in the site.

FIGURE 4: RISK IN CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT

The Role of Each Stake Holder Involved:

 

The stake holders involved in the Risk management study (Lambeck,

Eschemuller) are:

 

Risk Manager: 

He is the head of the risk management study. He initiates the meeting with the client and submits the risk management report to the client. The risk manager will prepare a risk management evaluation report to submit to the client.

Architect: 

Architect works on the design of the building based on the requirements given by the client.  He is responsible for the design and he has to make sure that the design is proper and the risk of changes in the drawing is minimal.

 

Structural Engineer: 

The structural Engineer proves the structural design of the project. He is responsible for the structural stability and the safety of the building. He can change the architect drawing if there is no structural feasibility in the design.

 

Project Manager: 

The Project Manager is the main representative from the client side who is responsible for the whole construction work. He calculates the time limit to finish the project and also looks in to the quality considerations. He coordinates the construction team and make sure that the potential of risk is minimum.

 

Quantity Surveyor:

The quantity Surveyor is a main part and works on the cost aspect of the project. He will be responsible for selecting and delivering different materials for the construction. The estimates proposed by the QS will be very competitive.

Client:

The client is the owner of the project. The client will be providing his requirements to the project team. There fore his satisfaction with each of the proposals is very important.

 

Service Engineer: 

The service engineer is responsible for the risk involved in the service provided in the building such as electrical, plumbing, air conditioning etc.

 

The Information Client will need to provide to the Workshop Participants before Each Study: 

 

The client provides the requirements he expects from the study to the stake Holders such as Architect, Structural Engineer and Quantity Surveyor etc. the information client has to provide are:

 

The aim and the objective of the project:

Quality expectations:

Quality is an important factor and has to be considered for the project. All the materials used for the project should be of high quality and proper checking has to be done by the project manager.

Allocated budget:

The budget allotted for the project has to be clearly defined. This will help in calculating the coast control techniques. The whole life cycle cost of the project and the cost certainties also has to be evaluated. There fore a detailed risk management study has to be carried out during the pre defining stage.

Time limit:

The time limit to complete the project has to be finalised and should be finished in the calculated time since it adversely affect the project budget. There fore the time required for the design and the execution of the project has to be calculated.

The list of machineries going to be installed in the project:

It is needed to fix the electrical connection.

The risk manager should be provided with the plans of future expansion if there is any.

Site Details:

The site consideration such as the size and shape of the site and the area in which the site is situated has to meet the project objective.

Hard and Soft Systems:

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'Hard' systems thinking are goal-directed as the particular study begins with the definition of the desirable goal to be achieved. It is essentially concerned with the question of 'how' to achieve a predetermined aim. 'Soft' is concerned with defining the options for improvement thus addressing the 'what to do' question. It is also committed to the examination of human activity, which is the other soft part of the equation, in hard systems thinking a goal is assumed. The overall purpose of the methods used by the analyst is to modify the system in some way so that this goal is achieved in the most efficient manner. Whereas hard systems thinking is concerned with the 'how ' of the problem, in soft systems thinking, the objectives of the systems are assumed to be more complex than a simple goal that can be achieved and measured. Every system can be said to have a set of purposes or missions rather than goals. Understanding of soft systems can be achieved through debate with the actors in the systems. Emphasis is placed on the 'what' as well as the 'how' of the system.

Conclusion:

 

To deliver successful construction projects that meet the three deliverables (budget, time, and customer satisfaction), project managers should spend time assessing and managing risk, and allocating contingency and management reserves, so that any risk that arises will be mitigated, following risk assessment and planning. Without maintaining a contingency reserve, the project manager is forced to go back for additional time or dollars for every risk as it becomes a problem. Also to attain successful projects, the project managers have to follow a soft system methodology to ensure that the project starts with a chance of achievement.