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Mg211.1 Soft Or Notes

Management Notes > Operational Research Methods (MG211) Notes

This is an extract of our Mg211.1 Soft Or Notes document, which we sell as part of our Operational Research Methods (MG211) Notes collection written by the top tier of London School Of Economics students.

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Soft OR

PROBLEM STRUCTURING METHODS (PSM) In reality problems often unstructured: 'There are multiple actors, multiple perspectives, possibly conflicting interests and key uncertainties.' (Rosenhead and Mingers) Hard Models:

* Believed to be models of the world

* Assumes analyst can correctly identify problem

* Objective world

* Measurable

* Consensus

* Solution

* 'Tame'

* 'High Ground' (Schon)

Soft Models:

* Models of beliefs about the world

* Participative, Accessible

* Low quantification

* Problem structuring not solutions to problems (identify techniques to solve problem)

* Makes use of subjective judgement

* Doesn't assert there is one best solution

* Values knowledge/experience of problem owners

* Doesn't over privilege technical expertise

* 'Wicked' - changes while you work on it

* 'Swampy lowland' (Schon)

PSMs important when: (1) Objectives of owners undefined
- Avoids Type 3 Errors (i.e. answering wrong problem)
- Anglo French Concorde Project: Checkland admitted team took obvious objective of building aircraft. Initial solutions did not satisfy owners - failed to account for other objectives (political, economic etc.) (2) Interconnected networks present (i.e. ones actions affect others outcomes) (3) 'Wicked' problem (i.e. changes while you work on it) (4) Problem requires judgement - Soft OR activates judgements (virtuous circle); Hard OR excludes judgement (vicious circle) However PSMs can be time-consuming, subject to bias of problem owners, requires commitment from problem owners, difficult to identify exact answer Both hard & soft OR useful ('New World Order' metaphor) - role for each depending on nature of problem - multi-methodology approach best (Ackerman Litigation Case: SODA used to consider perspectives of managers on impact of delays; System Dynamics Simulation simulated what would have occurred if no delays)

Soft OR

STRATEGIC OPTIONS DEVELOPMENT AND ANALYSIS (SODA) Use when unclear what problem is 1) Elicitation: Conduct initial interview for each participant - identify concepts and links 2) Mapping: Draw provisional cognitive map
- Join ideas using arrows (cause-effect) or lines (no link)
- Links should go upwards: assumptions - alternatives - aims
- Calls to action 3) Confirming: Conduct second interview to amend and confirm map 4) Merging: Merge individual maps into a strategic map
- Done by consultant in back room
- Becomes casual map (no longer cognitive map)
- Identify concepts in more than one map, choose one formulation to keep (consider which idea richer, power of participant, representativeness); use logic links
- Organise map into clusters 5) Strategic Workshop: Workshop sessions using strategic map as agenda

Strengths:

* Transparent

* Revealing for participants

* Good for 'appreciating' a problem

* Engaging

* Team Building

Weaknesses

* Labour-intensive for consultant

* Time-intensive for each client

* Slow delivery for organisation

* Hierarchy can cause problems

* No tools from getting from problem structure to decisions commitment

Overcome some weaknesses from working from documents (less time spent interviewing), use of Oval Mapping Techniques, networked PCs and Group Explorer Case Study - Recruitment Agency (Eden & Simpson):
- Small, new recruitment and employment agency specialising in computing/electronics in non-defense areas; commercially viable firm but not profit-taking
- Need to establish trust between facilitators and client - striking bargain helped establish relationship which was not too one-sided (clients not in a position to pay; agreed if could be used as case study) - showed commitment from facilitators allowing client to fully engage in project
- Need to set expectations to provide clarity for consultants/clients and work to manage clients expectations 1) Elicitation: First interview with John (director of firm); intention to put client at ease (easy chairs rather then desk but filming counter-productive) 2) Mapping:
- Used cognitive mapping to record first interview (allows interview to be run in nondirective manner while not encouraging rambling)
- Sharp pencil/unlined paper - able to write all over page; trust built from perception that consultant writing a lot/taking in what client says (interview with Bill)
- Consultant can show map to client to counter alienation of interviews/can use map to indicate areas which need to be expanded etc.
- Informal Data Collection: Consults attended Staff Christmas dinner
- Use of COPE software to extend and rebuild interview map; group concepts into clusters, maps used to look at alternative (use of '...')

Soft OR

3) Confirming (Second interviews)
- Aimed to interview 3 Directors twice (John, Will, Brian) to generate personal cognitive maps but only managed interview Will once - unfortunate for development of model
- 6 maps prepared for second interview with John; in meeting with John first identified key goals of maps however with Brian focused on action (method will vary depending on personality of interviewee)
- Relaxed setting; John invited to comment on what interested him most (advertising)
- don't need to discuss all maps equally
- Revised maps according to discussion; ticked concepts that have been covered 4) Merging Maps
- Identified problem clusters related to financial planning/forecasting, conflicting goals of agency (strong ideological aims vs commercially viable aims), involvement of other directors
- Problem of whether to use Will's initial interview data in merged model (viable after only one interview? could be filled with misinterpretations); decided to use data 5) Strategic Workshop
- Workshop organised around 'key concepts'; freedom to discuss topics as clients wish
- Focus on key strategic option 'developing role of directors', allowed Will/Brian to gain insights not previously considered - at end of meeting the directors has committed themselves to several courses of actions aimed to develop role of directors
- Agreement of importance of other key strategic options which require further research and subsequent workshop
- Focus on intangible strategic issues is typical of early stages of SODA project -
belief that focus on 'softer' issues at beginning of project allowing tradition analysis to be effective later on

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