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Study skills Essays

This assignment consists of a portfolio of evidence built up around the selection of a complex problem at my logistics workplace and its possible solution. The initial activities were based around the identification of complex problems in general and some of the various models that can be utilised to provide solutions to them. The assignment then moved on to the investigation of McWhinney’s Model of complex problem solving which also dealt with exploring my own behaviours and how they affected the decisions I made (McWhinney et al, 1997).
This assignment also involved the selection and implementation of a solution to a complex problem chosen from my logistics workplace, the activities go through developing, evaluating and selecting solutions through to the implementation and risk assessment phases ending up with looking at how the solution impacted on personal and corporate values and issues.
Activity 1 identified some common problems that are current to today’s society within the United Kingdom. Gambrill (2006) noted that these problems would be different depending upon the popular beliefs of the time. She then goes on to state that (2006, p131); “Problem definition is not clear cut, it consists of the economic, political and social context in which personal and social problems are defined and reacted to”
These problems were defined as being complex in that the underlying state of the problem may not be known, there may be many goals for the solution, each one contained many variables connected together in a complicated pattern, the problems were constantly changing or there was a delay before the effects of solutions were realised (Funke, 1991). As a contrast Wenke et al (2005) described simple problems as being clearly defined, solvable in shorter periods of time with easily defined solutions that could be traced along the process.
This activity identified complex problems within my logistics workplace of the British Army. These problems can be seen as complex for the following reasons.
The first reason is the technical complexity behind some of the problems shows that there are many aspects to providing an adequate solution. Indeed, although each problem has an underlying root cause, they all have social, economic (Gambrill, 2006) and technical aspects to them (Kristof et al, 2007).The second reason is that a lot of logistics specialists within the logistic department of the British Army would require a change in attitude or culture of the staff within it department. These present more of a social problem to the management (Gambrill, 2006).
Both activities have shown me that the definition of a complex problem is in itself complex (Funke, 1991) and is subject to many interpretations by different researchers (Gray, 2002 and Wenke et al, 2005). It has also shown me that presenting a problem in a different manner can affect how the solutions are thought about (Gambrill, 2006).
Activity 3 looked at McWhinney’s Model of Change (1997), how it could be utilised to solve complex problems and how it can be related to the model.
The 4 modes of reality are the basic element of the model; these are known as Unitary, Sensory, Social and Mythic (McWhinney et al, 1997). This provided the foundation for the model on which the 6 modes of change, 12 directional methods, 6 leadership styles and 6 games of change were built.
Each mode of change had 2 directional methods attached to it, that work in oppounit to one another and it was the utilisation of these different methods that guided the user to think about alternative solutions to a problem. For example, when the British Army decided to install a new deployable maintenance software system, the management used the facilitate directional method to see how the idea would be received by the suppliers, using their feelings from the social reality to create the vision and ideas for the new system in the mythic reality using the oppounit directional method of evoking. The more complex a problem was, then more directional methods would be used through other modes of change to complete the solution (McWhinney et al, 1997).
However, the fundamental of the model was that the change agents understood how they themselves operated, as McWhinney et al (1997, p4) unit; “Before acting we believe you should take a step back and look at yourself. You are the initiator of the change. How you view the world is a critical element in defining your decisions.” ACTIVITY 4
The main objective of this activity is to identify the problem solving models used by the British Army Royal Logistic Corp (RLC) and then identify and evaluate some other problem solving models that were not used within British Army Royal Logistic Corp (RLC).
A problem solving model was a set of steps that sequentially guided people from identifying a problem through to implementing a solution to it in a manner designed to reduce errors or made more efficient use of information and resources (Lang et al, 1978).
As a logistics a workplace, the model we used most widely was cause and effect diagrams during root cause analysis of logistics problems. These were designed to graphically detail all of the factors that influenced a particular scenario (United States Coast Guard, 1994). Appropriate identification of these factors was usually held during brain storming sessions so that all thoughts were collected (Houts, 2009). The other tool widely used was Pareto analysis of risks concerned with our outage works. This tool showed that 80% of consequences were caused by 20% of the risks (Azad, 2007). This allowed us to concentrate our efforts more effectively in reducing the few risks that affected the work the most (BICE, 2005 and OGC, 2007).
Methods identified that have not been used in the British army logistics workplace are Six Thinking Hats, SWOT analysis and Value Synergizing.
Six Thinking Hats is a methodology that uses parallel thinking of everyone within the session (de Bono, 2000). The six different hats each offer a different direction to the parallel thinking and temporarily focus everyone in the session on each perspective or emotion (Design Guide, 2009a). For example, the ‘Green Hat’ represents creativity and new ideas, so as each person in the session puts on that hat, they can suggest alternative solutions to the problem that would all be recorded (Design Guide, 2009a). This process continues until all the hats have been used to cover all the perspectives and emotions (Design Guide, 2009a). Although similar to brain storming, the advantage of the Six Thinking Hats is all views are recorded and arguments are avoided as the emphasis is on moving the project forward (de Bono, 2000).
SWOT analysis is for analysing the internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats of a project (Design Guide, 2009b). The advantages of this are that they are simple to understand as all the key issues are drawn up in chart as shown in Appendix 3 (OGC, 2007) and allow an informed decision to be made if a SWOT analysis is carried out for each alternative (Design Guide, 2009b).
The internal Strengths and Weakness can be formed from brain storming sessions (OGC, 2007) and the external Opportunities and Threats can be formulated by carrying out a PEST analysis (Design Guide, 2009b) where the Political, Economic, Social and Technological issues around the project can be formulated (OGC, 2007).
The final method is Value Synergizing where there is an increase in value by combining 2 different entities (Damodaran, 2005). Synergy can take the form of operational or financial gains (Damodaran, 2005), increased performance amongst team members (Senge, 2006) or the combining of knowledge (Rao, 2008). The difficulty with the Value Synergizing method is how accurately the perceived gains can be measured (Damodaran, 2005). Gharajedaghi 2006, p 258 describes synergy as;
“The essence of synergy is management interactions. It is concerned with the development and implementation of processes, systems and incentives that produce cooperative efforts and alliances that will make the whole of the value chain greater than the sum of its parts. These measures…are intended
to create a win/win environment by dissolving structural conflicts…” However, Gharajedaghi does not go on to offer any ideas on how the synergy can be measured.
This activity has shown me that other problem solving tools are available that the British Army could utilise as an aid to providing solutions. However, a lot of tools require a level of brain storming amongst a group of employees so that issues are not missed (Houts, 2009). ACTIVITY 5
This activity was to identify a suitable complex problem for analysis during this assignment. The problem had been chosen based upon criteria identified in activities 1 and 2 that identified the main characteristics of a complex problem. The problem would be a fundamental part of the learning in this assignment and in any Problem Based Learning system should provide an incentive and a challenge to start the learning process (Norman, 1988 cited in de Graaff and Kolmos, 2007, p3).
The problem identified was the provision of new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and for the staff of the British Army Royal Logistics Corp. (RLC). This problem was chosen as it would cover both social and technical issues that needed solving to provide the best solution (Gambrill, 2006 and Kristof et al, 2007). The problem formed a sub-system of a much larger problem (Proctor, 2005). The performance of the chosen solution would be monitored to see if it could be implemented across the rest of the other regiment units after a successful trial at Royal Logistics Corp. (RLC)
The table below provides some information collated by speaking to the Health and Safety Team of my department within the logistics workplace in the British Army. TABLE 1
Initial analysis of the problem
The complex problem of providing new PPE for the staff of the British Army Royal Logistics Corp. (RLC) covered 2 main aspects. The first was the
technical aspect of assessing the department for the risks that the PPE must protect against (HSE, 2005) and then selecting the appropriate materials for the PPE and garment construction that would provide the required level of protection (Muran, 2004 and Black et al, 2005). The second aspect was the education of the management and staff so that they fully understood the need for the change to the new type of overalls, the protection they provided and the limitations of their use (HSE, 2006).
The technical aspect involved the quantitative analysis of the electrical installation of the deparment using the IEEE 1584 standard (2004). A qualitative assessment then needed to be developed to allow the residual risk of the hazards defined (HSE, 2006), this assessment provided the information to allow the most appropriate type of material and garment design to be selected for the PPE (Black et al, 2005).
The second aspect was the creation of a knowledge base of the solution to the problem that could be presented to management and staff (Aase et al, 2007) to enable them to understand the need for the change (Harvey, 2008) and get the most out of the new PPE (Black et al, 2005).
Initial analysis of the problem
1. Is old PPE still flame resistant to the relevant British Standards? 2. Is it acceptable to carry out repairs on flame resistant PPE? 3. How is it best to maintain the PPE over its working life? 4. What clothing should be worn underneath the PPE?
5. What clothing should be worn on top of PPE?
6. What hazards does the PPE need to protect against?
7. What do subbordinate and managers require from PPE?
8. What do managers require from PPE?
1. Old PPE is worn out and exceeded over 50 washes. (ISO, 1995 and Davis et al, 2003) 2. Old PPE has had several repairs during its life of various levels of quality (CAPP, 1999). 3. Old PPE shrinks a lot when washed (Westex, 2005). Colour of PPE is hard to keep clean (Rhodia, 2006). 4. One engineer had polo shirt melt under PPE (NFPA, 2009).
5. Outer gear is not flame resistant (NFPA, 2009).
6. No assessment has been carried out on unit of residual risks (Davis et al, 2003 and HSE, 2005). 7. Acceptable comfort and style are different for individual employees (Davis et al, 2003). 8. Relevant levels of protection and value for money need to be met (Black et al, 2005). ACTIVITY 6
In this activity, the techniques used to collect and analyse the information required to help solve the problem were evaluated. The techniques already in use by the British Army identified in activity 4 were discussed and in a summary at the end other techniques that could have been used are compared against these.
From Activity 5, it was clear that the complex problem of providing the new PPE could be divided up into several smaller problems that would all have an effect on possible solutions to the overall problem (Funke, 1991). So in order to identify solutions, various different tools were needed, first to split the problem down and then to analyse those individual problems (Whimbey and Lochhead, 1999). Once these problems had been defined they needed to be analysed with other more appropriate tools to produce meaningful insight into each aspect (McGivern, 2006). For example, the hazards aspect could all be quantified using the relevant standards (IEEE, 2004 and NFPA, 2009). This produced quantitative data that was collated in a table (McGivern, 2006) to allow the hazards to be compared to find the best material to protect against them. This followed McWhinney’s (1997) analytical mode of change by using the design directional method going from unitary to sensory when using the standards to produce the data about the installation and then going back from sensory to unitary when looking at how
the data obtained affected the selection of the PPE.
However, as The HSE (2006) explained, some hazards that cannot be quantified numerically should be quantified in a qualitative manner using a risk assessment system. Unlike the quantitative method used previously, this qualitative method did not produce numerical data (McGivern, 2006) so the path through McWhinney’s (1997) Reality model was in the inventive mode, going from sensory to mythic in the induce method, by clarifying the other hazards and the effect they would have and then going back in the realize method from mythic to sensory, by selecting the appropriate PPE that provided the right protection from the hazards.
The next stage of analysing the problem was to learn about the opinions and thoughts of the subordinate and managers that would be affected by the new PPE. The ideal tool for collecting people’s opinions is to interview them as singles or in groups (Mack et al, 2005). To allow more freedom of speech, the subordinate were interviewed separately from the managers (Inge, 2003). To facilitate these sessions, samples of the PPE were obtained from some suppliers to allow the people answering the questions to gain a better appreciation of what was available (Black et al, 2005). The main objective of this exercise was to allow the workers of the department affected by the problem to see how it was being resolved and allow them to have an input into the solution (Kochan et al, 1983). The sessions were run as brainstorming meetings so that all the staff could put forward their opinions (Inge, 2003) and any new suggestions would not get missed out (Houts, 2009). Once all of the information had been gathered, it was collated together with technical information about the various fabrics from the manufacturers. This allowed a scoring system to be applied to each fabric to allow the most appropriate fabric for the PPE to be selected (Muran, 2004). Again to simplify this issue, a scoring system was utilised and as a lot of the information was technical it was collated by one of the stuffs and then presented to management for verification.
Once the 2 best fabrics had been selected a set of sample PPE was made up taking into account the comments made by the managers and subordinates that
had been questioned. The objective of these garments was to allow everyone to view the PPE and make any comments for improvements (Black et al, 2005). It allowed them to state a preference for the material to be used in the PPE, they based this decision on their previous experiences with the existing overalls (Moon, 1999) and the technical knowledge base that was built up about the various fabrics available (Aase et al, 2007).
Once the PPE had been selected, the final stage was to create a contract to provide and maintain the overalls with the chosen manufacturer. The idea behind this contract was for both parties to gain the most out of the partnership (Gharajedaghi, 2006). The army wanted value for money and a quality product that would protect their staff (Black et al, 2005) and the manufacturer wanted to establish a commitment from the British army and expand its product into a new market (Rowe, 2008). This created a synergy where both parties gained from working together to benefit each other (Damodaran, 2005).
From carrying out this activity, I have learnt that many tools are required to solve a complex problem (Funke, 1991). However, as Proctor (2005) pointed out, problem solving can only be achieved by adequately defining or analysing the problem in the first place. By analysing or defining the problem, I leant about the opinions and thoughts of the subordinate and managers that would be affected by the new PPE.This allowed the various problems to be analysed individually using other tools such as the brainstorming sessions held with both parties to discuss their thoughts on the requirements of the PPE. Sessions like this allowed me to get all of the information I needed (Houts, 2009) to fully define the problem with the PPE from what other people had experienced. On reflection about this, I have utilised this methods to produce more effective results and this experience has been added to my own learning curve. ACTIVITY 7
In this activity, a range of analytical tools were identified and used to see
how effective they would be at developing solutions for providing the new PPE into the unit. In general, the tools were applied to some of the different aspects of the problem after it had been broken down into smaller problems (Whimbey and Lochhead, 1999). A basic check list was utilised to find solutions for how the PPE should be controlled within the unit, this tool was chosen as it provided guidance on what to think about (Higgins, 2006) and all of the alternatives were easily identifiable (Proctor, 2005). A variation on this, called an attribute list was used to identify which hazards the operations and maintenance teams were subjected to and the best type of PPE that protected against those hazards. This tool was ideal for this analysis as it allowed the hazards to be broken down into their individual categories (Proctor, 2005) and then allowed each individual hazard to be analysed (Higgins, 2006). Brainstorming sessions were then held with sublimates, managers and manufacturer to find out what the requirements for the PPE would be and what features were beneficial. This method allowed everyone concerned to have some input (Houts, 2009) and ensured that all options were listed. As managers were more awkward to get to attend meetings, brain writing was utilised to gain their thoughts where they could work individually and then supply the information (Proctor, 2005). These sessions also created an awareness of the current ideas and thoughts regarding the PPE (Proctor, 2005). This allowed us to identify the general dominant thought and some of the assumptions and boundaries around the existing PPE. Once identified these could then be addressed to allow other solutions to be identified (Proctor, 2005).
Analogies were created for what it was like to wear an overall and how the various Flame Resistant (FR) fibres protected against hazards.The personal analogy of what it felt like to wear an overall was used as it allowed us to identify with the overall and incorporate the feelings created into potential solutions (Higgins, 2006). As the analysis of the type of fibres was more technical, a direct analogy was used (Proctor, 2005) and this proved extremely useful in creating an understanding of the fibres and which one was perhaps best of us. The use of proverbs for creating ideas was then investigated. The idea behind this was to take proverbs and detail the interpretation and implications of the proverbs with reference to the
complex problem (Baxter, 2002 and Proctor, 2005). This provided some useful ideas about the PPE but nothing that hadn’t been established using other methods. This could have been because by the time this method was used, the people involved had become too close to the problem (Proctor, 2005). The final method investigated was the use of scenario writing to look at the various situations. Proctor (2005, p188) describes scenario writing as “considering new possibilities and opening up one’s mind to consider what might happen”. This was found to be a very powerful tool than not only suggested ideas but also provided reasoning behind those ideas, providing reasoning behind those ideas, produced a more persuasive situation for the change (Maher and Hall, 2004).
Finally morphological analysis was used to pull all the individual problems back together again to provide a set of solutions to providing the new PPE to the unit. SUMMARY OF CREATING POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Carrying out this exercise introduced me to new tools and methods that could help in creating ideas for potential solutions to my chosen problem. I learned that positively identifying the problem is crucial in identifying potential solutions (Proctor, 2005) but the way that a problem was seen was very much dependent upon myself and my experiences and beliefs (McWhinney, 1997). Proctor (2005) described a process of recognising the tasks required, creating the space to generate solutions to the problem and then processing and understanding those solutions to allow the move towards a solution to the problem. It was evident that some of the tools used were more effective at this than others. Scenario writing was seen to be very powerful and created a more receptive mood for change within the unit (Proctor, 2005) than any of the other tools investigated. I also learnt that different types of tools produced better results depending upon the experience of the people using them. Scenario writing required people that were used to the tasks being written about (Proctor, 2005), where as the brainstorming sessions still produced interesting and viable solutions irrespective of who was present at them (Inge, 2003). It was also learnt that it was easier to break a complex problem down into smaller more manageable tasks and work on solutions for those (Higgins, 2006).
In this activity, any constraints that were realised during the solution generating exercise were listed and evaluated. Some constraints came out of prerequiunits from managers and others out of technological limitations. Collins English Dictionary p342, defines a constraint as “compulsion, force or restraint…restrictive condition”. The issues found as summarised in table 14, mostly created restrictions against proposed solutions to the problem. One of the biggest constraints to overcome was placed by managers who were adamant that the overalls should be made from red material giving us a goal constraint that governed the outcome (Suzuki et al, 2009). This immediately ruled out the possibility of using an off the shelf product as the PPE would have to be made specially (Black et al, 2005). Requiring the overalls to be red also ruled out using some materials that were not available in that colour (Muran, 2004). This issue also created conflict, as red overalls were not popular with the managers and subbordinate and this created a difference of opinion between the 2 groups (Maher and Hall, 2004). To solve this conflict, a compromise solution needed to be reached (Maher and Hall, 2004) that addressed the issues of both of the parties.
Other constraints from the managers were that the PPE system needed to meet the requirements of the relevant legislation (HSE, 2005) and needed to provide better value for money than the existing system (Black et al, 2005).
The largest technical constraint was selecting the most appropriate PPE that could provide protection against all of the hazards identified (HSE, 2005). Suzuki el at (2009) described this as being a relational constraint that was affected by how we viewed the capability of the materials against the hazards. Although this was compounded by the constraint of using a specific colour, the fact that this then required the garments to be specifically made, actually assisted in providing a solution to the constraint. The fact that there was such a wide scope of hazards to protect against, meant that it would not be possible to provide one type of PPE to cover all of the hazards (Horrocks, 2006) so this also had to be given consideration.
Most of the constraints made about the PPE by the staffs were based around the performance and comfort of it (Black et al, 2005). The most important requirement was that the PPE should fit the wearer properly, as the fit of the PPE also affected the level of protection given to the wearer (Westex, 2005 and Harvey, 2008), this constraint did not produce any conflicts. Other constraints put forward were to increase the durability of the PPE to reduce the number of repairs as this affected the comfort of it and to add specific pockets to increase the functionality. The final set of constraints were made by some of the manufacturers of the garments who stipulated that FR PPE need to have elasticated cuffs to prevent flames entering the sleeves (Harvey, 2008) and that the garments needed full closure at the front without using metal fasteners (NFPA, 2009) to ensure that the garments passed the right certification requirements (Haase, 2005). Suzuki et al (2009) described these as object level constraints that are affected by how we perceive the use of physical objects.
Originator of constraint
Potential solutions identified
Overalls needed to be coloured red
Senior management within the unit
Off shelf or bespoke PPE contract
High visibility stripes required
Senior management within the unit
Modified off shelf or bespoke PPE contract
Complied with PPE at Work Regulations 2002
Health and Safety advisors
CK approval testing to relevant standards
Better value for money than existing system
Unit Management
Negotiated contract with manufacturer
Provided protection against all hazards
Health and Safety Advisors
Some specialist overalls required
Comfortable to wear
All staffs
Made to measure service
Good durability of PPE
All staffs
High quality material and construction
Elasticated cuffs and non metal fasteners
Garment manufacturers
Bespoke overall contract
During this activity I have learnt how various constraints could have affected the solutions proposed for the problem. As can be seen from Table 2 all of the constraints came from the various stakeholders in the project.
I have seen that some of the constraints such as the manager’s desire to have red overalls and the subordinate dislike of that caused conflict that needed resolving (Maher and Hall, 2004), whilst other constraints like the manager’s desire to have a specific pattern of high visibility stripes and subordinate desire to have specific pockets worked together to push the problem towards the specific solution of a bespoke contract. Although the constraints came from the stakeholders some of them were ultimately driven by legislation such as the need for the garments to be CK marked (HSE, 2005). On reflection, it was decided to add the constraints into the morphological analysis matrix created in Appendix 12 for the overall solutions to see how the constraints would affect the solutions already identified. The results of this are shown in Appendix 13. ACTIVITY 9
In this activity, the potential solutions identified in Activity 7 were evaluated using a variety of methods to assist in deciding which one was the
most ideal solution to the problem. 2 sets of evaluations were carried out, one on the PPE and the method of supply and maintenance and another separate evaluation on the type of material for the overalls. The evaluations are summarised in Table 3 below. TABLE 3
Solution 1
Solution 2
Solution 3
Solution 4
Evaluation Method 1
Sticky Dots Analysis
Overall least preferred solution but has highest management vote Next preferred solution voted for by subordinate the most
Second most preferred solution voted for mostly by subordinate and was also the highest second preference The most preferred solution voted for mostly by subordinate but also spread evenly across other categories
Evaluation Method 2
Force-Field Analysis
Scored -3
Solution with the most forces against it
Scored -3 Reasonably equal number of forces for and against the solution Scored +4 Equal number of forces for and against the solution Scored +10 Solution with the most forces for it heavily outweighing forces against
The first method of evaluation was to use a sticky dots format where a selection of staff placed their dots against the solution they preferred the most (Proctor, 2005). Different coloured dots were given to the different groups used so it could be seen which groups favoured which solutions
(Baxter, 2002). The process though, did develop a lot of discussion (Hogan, 2003) about the different solutions that provided much more information than was seen by the end results of voting with the dots.
The second method was to use force-field analysis. This created an overall view of the solution and allowed assessment of the importance of the factors affecting the change (Proctor, 2005). This analysis was conducted with a small group (Hustedde and Score, 1995) using a brain storming session to identify the forces for and against the solutions (Hustedde and Score, 1995). Minkler and Coombe (2005) identified that change is more likely to occur when the positive forces driving the change heavily outweigh the negative forces opposing the change. As can be seen from the results, solution 4 followed this ideology and so looked like the most likely to succeed.
The first evaluation method compared the materials against each other in the criteria categories (Westex, 2005) and the second method compared the materials against values attributed to the criteria (Harvey, 2008). SUMMARY OF EVALUATION METHODS
During this activity I have utilised 2 different methods to evaluate various aspects of the solutions available. Proctor (2005) advised that multiple criteria need to be taken into account when evaluating potential solutions to a problem and using more than one method of evaluation has shown how this can be achieved.
Some methods such as sticking dots next to a preferred solution generated high levels of involvement (Hogan, 2003) but also produced doubts about their validity when patterns of voting were seen to emerge from the results (Baxter, 2002). To take this into account, force field analysis was adopted that listed all of the issues around the solutions (Proctor, 2005) and not particular preferences. The scores in this method were based on an overall driving force for the solution, with a high positive driving force indicating that that particular solution was likely to be more successful than others with a lower positive or negative overall score (Minkler and
Coombe, 2005). As all of the analysis methods pointed to the same solution, it was not going to be beneficial to use more methods of analysis or review existing outcomes (Proctor, 2005).
This activity described the implementation plan and the phases that were passed through during its development. The change path for this particular problem followed a Renaissance Path moving through 4 modes of change (McWhinney et al, 1997).The change started out due to the existing PPE becoming unfit for service (Horrocks, 2005) and the staff becoming disgruntled with it (McWhinney et al, 1997). This put the unit into the evaluate mode where they decided what they actually wanted from the PPE which lead to the emergent mode where the different types of PPE were investigated (McWhinney et al, 1997). Maher and Hall (2004, p13) describe the implementation phase as a time of; “Negotiation, conflict resolution, teamwork, delegation, communication, motivating, influencing” The best solution to minimising the effectives of negative factors was to implement actions that reduced the impact of these factors and not increase the factors pushing the solution forward (Proctor, 2005 and Higgins, 2006). To reduce these staff were involved at various stages along the implementation, from brain storming sessions about the requirements of any new PPE to being able to view samples of the new PPE (Black et al, 2005). To help achieve this reputable garment manufacturers were used (Harvey, 2008). SUMMARY OF IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
From this activity, I have learnt about the challenges faced when implementing a solution to a complex problem from technological issues to selling the idea to others (Higgins, 2006).
It has been shown by doing this activity that the solution followed the Renaissance Path format (McWhinney et al, 1997). Looking back at Activity 3 where I completed the Reality Questionnaire, it can be seen that my 2 weakest scores were in the Unitary and Sensory aspects. Knowing this allowed me to enlist more help in defining the problem and finally putting the
solution into practice (McWhinney et al, 1997).
However, my scores in the Mythic and Social aspects, provided further evidence to suggest why I was good at finding an alternative solution to the problem and was able to sell the good points of the solution to the my colleagues and managers (Higgins, 2006). This was also helped by the force field analysis that guided me to concentrate on the weak points within the solution to make the implementation more successful (Proctor, 2005 and Higgins, 2006).
In this activity, the risks of the project were identified and contingency measures put in place to minimise the severity or the likelihood of a risk occurring and prevent the implementation of the solution. The OGC (2007, p1) describe risk as;
“an uncertain event or set of events which, should it occur, will have an effect on the achievement of objectives. A risk consists of the probability of a perceived threat or opportunity occurring and the magnitude of its impact on objectives.” The assessment carried out in Appendix 17 Part b, indicated that before any risk management processes were implemented, there were 5 main issues that presented the most risk, split across the human, financial and technical factors of the project (BSI, 2000). Early identification of these risks allowed the affects of them to be minimised (OGC, 2007).
BSI (2000) gives 4 basic ways of managing these risks by reducing the consequences, or the likelihood, sharing or eliminating the risk. OGC, (2007) add another option of consciously accepting the risk as it stands.
As can be seen from the assessment, the majority of the risk controls for this project reduced the likelihood of the risk occurring, for example, the risk of the PPE not fitting was given a B3 rating. The controls put in place
reduced the rating down to B1. The likelihood had been reduced to a 1, but the severity remained at B as the impact of the PPE not fitting was the same irrespective of how likely it was to happen (Black et al, 2005). The staff had different preferences over the style and function of their PPE (Black et al, 2005), but by communicating and explaining to them why their requests could not be met went some way to softening their reaction (Maher and Hall, 2004), and reduced the rating from B4 to an A2.
One factor, dealing with the delivery of the material could not be mitigated against, as it was outside of the control of the army (OGC, 2007). Whilst investigating risk assessment techniques, another technique referred to as Project Risk Failure Modes Effects Analysis was discovered (Carbone and Tippett, 2004) and this was utilised to provide a comparison approach. This process not only defined the risks of the project but also the ability to detect the occurrence of the risks (Carbone and Tippett, 2004).
This activity has taught me how to relate risks to the outcome of a project and the importance in implementing a risk management process to reduce the effect of the risks on the project objectives (OGC, 2007).
I have learnt that the risks can be assigned to categories such as financial or technical (BSI, 2000) and are affected by the likelihood for them to occur and the impact they may cause (OGC, 2007).
A risk management process to reduce the effect of the risk is then out in place (OGC, 2007). There are options to reduce the impact of the risk or the likelihood of it occurring (BSI, 2000) and throughout the assessment process it became clear that the easiest option was to reduce the likelihood of the risk occurring. However, on occasion, it was seen that due to external factors the risk had to be accepted as it was (OGC, 2007) and there was very little the army could to reduce effect of a risk.
A new risk assessment process was also discovered in the form of adding in a
detection possibility into the assessment (Carbone and Tippett, 2004). This had the benefit of raising the profile of risks that were hard to detect until they had occurred (Carbone and Tippett, 2004), this allowed more attention to be paid to them at the start of the project and maintain a higher level of monitoring until the risk had gone (Carbone and Tippett, 2004 and OGC, 2007).
This activity provides a summary of the problem solving process undertaken so far, it points out the main learning points and how things could be improved in the future along with a brief summary of the problem itself.
At the start of this assignment, I carried out activities that help me to explore my personal feelings, values and opinions. McWhinney et al (1997) described this process as being important to understanding why I made decisions in a particular way. From this I learned that I had a balanced view with a slight tendency towards mythical and social concepts.
I then learnt about complex problems and that the definition of them is in itself complex (Funke, 1991) but is crucial as it affects how solutions are developed (Proctor, 2005 and Gambrill, 2006). I also learnt that complex problems may be a smaller problem from a much larger one (Proctor, 2005) but that they are all resolved by following a set of sequential steps (Lang et al, 1978) that can involve them being broken into smaller problems and solved individually (Funke, 1991 and Higgins, 2006).
After the problem had been defined, the process moved onto the development of potential solutions by using creative thinking techniques (Proctor, 2005). Here I learnt about a variation of brainstorming called 6 Thinking Hats that allowed all staff the equal opportunity to comment on different aspects of the problem (de Bono, 2006). I feel that this would have been a more successful tool to use than the standard brainstorming that sometimes produced arguments amongst the staff present (Inge, 2003). Another powerful
technique discovered was the use of scenario writing (Proctor, 2005), this proved to be very useful as it also showed the thought process behind the proposed solutions. All solutions produced constraints that either became issues about particular items or issues due to individual’s preferences (Suzuki et al, 2009). This had to be resolved by technical solutions from manufacturers (Muran, 2004) or conflict resolution between the 2 parties to negotiate a compromise solution (Maher and Hall, 2004).
Creative thinking generated a lot of potential solutions that needed evaluating to select the most appropriate one (Proctor, 2005). The most useful evaluation method seemed to be force-field analysis that provided a good visual aid to the positive and negatives of a solution (Minkler and Coombe, 2005) unlike the sticky dots method that allowed a lot of staff to vote on the solutions (Hogan, 2003). The chosen solution then needed to be implemented into the unit, this involved all of the unit staff including those that had not been involved in the project so far and this again created some conflict (Maher and Hall, 2004). The implementation required the solution to be sold to the unit (Higgins, 2006) and a useful tool for this was force-field analysis that had been effectively used during the solution evaluation stage. I used my previous learning and experience of this tool to fulfil a new purpose (Moon, 1999) which proved to be very effective.
Every implementation plan will have its associated risks that must be identified and managed (OGC, 2007). I learnt about how to categorise the risks (BSI, 2000) and also a new process called Project Risk Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (Carbone and Tippett, 2004) that added another dimension to the risk detailing how easy it was to detect.
This activity investigated the values of myself, some work colleagues and British Army and how these affected the problem solving process. Collins English Dictionary (1999, p1682) describes a value as “the moral principles and beliefs or accepted standards of a person or social group” and Parkes
and Thomas (2007) put them into 3 categories of Interpersonal Relationships, Operational Style and Personal Qualities or Attributes.
My own values identified from a checklist of values from both work and personal (Senge et al, 1994). The breakdown across the 3 categories of Parkes and Thomas (2007) showed that as the values were removed, my interpersonal relationships and personal qualities became a priority over my operational style.
A major value that contributed to my work on the problem was my strong family values and the belief that employees should return to their families at the end of a working day safe and sound and providing them with the best PPE available contributed towards that by reducing the severity of injuries from flash fire and arc flash (Davis et al, 2003).
The values of the managers at the unit were explored in the context of this problem by asking them a series of 3 questions. The overriding theme that seemed to come out of these questions was the desire from the managers for the PPE to be compliant with current legislation to minimise the risk of prosecution from the HSE. This seemed to be more a personal aspect (Parkes and Thomas, 2007) to avoid individual prosecution rather than being promoted as a Army value.
This seemed to produce an element of fear that affected the decisions made about the potential solutions (HSE, 2008). The HSE (2008) go on to indicate that this fear could have been responsible for managers accepting a solution that was excessive for the risks being protected against. It was therefore important that the risks were appropriately identified so that the correct PPE could be selected (Davis et al, 2003) and produce an appropriate response from the management (HSE, 2008).
However, it was also realised that using this fear appropriately produced a selling point for the solution (Higgins, 2006) and there was less likelihood
of management and staff arguing against changes made on the grounds of safety (HSE, 2008).
Attempting the same exercise with subbordinate only seemed to produce a response of the need for comfort and not much consideration for other aspects. It was felt that this was probably due to amount of time they spent wearing the overalls made comfort a high priority for them (Black et al, 2005) and also based on their experiences of the existing PPE (Moon, 1999).
Values that directly affected this solution were a high regard for the health and safety of its employees at work, its impact on society and responsible procurement of services and goods (The British Army, 2008).
The high regard for the welfare of its workforce again enforced the selling of the solution on grounds of safety (Higgins, 2006 and HSE, 2008). My own value of wanting staff to return home after a safe working day reflected the Army’s value of its impact on society (Senge, 1994) and created an assurance that investing in high quality PPE supported my organisation’s values.
The organisational values were created by senior management and passed down to the staff (Senge, 1994) and it was found that some of these values were reiterated by the unit managers (Deal and Kennedy, 2000) but none were reproduced by the subordinate at the lower levels within the Army indicating that the communication of the values had not been totally successful.
Carrying out this activity taught me how my own, my colleagues and the Army’s values could impact on the solutions to a problem.
My own values and thoughts affected the potential solutions that were developed in the early stages of the process (McWhinney et al, 1997). However, the impact of my values reduced as more people became involved with the potential solutions and put their thoughts into the process. It was
noted that the managers were more open to talking about their values than the subordinate were probably due to the managerial training programs they underwent. My biggest learning point was realising that when the values of the solution matched the values of managers and the organisation, it produced a better fit for the solution and made it easier to sell and implement (Higgins, 2006). This will add to my learning experience and allow me to implement solutions to problems more effectively in the future (Moon, 1999).
In this activity, the ethical issues surrounding the problem were identified across 4 different categories and responses from managers, and subordinate recorded. Ethical issues are high on the agenda of the public due to high level scandals (Jones, 1991) and continual reporting and sensationalising by the media (Carroll and Buccholz, 2009).
There were 2 key ethics relating to individuals. The first one was providing the required level of protection to the staff from the PPE (Davis et al, 2003), but this was in opposition to the second ethic of dictating to the employees what they should wear (Black et al, 2005).
From the conversations with managers, it was evident that they were aware of both of these issues but they felt that the first issue far outweighed the second issue (HSE, 2008). However, a lot of subordinate were only concerned about the second issue but as they were used to wearing PPE it had very little impact.
The main issues for both the organisation and the industry in general were the moral and legal issues about providing adequate protection for the employees and providing them with a safe working environment (HSE, 2006).
This ethic was a conflict between the moral rights of the employees and the
Army’s self interest to make a profit (Fisher and Lovell, 2006). The new PPE was a business cost that the Army did not make any return investment from so how did the Army benefit from opting for a solution that went beyond the requirements of legislation? (Fisher and Lovell, 2006).
The answer to this lay in the corporate values promoted by the senior management of the Army (Deal and Kennedy, 2000). As they portrayed themselves as having a high concern for the welfare of their employees, the lower management also adopted this value. Although some managers continually drove for a more cost effective option despite still wanting the best PPE, indicating that this was more of an espoused value than one of their enacted values (Dunphy et al, 2007).
The ethical issues that surrounded the Army within the society were more about how the public perceived the Army and how it operated (Fisher and Lovell, 2006). Since the Army liked to promote itself as caring for the environment (British Army, 2008) it put this into practice by looking how its suppliers operated and the PPE supplier was vetted for its environmental and welfare policies to ensure that they matched the best practices for their industry (AISE, 2000).
Although there was less pressure for those responsible for internal purchasing to follow the ethical codes laid down by senior management (Fisher and Lovell, 2006), the middle management structure in operation within the Army ensured that the core values promoted by senior management were passed down through the ranks (Deal and Kennedy, 2000) and promoted their use by those responsible for purchasing over using the most cost effective option available.
Carrying out this activity has shown me that the ethics followed by people are very closely entwined with their core values. This is seen in the case of the ethical practices laid down by the organisation following the corporate responsibility codes and values (British Army, 2008). Applying these to the solution chosen showed me that even a small internal activity
could have an impact on the organisation if members of the public learnt about unethical practices (Fisher and Lovell, 2006). ACTIVITY 16
In this activity, methods of ethical reasoning were applied to some of the ethical issues identified in the previous activity. Jones (1991, p367) described an ethical decision as one being “both legal and morally acceptable to the larger community” and they are an important aspect to allow Army’s performance to be sustained (Epstein, 2008).
The 2 ethical issues analysed were the moral and legal issues surrounding the provision of the new PPE and then the moral issue of providing a quality of PPE exceeding the legal requirements.
Unlike the first method that relied upon a neutral presentation of the facts (Nash, 1981), the issue contingent model attempted to build on the moral intensity of the issue (Jones, 1991). From a personal perception, this model produced a result similar to the risk assessment system I use, in that it quantified the severity and legal issues around the problem (Jones, 1991) unlike the previous model that looked more at the social and organisational factors surrounding the decision being made. This second model produced a much stronger case for providing the new PPE and making it better than the old ideal of achieving the minimum level legally required (Dunphy et al, 2007). However, it must be noted that my own personal experiences of wearing PPE and being exposed to burn hazards produced a much stronger loyalty that possibly lead the issue contingent model to producing a stronger case for the new PPE because of this, the issue contingent model is best used alongside other ethical decision making models (Jones, 1991).
Completing this activity has taught me about the different aspects of making ethical decisions and the importance of ensuring neutrality when defining the issues around the problem (Nash, 1981).
In this activity the decision making strategy for solving the complex problem identified in activity 5 was reviewed to see if improvements could be made or use made of alternative methodologies.
My own approach to decision making was reviewed in the Jensen (1995) questionnaire. This revealed a fairly flexible approach to where I am capable of making decisions. However, it did a show a greater preference for processing information in visual format amongst groups as opposed to thinking about things as an individual. This can be seen during the process for selecting the best material for the PPE where the information was tabulated to compare the options and then delivered to colleagues to build a consensus for the best material (Higgins, 2006 and Senge, 2006).
It also indicated an ability to think about all the factors involved in making a decision as indicated by the many different factors looked at for the PPE by taking into account its technical attributes, comfort levels, personnel functionality, managerial, and legal requirements alongside the manufacturers’ offerings, these formed the decision criteria on which to base the decision (Gharajedaghi, 2006).
Utilising this method allowed the managers and subbordinate to take some ownership and feel they had input into the change (Maher and Hall, 2004). However, I did find that the more technical aspects were better decided by an individual than in a group as the amount of learning involved could not be accommodated by the group due to individuals’ workloads. To avoid this method creating conflict, the reasons for the decision I took were widely publicised to give others an understanding of the issues to encourage them to adopt the decision even though they might have disagreed with it (Gharajedaghi, 2006).
One issue that was raised during the reflection of the decision making process was the lack of an overview of the problem and the decisions that needed to be made (Hart et al, 1985). If a consensus map had been produced to organise the ideas into a sequence (Hart et al, 1985 and Proctor, 2005),
then this would have enabled the various different people involved in the solving of the complex problem to work in a structured manner and increase the effectiveness of the complex problem solving process (Hart et al, 1985). Activity 18 – Reviewing the complex-problem-solving model and its application
In this activity, the complex problem solved is reviewed against McWhinney’s problem solving model (1997) and how that model was applied during the process. The problem was to provide an improved PPE and maintenance system requiring the collaboration of managers and subordinate who wear the PPE, managers and procurement who control the funding and PPE manufacturers who provide the items and the service.
McWhinney et al (1997, p3) described the purpose of using a problem solving model “to provide a basis for reflection and enable us to learn from our successes and failures”. They go on to list the benefits of being able to respond to a wider scope of problems and anticipate the consequences of solutions applied.
The model applied to my complex problem was the Renaissance Path that saw the problem passes through 2 modes of change and boards of play (McWhinney et al, 1997) In the first stage of the process, the scale of the problem with the existing overalls and system were realised and quantified (McWhinney et al, 1997). Time was spent taking into account the issues from the staff and managers within the Army as the personal views of myself, managers and staff affected how each of us defined the problems with the PPE (McWhinney et al, 1997). This can be seen by the cause and effect diagram in Appendix 5 Part b created by brainstorming with the different parties involved (Houts, 2009) and building up a complete list of all the issues. It was at this point that I realised I had strong convictions about the problem due to my previous experiences (Moon, 1999) and learned this could have a major impact on any potential solutions (Proctor, 2005). This all occurred on the 4th board in the Evaluative Mode of McWhinney’s model (McWhinney et al, 1997).
The process then moved onto the 6th board in the Evaluative Mode of the model
(McWhinney et al, 1997). This is where alternative potential solutions were created with using creative thinking techniques (Proctor, 2005) utilising a selection of the staff to allow them to be involved in the change process (Maher and Hall, 2004). During this part of the process I was in more of a supportive mode providing alternative thoughts for others to evaluate. This was part of the process I found interesting and enjoyable and the reality questionnaire in Appendix 1 indicated that it was one of the stronger points of my nature.
As solutions were created, individuals raised concerns about them and created constraints for the particular solution. Some of these constraints such as the need to have red overalls were due to a manager’s personal perceptions (Suzuki et al, 2009). This created conflict that needed resolving through negotiation (Maher and Hall, 2004).
The next stage of the Renaissance Model was in the Assertive Mode played out on the 2nd board (McWhinney et al, 1997). During this stage the desired solution was established and the process entered a more authoritarian mode where procedures and contracts for the new system were established (McWhinney et al, 1997). Activity 1 had shown me that this was not one of my stronger points, so by knowing this allowed me to enlist extra help from procurement and HSE advisors to establish appropriate contracts and policies for the staff and management to review. This was the implementation phase where the solution had to be sold to all the staff (Higgins, 2006). It was also at this point that the ethical issues surrounding the solutions were also investigated. One of the biggest factors in this was making staff and managers realise that some of the practices of the past were no longer acceptable (Carroll and Buchholtz, 2009). Since corporate image was extremely important to the Army (Epstein, 2008), it was reasonably easy to convince them of the benefits of a supplying a higher quality PPE system to improve public perception of the Army (Fisher and Lovell, 2006).
To further assist with the implementation, examples of the PPE were made up and left with the staff to try on and comment about. This again gave them the impression of a high level of involvement in the process (Maher and
Hall, 2004). The final stage of the model is where the contract and policies were put into place and the staff started to use the new PPE. I learned that this part of the process was where the consequences of the solution were realised as staff engaged in the Analytical Mode and started to judge the performance of the new system (McWhinney et al, 1997). Their feedback allowed me to build upon my knowledge base of the PPE and system so that minor adjustments could be made to further enhance the performance of it (Moon, 1999) such as the posters put up displaying the staff and the identity number allocated to them by the PPE supplier.
Overall, the utilisation of a problem solving model has shown me a structured approach to the process that assisted in the creation of an appropriate solution to the problem (McWhinney et al, 1995 and Proctor, 2005). This approach split the process into defined chunks and allowed appropriate resources to be allocated when they were most needed.
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