The workshop for this subject has introduced various tools and models to enable you to apply a systemic thinking approach to your practice. The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate your ability to use systems thinking, diagnosis and modelling tools to address issues arising in projects to manage them better.
System Description/Problem under Investigation
Systems thinking model is a computer-aided methodology that is applied to project design and analysis (Neuwirth, et al., 2012, p. 1). It is usually used by individuals to solve dynamic problems arising in ecological, economic, managerial and complex social systems. These systems are characterized by mutual interaction, interdependence and information feedback. This means that the sub-systems within a system are independent, but for the whole system to work and obtain its target objective all the sub-systems must interact and provide useful feedback. Systems thinking commences by defining the existing dynamic problem. Then it proceeds to map and model the stages and eventually ends by establishing the steps for creating confidence in the model as well as its policy implications (Dudley & Soderquist, 2010, p. 2).
Project management is one of the most crucial but poorly understood fields of management. Ranging from software development, construction, product development, aerospace, power generation to other areas, costs and delays dominates contrary to the expectations. Therefore, it is undisputable that project management suffers from rampant resource scheduling and costing problems (Han, et al., 2014, p. 220). It is out of these numerous problems facing project management whereby this paper applies systems thinking model to overcome the problem of resource scheduling in projects. To address this problem, this paper uses casual loop diagram and systems thinking methodologies such as CATWOE analysis and root definition.
Application of Casual Loop Diagram
Deadline is the critical aspect affecting the scheduling of resources. It is the determinant of the available time. The long the deadline the more available time to execute the projects. When the dynamics of the projects and errors sets in, it calls for a reworks. This means that the available time needed to complete the project will not be enough. The need to complete assignment within the given deadline calls for overtime, maintenance of productivity rate as well as execution of the available tasks. This increases resource rescheduling pressure among project managers. However, with the casual loop diagram in place all the three project resource increasing factors will be dealt with effectively.
Research findings connote that projects tend to run smoothly until when they are near to completion (Zaim, et al., 2013, p. 546). This is a time when errors that were made earlier are discovered. The discovery of these mistakes contributes to reduction project scope, schedule slippage, hiring, overtime, expediting and costly rework. As results the organization suffers from litigation costs from customers sues, higher costs, lower productivity, increased workforce and management turnover, loss of reputation and market share and poor profitability (Zawadzki, 2014, p. 155). This increases the costs of executing the project. However, with the application of casual loop diagram all these problems can be eradicated, and therefore the project will run smoothly from the start to completion.
From the above discussion, it is clear that projects are complex. Complex projects consist of several interdependent components. They are highly dynamic. These entail several feedback methods. They exhibit nonlinear relationships. Finally the use both “soft” and “hard” data. Putting into consideration the complexity of this projects it is clear that they require effective tools such as casual loop diagram to get them executed and implemented without incurring excessive costs and delays. The discussion below determines how casual loop diagram model can be used to solve several critical conditions that may hamper the progress of the project management and increase the resources of running a project.
Multiple Interdependent Components
Interdependent of the project parts means that altering one element may result to implications on other parts (Bredillet, 2008, p. 8). For example, changing an element in the product design may lead to changes in network plan and monitoring of the project and therefore calling for the rework. Such changes may force the project manager to reschedule workers from one job to another, accelerate and delay some of the tasks. However, with the application of casual loop diagram, facilitates the effective understanding of the critical and interdependent components of the project. Additionally, casual loop models are well designed to address the existing multiple interdependencies existing in the projects. Casual loop diagram captures all these interdependencies, and it becomes simple to trace the changes from the beginning throughout the project.
Dynamism of the Projects
Intrinsically, project management is dynamic. Crucial activities such hiring and training occur over time. There may be delays in addressing the unexpected changes, identifying and rectifying deviations and carrying out project programs. These are high dynamics attributable to the projects, and if they are not well taken care of may result into failure or underperformance of the project. However, with the availability of the casual loop model, these dynamics will be dealt with. Casual loop model is characterized by highly designed procedures that enable proper presentations and explanation of the complex projects (Zaim, et al., 2013, p. 547). The casual loop model helps project managers to overcome technicalities and difficulties portrayed by the complex projects.
Multiple Feedback Processes
Project management entails multiple feedback processes. For example, a construction project involves multiple interacting feedback processes. Rodrigues & Williams (2010, p. 2) defines feedback as the process of self-correcting the negative impacts of the decisions. For example, considering a situation whereby a project is lagging behind time, the manager will opt for increasing the use of overtime. The additional hours will help to reinforce the project to the desired schedule. This is a self-correcting mechanism. However, this approach may have consequences. For example, if the manager allows over time to run to for extended period, employees will become tired or burn out. In turn, negative effects such as increased employee turnover, a higher rate of mistakes and lower productivity may follow. This will contribute to the further delay of the project as well more over time, and this will be a continuous vicious cycle of feedback processes.
Feedback processes are crucial to the changes in technical, managerial and other systems in the project. Casual loop diagram is the effective tool for making informed choices among the managers whenever there are important feedback processes. This is contrary to the other models such as critical paths, PERT and Gantt charts that do not put into consideration the effects of feedback processes (Keleckaite & Meiliene, 2015, p. 15). Even though the traditional resource scheduling and costing models are effective tools of project management, they cannot appropriately work alone without supplementing them with casual loop diagram. This is because casual loop diagram can deal with dynamic complexity caused by time delays, feedbacks, and interdependencies in large scale projects. On the other hand, traditional models are capable of dealing with the combinatorial complexity of projects with multiple sequential and parallel activities. Therefore, supplementing casual loop diagram with traditional models such as critical path, Gantt charts, and PERT will help project managers overcome the feedback processes exhibited by large scale projects.
Nonlinear relationships always characterize complex systems. This means causes and effects cannot be proportionally related together. For example, increasing over time may increase productivity. However, when the elements of fatigue, burning out and increase of employee turnover gets in, the relationship will be opposite. This means that the productivity will reduce a contrast to the perception that an increase in overtime automatically guarantees increased productivity. But, with casual loop diagram in place, all the nonlinear relationships in the project will be well portrayed and help the project managers to overcome them with ease.
Hard and Soft Data
Complex projects involve both hard and soft data. In fact, the majority of the data relied upon to make decisions on complex project management are qualitative and descriptive. This means that this data has not been documented for easy retrieval yet it is fundamental for modeling and understanding complex systems of the project. According to Zidane & Olsson (2010, p. 625) lack of descriptive knowledge of organizational structure and operating procedures the results of the project management will be total confusion. Casual loop diagram understands the importance of data that is highly associated with descriptive and qualitative aspects of the project sub systems (Katcherovski, 2012). Besides, casual loop diagram can utilize multiple sources of information such as direct observations, interview, numerical data and other sources to elicit goals, objectives, organizational structures and other significant managerial scopes of the system.
Methodologies Solving Project Management Problems
In the above discussion, it has been revealed that projects resource scheduling problem may be result of multiple interdependent components, the dynamism of the project, multiple feedback processes and applicability of both hard and soft data. In this the next discussion, this paper aims to establish how soft system methodology variables such as CATWOE analysis and root definition can be used to overcome the discovered drawbacks in project management.
CATOWOE is a simple checklist used to stimulate thinking for the existing problems to find the solutions (Karaman & Kurt, 2015, p. 575). It is an acronym for Clients, Actors, Transformation, Weltanschauung, Owners, and Environment. The application of this methodology focuses on the existing processes or systems that occur in the organization and involves exploring how the features within the system interact both internally and externally. Using the elements of this methodology the project resource scheduling problem can be solved in the following ways;
Clients: These are the major stakeholders who receive the final product from the project. When the system changes, they are the ones suffers or benefits from the consequences ( Chin & Spowage, 2012, p. 106). The problem of resource scheduling in the project can be solved by identifying the customers who will suffer when project results changes. If not all clients will suffer then the organization should minimize the overtime working hours and instead focus on increasing the time needed to complete the project. This will save the company excessive costs that could have been incurred in resource scheduling.
Actors: In this case, actors are the employees. In the earlier discussion, this paper found that employees are affected by the uncertain changes in the projects. It was evident that they may suffer from fatigue, burn out and finally end up leaving the company. This will call the organization to determine whether employees will be able to match their productivity with the increase of resources. This will help the company to avoid employing a lot resources that may be underutilized (Saad, et al., 2014, p. 6).
Transformation: This element focuses on the change that a process or a system will bring. Multiple interdependent components and multiple feedback processes problems that may lead resource scheduling pressures can be solved using this element. The transformation will identify how resources will be employed to produce the output (Niranjan, 2015, p. 452). Additionally, the transformation will also identify different feedbacks produced by different subsystems with the system that contributes to extra allocation of resources.
Weltanschauung/World View: This element focuses on justifying the transformation of the process or system. It places the whole system under wide view to establish its relevance and consequences (Vaskimo, 2015, p. 22). This because this element puts into consideration all the worldviews offered by the project stakeholders to determine how resources will be allocated.
Owner: In this context, the owner can be an entrepreneur or the investor (Keleckaite & Meiliene, 2015, p. 3). In the setup of the projects, project manager or the company board of directors can the owner. It is the owner who decides whether the project stops before completion or make changes to the project. The project manager adapts to this element establish the utilization of the available resources.
Environmental Constraints: Systems do not exist in a closed environment but rather in the opened environment that is full of constraints (Hewagamage & Hewagamage, 2011, p. 91). These constraints may restrict or hamper the anticipated project changes. For example, finance and appropriate technology may not be available to implement the desired changes in the project. Project managers should assess environmental constraints when determining the project resource requirements.
It is important to note mistakes will be made in the project. Therefore, it is important to identify the root cause of the errors to avoid their reoccurrence in the future. This methodology is largely associated with the operational problems, and if applied appropriately, it gives the project manager ability to identify the problem that negatively affected the project (Aston, 2017). For example, the project manager can use this methodology to solve problem attributable to project resource scheduling. The problem can be key features missing the final product, a high number of defects than expected or working lagging behind the planned schedule. The project manager will use root definition methodology to identify the root cause of the problem early enough to avoid allocation of resources on the projects that a prone to failure or errors (Cren, 2016).
Project Scope Statement
The major problem facing project management is resource scheduling. The casual loop diagram, CATOWOE and root definition methodologies discussed in the paper will be used to address the problem identified. These methodologies will be able to meet efficiency, effectiveness, and efficacy of the project is discussed in the following context.
CATWOE analysis facilitates project management information exchange. The major benefit derived from the application of this methodology will involve reducing the overall working hours, minimizing the project performance risk and completion of the project within the planned budget (Sundqvist, et al., 2014, p. 280). Additionally, CATWOE analysis will help to balance the amount of time needed to change from one aspect of the project to another. These changes will be communicated to other project stakeholders promptly to avoid errors in the processes and schedule slippage. Secondly, it will reduce the level of miscommunications and information occurrences delay. CATWOE coordinates all the above mentioned aspects to facilitate the optimal use of resources.
Both the CATWOE and root definition analysis will facilitate project management effectiveness by planning and organizing the project resources to achieve the desired objectives. These methodologies will ensure that the projects are completed within the budget. To achieve this, CATOWOE analysis helps in ensuring several overhead costs such as materials and staffing costs do not slip beyond the planned budget. Besides, CATWOE will help to ensure that the project is completed within the set deadline. To address the problem of project failure, CATWOE will identify what the needs of the clients and allocate resources appropriately towards meeting them.
CATWOE and root definition analysis will help in governance, alignment of resources, assurance to the stakeholders, integration of the project processes and overall management of the project to achieve the desired output (Chuck & Michelle, 2016, p. 92). However, the two methodologies would not be able to address the problem of resource rescheduling effectively without supplementing them with PERT, Gantt chart and Critical path analysis. This is because they are unable to resolve the problem of resource scheduling by delaying some of the project activities as it is the case for the other three resource scheduling models.
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