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The Use of Hard System Method in Resolving Coffee Industry Problems

1.Discuss about the Use Of Hard System Method In Resolving Coffee Industry Problems.


2.Discuss about the approaches and tools that could be used to investigate illustrate and make recommendation to solving problems.

3.Discuss about the Main insights or new understandings gained from the application of HSM to the case study.

4.Discusss about the relevance and suitability of hard or soft approach in highlighting issues faced by it.

1.The hard system method is quite relevant in this situation where coffee production is experiencing fluctuations in its fair trade market with the producers bearing the largest burden especially small scale farmers (Zlatanovi´c 2016, p.22). From the case study it’s evident that big players came into place to disadvantage the small scale producers with companies shifting from production of high quality Arabica coffee to low quality Robusta types without much consideration of the implications. Coffee present in the market is no longer of good quality as companies such as star bucks are only focusing on quantity. With such kind of unfair operating grounds many farmers who benefited from coffee production have quit coffee production shifting to other crops which are not paying well hence the increased levels of poverty and reduced child enrolment in schools from affected regions (Azadeh, Darivandi and Fathi 2012, p.72).

The first step is to identify the problem which in this case is exploitation of the coffee market by huge businesses at the expense of small scale farmers and production of low quality coffee brands all of which have led to reduced benefits by coffee producers. Secondly the situation is described as it appears which in this case coffee production is likely to collapse and the situation should be treated as a crisis to ensure the industry does not fail.

Spry diagram in relation to the coffee situation

Thirdly is description of the situation as it would be ideally; in this stage ideally coffee production should not be exploited by business tycoons. Farmers are expected to be the greatest beneficiaries of this cash crop but as it is, this is not the case (Jackson 2010, p.136). The fair trade has the mandate to cushion farmers against the exploitative business companies but this has not been the case thus causing farmers to shift from coffee production.

Fourthly is to generate ideas of possible routes in going back to the ideal situation where farmers used to benefit from coffee production; this can be achieved by the aid of international business community which should emphasize on quality coffee exports and nothing short of that (Kotiadis and Mingers 2006, p.861). They should also prioritize purchase of coffee from farmers in the community before looking into big companies that are out to disadvantage farmers in a bid to sell their product.

Approaches and Tools for Investigating and Solving Problems

Conceptual mapping (interlink between perception, reality and solutions to the coffee crisis)

Fifth is to evaluate how the routes will operate in practice and the coffee community can achieve this by carrying out feasibility studies and tests of the proposed ideas (Azadeh, Darivandi and Fathi 2012, p.71). The sixth step is to identify which of these ideas work best for the common coffee farmer so as to revive the lost glory of coffee in the world of business. Finally once the best route has been identified all the involved stakeholders should follow it by monitoring and evaluating its outcomes.

2.The coffee crisis is a problem that needs extensive use of approaches and tools to ensure it does not plunge deeper into collapsing the industry. One key approach is stakeholder engagement in decision making (Watson 2012, p. 450). The most crucial stakeholder in this industry is small scale farmers since they are reported to be the biggest and stable producers of coffee. It’s evident that the problems around this crisis is the over exploitation of farmers by business tycoons who lack proper protection against such acts. When deciding the minimum coffee prices in the market farmers have to be involved since they know best the amount of money spent on inputs. With the issue of fair trade, the policies have to be reinforced and adhered to by all stakeholders to ensure they benefit all (Schwaninger and Peréz Ríos 2008, p.163).

Another approach is the standardization of coffee prices by the players and international communities. From the case study it’s been noted that coffee prices have not been stable for quite some time and this works to the disadvantage of the farmers. The issue of international business bodies deciding on coffee prices abruptly without the knowledge of farmers has contributed to many farmers pulling out of coffee farming since the practice has proved unsustainable at large. There has to be an agreed amount of price across all the coffee markets to cut out big business people who exploit small farmers.

Ultimately coffee quality needs to be emphasized above everything else. One of the problems reported in the study is the production of poor quality Robusta coffee by those in business at the expense of good quality Arabica coffee implying that those growing such quality coffee do not have market for their produce hence the issue of many farmers pulling out of the business. Mainstreaming of fair trade coffee has faced a lot of challenges due to lack of education to the consumers on the specifics of fair trade coffee (Zlatanovi´c 2016, p.23). When farmers are protected from exploiters such as star bucks then quality will be guaranteed. They have to get value for their produce if coffee has to regain its lost glory and benefit all stakeholders.

Insights Gained from the Application of HSM to the Case Study

3.Unlike soft system, with hard system it’s clear that problems are solved in a systematic manner without leaving anything to chance. From this system the insights and understandings gained are mainly the steps undertaken to solve a problem. This has to be done in a chronological manner without skipping any. It’s now understood that nothing can be done without first understanding the problem one has to deal with (Mingers 2000, p.680). Once the problem has been known the rest of the solutions simply fall into place. It’s also clear that a problem may be known but without describing the situation as it at the moment one cannot really manage to deal with the identified problem. It’s now known that you have to know how the situation is at hand in comparison with how it was before you encountered the problem that you are trying to solve. HSM enables one to describe the ideal situation and identify all the constraints that are making the industry not to operate in an ideal manner (Espinosa and Harden 2008, p.649). It’s thus evident that this system assists one to learn how a problem is to be tacked by looking at both the before and current situation. The system also gives one a chance to note down and evaluate the approaches taken in solving a problem and whether they have been a success so far. This means with such a system problems are not solved blindly but in a well calculated manner (Kinloch et al 2009, p.6). It also gives room for evaluation of the actions taken so as to gauge their success in solving a situation and this means one has the opportunity of exploiting other routes if the adopted one is not working towards resolving issues at hand. Therefore this is a system that rarely fails in resolving business issues if all the steps are followed to the later by ultimately monitoring all that has been adopted to solve the issues (Cabrera, Colosi and Lobdell 2008, p. 319). Thus compared to soft system, this system is preferred by many experts as its quite detailed and effective hence I can, with confidence recommend it for any person dealing with business crisis at the verge of collapsing.

4.Both hard and soft systems can be adopted in solving the coffee crisis however considering the extent of this crisis the hard systems are more relevant in solving the problem this is because from the system, hard methods have been seen to offer a definite solution to the many issues at hand unlike soft systems which deal with many problems at the same time and thus mixing up issues which end up not soling the most important issues. The hard system is also relevant to this crisis because a single problem is seen to have a number of achievable goals ensuring nothing is left out (Daley 2004). Using this system, the question of ‘how’ is answered well and from the case study some questions such as how can a common farmer be cushioned against exploitation by big business people in the coffee industry who no longer show interest in coffee quality but focus o only quantity with production of many brands in the market that lack comprehensive information on the coffee benefits. Another question is how fair trade coffee can be of help to the coffee industry to ensure it does not collapse.

Suitability of Hard or Soft Approaches in Highlighting Issues Faced by the Coffee Industry

With this system all the how questions are well tackled by following the relevant steps involved. Soft systems are also relevant in this situation because they lay emphasis on both ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions as in what can be done to help solve the problem at hand and how can that be done or what steps can be put in place to ensure the industry does not collapse and how can that be done to achieve the set goals (Ackermann, Eden and Brown 2005). The complexity of the hard systems is deterministic in nature and therefore with such a system one is able to clearly know the complexity of the matter at hand unlike soft system which is not deterministic in nature and often unpredictable.

In all these situations the hard system has defined parameters for any failure at hand and this implies one can clearly predict a failure in advance with such a system before it occurs. With the coffee situation in this case study hard systems management is more relevant when it comes to dealing with the problems currently facing the coffee industry unlike the soft systems. All that is needed is proper applications of the steps involved in this system without skipping any step because achievement of one step leads to adoption of the next one.

References

Ackermann, F, Eden, C and Brown, I 2005, The Practice of Making Strategy, London: Sage

Azadeh, A, Darivandi, K and Fathi, E 2012,  ‘Diagnosing, Simulating and Improving Business Process Using Cybernetic Laws and the Viable System Model’ The Case of a Purchasing Process. Systems Research Behavior Science, Vol 29, pp, 66–86.

Cabrera, D, Colosi, L and Lobdell, C 2008, “Systems Thinking.” Journal of Evaluation and Program Planning. Vol 31 pp. 317–21.

Daley, B J 2004, ‘Using concept maps in qualitative research’ Proc. of the First Int. Conference on Concept Mapping. A. J. Cañas, J. D. Novak, F. M. González, Eds. Pamplona, Spain.

Espinosa, A and Harden, R 2008, “A complexity approach to sustainability – Stafford Beer revisited.” European Journal of Operational Research  Vol 187, pp, 636–651

Jackson, MC 2010, ‘Reflections on the Development and Contribution of Critical Systems Thinking and Practice’ Syst. Res. Behav. Sci.Vol 27, pp, 133–139.

Kinloch, P, Francis, H, Francis, M and Taylor, M 2009, ‘Supporting Crime Detection and Operational Planning with Soft Systems Methodology and Viable Systems Model’ Syst. Res. Behav. Sci, Vol 26, pp, 3–14.

Kotiadis, K and Mingers, J 2006,  ‘Combining PSMs with Hard OR Methods: The Philosophical and Practical Challenges’ J. Oper. Res. Soc,Vol,57, pp, 856–867

Mingers, J 2000, ‘Variety Is the Spice of Life: Combining Soft and Hard OR/MS Method. Int. Trans. Oper. Res. Vol, 7, pp, 673–691.

Schwaninger, M and Peréz Ríos, PH 2008, ‘System Dynamics and Cybernetics: A Synergetic Pair. Syst. Dyn. Rev. vol, 24, pp, 145–174.

Watson R 2012, ‘Suggestions for New Application Areas for Soft Systems Methodology in the Information Age’, Systemic Practice and Action Research, vol, 25 pp, 441-456.

Zlatanovi´c, D 2016,  ‘Combining the methodologies of Strategic Assumptions Surfacing and Testing and Organizational Cybernetics in managing the problem situations in enterprises’. Econ. Horiz vol, 18, pp, 15–32.

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