15336: Systems Thinking For Managers - Assessment Answer

November 03, 2018
Author : Ashley Simons

Solution Code: 1DEF

Question:

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Systems Thinking For Managers

Case Scenario

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

or organizations to manage them better.

Apply one or more of the systems methodologies discussed at the block workshop to the analysis of a problem at your workplace (or a workplace you are familiar with), in a project management or an organizational context, and present a way forward to improve the situation. The methodologies

used at the workshop are System Dynamics Models, Soft Systems Methodology and ViableSystems Model.

Assignment Task

Provide a brief description of the system/ problem under investigation and the context

Describe and analyze the system or problem under investigation, unpacking the dynamics involved, exploring how events are linked and the emergent meanings or themes using diagrams where appropriate

Explain what insights and/or solutions the methodology (ies) provide(s). You may like to ask questions such as – Does the system have a viable continuing role? Is the system capable of adapting to changes? Is the system working as it was intended providing the expected benefits to its stakeholders?

Evaluate the potential of the methodology (ies) used in your work as a project manager or a manager in an organization. 

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Solution:

Introduction

Soft System Methodology (SSM) approach involves four stages and a seven steps learning cycle. It allows a more flexible definition of the system in response to the particular objectives of the study (The OR Society, 2012). This study covered five of the seven steps in SSM in order to get a holistic understanding about urbane and peri-urbane agricultures in the areas of the study. Step one and two would help to understand the problematic situations and expressing it by a rich picture, Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and threats (SWOT) analysis and Force Field analysis; step three and four would help in thinking about innovative human activity systems which may be used in the situation, involving identifying root definitions and creating conceptual models of the system.

Brief Description of the System / Problem under Investigation and the Context

“Urbane & peri-urbane agricultures as suggested by Baumgartner and Belevi (2001) comprises of  productions, process & distributions of diverse foods, which include vegetable as well as animal product in the cities or urbane regions or even in fringes or suburbs of the cities. So the chief motivations are food productions for the purpose of consuming. The other motivation is of selling those for the purpose of generating the income or revenue. Internationally, around eight hundred millions of population engages in urbane and suburb agricultures. Out of this, around two hundred millions is the market producer, which employs hundred and fifty millions of the population as a full time workers (Smit et al, 1996). Urbane and peri-urbane farms are having very good recognitions in the developed world for decades, and are getting new momentum in developing countries. In Africa, it supports the living of many urbane and peri-urbane less earning families. Attributed, mainly to such factors as fast urbanizing, unproductive agriculture policy, inefficient food distributing system, increasing inflation and increase in the rate of unemployment, as well as careless urbane land use regulation, urbane agriculture has shown significant growth in East Africa since the 1970s (Mireri et al., 2006). Thus, peri-urbane and urbane agriculture is becoming an important means of response to food insecurity, and is playing significant role in achieving adequate nutrition and livelihood for the poor communities.”

Description and analysis of the system or problem under investigation

My company is located at Addis Ababa. It is about to launch two new products: the new farm and dairy products. Market research has indicated both will be successful in supermarkets. The company also involves in Rearing livestock, sheep & chicken, or growth of rain crop like corn & vegetable on plot found next to the house and away along river sides are traditional urbane and peri-urbane farm practices in Addis Ababa (Gebre/Egziabher, 1994). Much of the outputs of urbane and peri-urbane agricultural practices in Addis Ababa are mainly meant for household consumption, with some portions for sale (Degefa et al., 2006). Of the total 54,000 hectares of land area in Addis Ababa city, 10,773, 7,900 and 2,943 hectares of land are used for cultivation, forests and grazing, respectively. Moreover, the annual milk supply to Addis Ababa city is estimated to be 55 million liters, of which 70% is produced within the city, mainly from hybrid cows (Nigussie, 2010).The city also possess suitable soil, altitude and year round small rivers that are tributaries of the Akaki River, which is the source of irrigation water for most vegetable growers in the city. Although urbane and peri-urbane agriculture has multifaceted economic, social and environmental benefits, stakeholders also raise issues of human health and environmental hazards because of the contamination of pathogens, bad smell from animal farms and depositions of heavy metals used in the agricultural systems mainly due to intensive use of agrochemicals and using polluted irrigation water. Thus, so as to comprehend the urbane and peri-urbane plan & processes, it is important to understand the main constraints as to how the stakeholder manages to get his or her interest reflected within the plan that is to be implemented. A major step in this regard, is to carry out a through participatory situation analysis, recognize inter-relation in the nature of foods, agricultures, health & ecologies to handle the food issue as the total system perspective. This study was, therefore, conducted to analyze the barriers to successful implementation of urbane and peri-urbane agriculture in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

Methodology and Approaches

We highlighted earlier that SSM was used in this study. We pointed that the approach involves 4 stages and 7-steps learning cycle. It allows a more flexible definition of the system in response to the particular objectives of the study (The OR Society, 2012). This study covered five of the seven steps in SSM in order to get a holistic understanding about urbane and peri-urbane agriculture in the study area. Step one and two would help to understand the problematic situations and expressing it by a rich picture, Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and threats (SWOT) analysis and Force Field analysis; step three and four would help in thinking about innovative human activity systems which may be used in the situation, involving identifying root definitions and creating conceptual models of the system.

Based on a multi-stage sampling approach, one representative sub-city administration (Akaki Qality) with criteria of both urbane and peri-urbane agriculture setting was selected purposely to accommodate both urbane and peri-urbane situation. Then, one representative district (02/04 district) was selected using the same criteria. From the district, one vegetable cooperative (with 23 women members), one mixed crop-livestock farming cooperative (43 women and men members), three small scale poultry enterprises organized under small and medium enterprises (SMEs), three individual vegetable farmers, three small scale dairy enterprises and one home garden were included in the sampling. Five-individual mixed crop livestock farmers were selected randomly from the farmers list in the district. Thus in total, 81 urbane and peri-urbane farmers in the district, either personally participated or were represented by their organizations. Participation in the study was entirely based on informed consent.

The rich picture, SWOT analysis and force field analysis

The first step in describing a problematic situation by applying SSM was drawing a rich picture using tree as “metaphor”. A rich picture is an iterative process of understanding a situation and then refining that understanding with the concerned actors (Monk and Haward, 1998). The SWOT is a PLA tool that can help to identify the strength and weakness as internal driving forces of a system; and opportunity and threats as external pressures that can be used to bring a change (opportunity) or needs to be careful of the negative effects (threats). The four categories: strength, weakness, opportunity and threats were analyzed from multiple perspectives as environmental, economic and social elements. The environmental, economic and social elements were also analyzed, in reference to the main components of agricultural practices such as the land use system, small scale vegetable production, small scale dairy and egg production, and mixed crop livestock productions in the district.

Force Field Analysis is a step by step analysis of factors either driving or blocking a movement towards a goal. Individual questionnaire interviews are widely acceptable approach for generating ratings in the forcefield analysis. Some of the steps include defining the desired state, identifying the driving and restraining forces, and evaluating and prioritizing of the forces by stakeholders (Change-Management-Coach.com, 2008). Driving forces are those forces affecting a situation that are pushing in a particular direction; they tend to initiate a change and keep it going, while restraining forces are forces acting to restrain or decrease the driving forces. From the SWOT analysis, lists of supporting and hindering forces that affect urbane farmers in achieving their goals were identified. These forces were then discussed in groups and rated individually by district urbane and peri-urbane farmers in the workshop facilitated by the researcher. Each force was weighted with the scale of 1 (weak) to 5 (strong). Ten stakeholders were given their opinion, which were multiplied by the level of priority and added, that is divided by the number of stakeholders to get the average value.

Fig. 1. Force field analysis showing the driving and hindering forces for urbane and peri-urbane in Akaki-Qality subcity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Results and Discussion

Rich picture using tree metaphors The present situation of district urbane agriculture was expressed by the rich picture below, using the tree and its component parts as a metaphor. A represents root, the internal conditions, may include the agronomic, husbandry, economic and social elements. B represents soil, the external or outside influences, include urbane agricultural policies, extension services. C represents production branches like cereal crops, vegetables, dairying, and egg chicken production. D represents fruits, that is the food and services rendered from the farm and includes questions connected to food (yields, quality, processing and consumption).

The rich picture was presented to district workshop participants including farmers for discussions. They have seen their situations clearly and made an important analogy of the tree growth from roots to branches and producing fruits, with their aim of development from small to large scale businesses. Some of them were envisioned upgrading to involve in processing and industry sector in the next five to ten years. This is in line with Arne Stjernholm (1997) thinking and explanation that let the well-known concept function as “stand-in” for the unknown. When metaphors are introduced from the outside, it’s crucial that people be encouraged to find and elaborate meaning for themselves. The only way to access land for urbane and periurbane agriculture in the study area in particular, is either through private land as home garden or public lands such as open spaces, road sides and land along river side. Urbane and peri-urbane open spaces are also available only on a temporary basis and priority is given for cooperatives that are organized under SMEs. In addition, there is a conflict of interest between environmental and agricultural land use along river sides. Most of the river side areas in use for agriculture, especially vegetable production, were actually reserved for buffer areas for environmental purposes such as tree plantation. The long term land use system in Addis Ababa in general and in the study area in particular is therefore, not secured. This has discouraged farmers to plan for a longer-term investment and also limit the interest of farmers to conserve and develop their land for a longer term use. As one vegetable farmer in the district explained, “he had been interested to use chicken manure for improving soil fertility of his farm, however, he couldn’t do it, because his plot of land were contracted for one growing season, which was from September to may, while chicken manure needs at least one year to be mineralized and available to be taken up by plant roots”. Thus, the farmer idea is of course plausible, in that organic fertilizers have a long-term decomposition rate and their impact varies in accordance with their carbon to nitrogen ratio, content of dry matter, as compared to Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium fertilizers, which have a rapid effect, as the nutrients provided can be taken up by plants and microorganisms without further transformation processes (Baumgartner and Belevi, 2001). This land use situation led farmers to a short term plan and has been given less concern to their land productivity and soil fertility management. Moreover, as it is observed in the field visit, many small scale dairy farmers’ dry cow dung outside their compound on road sides in the urbane and peri-urbane centers, that is one source of conflict with district municipal authority.

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