A systems look at a construction problem

System theory, in general, is a field of study involving complex interactions between different groups or objects that work together to achieve a specific result. (O’Connor & McDermott 1997:11)

In applications for management and organizations, systems theory involves the efficient communications of information. There are many different applied approaches such as the soft systems approach as well as the hard systems approach. This paper looks into the application of both approaches in a construction project.

The Pre-contract Situation
The situation I will be discussing is the design of a world standard university to be provided through Descon Construction Company. The contractor (Descon) was selected after the due process, as listed out below:
1.      Invitation by the university to Descon to bid for the contract
2.      Identification by the university of suitable construction companies with the capability of carrying out the work from the total list of bidders
3.      Recommendation of Descon to the university
4.      Descon tenders a copy of project management works and provides for complete audibility of the process
5.      Assessment of Descon by the university
6.      The university tenders Descon with a copy of their evaluation and review of the construction company
7.      Submission of contract recommendations by Descon to the university
8.      Estimation by both parties of project cost, functionality, quality and time
9.      Reporting by Descon and the university of their individual assessments of the project.
10.  Compromise is reached by both parties and a final project plan is developed
11.  Initiation by both parties of services and agreements stipulated within the contract
The situation that arose after the university building committee’s appointment of Descon as preferred bidder, and as the parties moved into the next stage of detailed negotiation of the services (including buildings) to be provided, was what prompted this paper. During any contract or agreement, people enter into relationships.
Such relationships will result in an outcome which, in this case, was the relationship between the University and Descon, the preferred bidder. The preferred bidder will ensure that the buildings are up to standard. Descon will also be responsible for any breach of contract and any poor services provided. The university building committee, on the other hand, will pay the stipulated amount as laid down in the Contract deed
Matters arising
No doubt numerous problems will arise in any given building contract situation, and this particular situation is no different. There is the problem of expecting complaints from the client as a result of building or design specification. However, the design desired by the client can still be met as result of good managerial and interdepartmental functions within the system or organization.
It should be understood that the two organizations are separate, large systems with different interacting units that make up the whole, and as such, room is made for adjustments in order to achieve the set objectives. These organizations are a collection of separate decision making systems, each with their own identity, purpose, understanding of the environment, beliefs and values based on which their decisions are made.
Figure 1 below shows the structure of relationship between the two parties, the University and Descon, involved in the design project. This shows the clear distinction between the two groups as separate entities.

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