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Stage 2: The situation analysed

The first step is to develop a picture (called in soft systems terminology a rich picture) that encapsulates all the elements that people think are involved in the problem. Once the rich picture has been drawn, the analyst will attempt to extract ‘issues’ and key tasks.

Issues are areas of contention within the problem situation. Key tasks are the essential jobs that must be undertaken within the problem situation.

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3.3 System concepts: holism

One of the distinguishing features of the systems approach is its attempt to be holistic – to include all the elements in the picture at each level at which the system operates. The premature exclusion of important elements can be dangerous and can lead to, for example:

  • a purchasing manager being so keen to drive down raw material and component costs that he or she causes quality and production problems in construction of the system


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1.8 Increasing complication, complexity and risk: are systems becoming more complex?

Figure 17 shows the evolution of two commonly encountered applications of systems – for personal transport and for the reproduction of recorded music. In both cases the degree of complexity of the systems application has increased over time. One of the main reasons for this is technology
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1.3 Example 1 The Workcenter that didn't

Autodesk Inc. is the world's largest supplier of design and engineering software. It currently markets over thirty products but is most famous for its AutoCAD® two- and three-dimensional design and drafting software. The company is the market leader in this type of application, with over 4 million customers worldwide.

The Autodesk story began in 1982 with a group of programmers, centred on San Francisco, writing code for design software in their spare time. The group demonstrated a cob
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Acknowledgements

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following source for permission to reproduce material within this unit:

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4.3 Optical networking

DWDM improves the utilisation of optical fibre for point-to-point links, but a further step in exploiting the potential of optical fibre comes from optical networking in which routeing or switching is done optically.

Optical networking is in its infancy, but the concept of the optical layer based upon wavelength channels is emerging. The optical layer effectively sits below the SDH layer in the network, and provides wavelength channels from one location to another.

An analogy can
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2.4.3 Polarization mode distortion

Because light is an electromagnetic wave, it has a ‘state of polarization’, which, for light in single-mode fibre, is at right angles to the path of the fibre. If you've not encountered electromagnetic waves before, all you need to appreciate is that as light travels down the fibre the electromagnetic field has an orientation across the fibre (Author(s): The Open University

2.4.2 Dispersion in single-mode fibre

Because there is only one mode in single-mode fibre, there is no multimode distortion but pulses are spread by dispersion.

Dispersion is the effect of different frequencies propagating at different speeds, and there are various mechanisms in optical fibre which mean that in general a fibre is dispersive. Given that dispersion takes place, a transmitted pulse will be spread because different frequency components in the pulse will take different lengths of time to propagate
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Module team

Rosalind Armson, author

Joyce Fortune, case study author

Ray Ison, author

Martin Reynolds, course chair

Laurence Newman, course manager

Mike Aiken, critical reader

Mandy Anton, graphic designer

Simon Bell, critical reader

Victor Bignell, critical reader

Chris Blackmore, critical reader

Jake Chapman, critical reader

Tony Duggan, project controller (Technology)

Pip Harris, compositor

Mike Haynes, critical
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Acknowledgements

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material within this unit:


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6.5 Appreciating some implications for practice

I think for most people, the National Health Service would be experienced as a complex situation. If so this would be a good example of perceived complexity. Remember though, if you engaged with it as if it were a difficulty you would not describe the situation as one of perceived complexity. I could not call it a complex system unless I had tried to make sense of it using systems thinking and found, or formulated, a system of interest within it. This means I would have to have a stake in the
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3.2 Making sense of the metaphor

The metaphor of the juggler keeping the four balls in the air is a powerful way for me to think about what I do when I try to be effective in my practice. It matches with my experience: it takes concentration and skill to do it well. But metaphors conceal features of experience, as well as calling them to attention. The juggler metaphor conceals that the four elements of effective practice often seem to be related. I cannot juggle them as if they were independent of each other. I can imagine
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5.5 Rhetorical devices

I talked a bit about Ned's motivations, but I am not quite sure about what he is trying to do to be persuasive. He has this interest in aesthetics, but in giving a detailed explanation of a military technology he is working on, he, from time to time, uses an analogy. One analogy he uses is the ‘flocking of starlings’, which illustrates rather the principle of operation of the technology and suggests that it is a kind of an existence proof. It implies this technology might actually work. B
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • discuss what ethics is and what constitutes an ethical issue;

  • identify and discuss ethical issues that arise in the media, in routine conversations and, in particular, in your own everyday professional practice;

  • discuss the role of emotions in ethical deliberations;

  • discuss how negotiation might resolve apparent ethical differences;

  • identify and discuss the ethical issues p
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6.10 Action plans

  • 22. Does the action plan make the proposal concrete in terms of realistic time scales and budgets and identification of relevant milestones?

A reasonably detailed action plan has four distinct functions in your proposal:


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6.7 Cost-benefit analysis

  • 17. Does the case clearly and unequivocally demonstrate that benefits outweigh costs?

In some contexts ‘cost-benefit analysis’ implies some specific formal method of assessing costs in relation to expected benefits. For example, i
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3.2 Business operations: function or process?

Traditionally, an enterprise's activities are organised according to a structure based on the well-known business functions: marketing, purchasing, finance, human resources, research and development (R&D), operations, and so on. The exact function title varies from organisation to organisation, but each function has its own more or less well-defined sphere of activity. It carries out its various tasks and passes on information or artefacts to other functions for them to work on. For example,
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7.3.3 Plasmas

More control can be achieved in vapour deposition if a plasma is generated. A plasma is simply a gas where a proportion of the molecules have been ionised. The ions remain in an uneasy equilibrium with the electrons they have released, prevented from recombining only because the electrons are hot and fast-moving, and so are difficult to trap.

Plasmas are widely used in materials processing, with pressure ranging from 10−3 mbar to 1 mbar and typically up to 1% of the molecul
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3.6.1 Stiffness

Just how compliant does an AFM cantilever have to be to enable it to follow the undulations in a surface on an atomic scale? How can we find out? It turns out that this is easier than at first it seems.

A simple assumption we can make is that the compliance of the cantilever should be appreciably greater than that of a typical bond that holds atoms to one another. Here's one way in which a rough estimate of the stiffness (the force required to cause a given deflection) of the bonds in a
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Introduction

This unit examines how small features can be etched and cut out of solid materials at a very small scale.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course Engineering small worlds: micro and nano technologies (T356).


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