A PILOT study of several state-owned enterprises in Shanghai by Arthur Andersen & Co shows that they want to be major players in the world market but do not know how to go about it. ''When we ask them what their aims are, they often come out with vague terms such as to be the top enterprise, a conglomerate or distribute worldwide,'' said Norman Sze, general manager, business advisory group, at the accountancy's Shanghai office. He said because the enterprises were so used to being told what and how to do it, they were often at a loss when asked to come up with concrete ideas to attain their objectives. ''They don't know how to do organised strategic planning or put up an action plan and, when asked to do, they just do it in two or three pages.'' Part of the problem was because most of these firms did not carry out market research. And, just because the market last year was robust, many wanted to expand without projecting into the future. Mr Sze said because it was difficult to obtain market data, the state firms tended to carry out secondary instead of original research. But, despite the difficulty, original research could still be carried out if they only knew how. ''What we, as a consultant, do is to work with these enterprises closely to teach them how to think up concrete ideas, which includes incorporating some of their own views.'' A survey of about 50 managers in these enterprises showed that their uppermost concern was how to prioritise strategic planning and to implement the plans after they were drawn up. Their other concerns were how to separate ownership and management, obtain financing and improve quality. Mr Sze said that senior managements of state firms were enthusiastic about restructuring their operations and willing to accept the ideas put forward although they were less confident in carrying them out. ''Whenever practical, they would test out the ideas put forward to them,'' he said. Arthur Andersen was appointed in December last year to help in the restructuring of four medium-sized state-owned enterprises. They are the Shanghai Chemical Regent Works, Shanghai No 2 Pharmaceutical Factory, Shanghai No 6 Pharmaceutical Factory and the Asia-Pacific Agricultural Chemicals Group.