Difference between Hard and Soft Systems thinking

It appears that even within the systems thinking academia and practitioners there is no consensus on what constitutes systems thinking and systems practices but there are different traditions which need to be considered and ‘accomodated’ when discussing this concept.

Checkland (2000) believes, I think!!, that the concept that systems exist and therefore can be discovered is part of the ‘hard systems’ tradition. So the opposite to this then is that of someone who uses systems thinking to formulate a ‘system of interest’ by distinguishing a system (interconnected set of components in order to fulfill a purpose) from a particular background (environment) with a specific purpose of learning about it in order to bring about change/intervention. So one, hard systems, is about a system being treated as a thing that ‘can be engineered to achieve objectives’ (Checkland 2009) and the other one, soft systems, is thinking of ‘systems’ as the process of ‘engaging’ with the world in order to learn more about a given situation in order to gain systemic insight.

I will have to come back to this and develop it further.

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About Ariana Yakas

I am an Associate Lecturer with the Open University. I am also a National Leader of Governance and a chair of a Multi Academy Trust of three primary schools in Manchester
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5 Responses to Difference between Hard and Soft Systems thinking

  1. Joyce says:

    “I will have to come back to this and develop it further.”

    Not necessarily!!!!

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review | My PhD Diary

  3. Joseph Nyamwange says:

    Did you get a chance to develop this further?

  4. Ariana Yakas says:

    Not at the moment but there are some excellent books that explore this. If you are interested have a look at Michael Jackson’s Systems Approaches to Management

  5. fitsum says:

    hard thinking we understand a system trough rational analysis and model every thing we need to know about our system through requirement
    In soft thinking it is too impractical to model the world as a system and we can not model every thing about the system that we need to know .

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