Soft Systems Methodology

SSM offers a set of guidelines for tackling ‘messy’ situations in which the aims and objectives are generally the main porblem rather than how to achieve them.  SSM is apporpriate in these situation empahsising on the ‘learning’ about needs to be done as opposed to providing a solution.

As Checkland states, we casually refer to an ‘education system’ , a ‘health care system’ as if they are real world arrangements.   But viewing them as such is inappropriate as the world is unpredictable and full of complexity.  By viewing the various services as perfect systems that can be modelled we are part of that problematic situation.    SSM ’emerged as a process in which models of ‘pure’ purposeful activity were used to give shape to discussion about change in a problem situation, change aimed at improvement in the eyes of those concerned about the situation.’.  But the key is that these devices are just for structuring the discussion and as such making it part of the learning cycle.    As Checkland states  ‘In using SSM you give up thinking the world as a set of systems, but you take it that the whole process of inquiring in real world situations can itself be organised as a process of learning:  it is that process which can be organised through the learning cycle of SSM’ (Peter Checkland being interviewed by Mark Winter in 2000)


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