Soft systems methodology is an enormously useful contribution to the field of systemic problem solving. The human service agencies of a county in Northern England were concerned that, in the event of a disaster, they would not be able to engage in effective multi-agency activity to provide counselling services to the affected populations. Human factors techniques have also been used to guide the analyses of problems without early focus on solution. What resources are transformed into what outcomes by the part of the situation they are studying? Only people who cannot see the forest through the trees, someone who takes pride in bullying others, and is not satisfied with his or her own accomplishments would think this is a book worthy enough to spend time reading, or using in a university classroom. That is less of a constraint than you might imagine: most programs and units can be thought of as information systems by focusing on their decision-making. This is usually done by reducing the variables which they study to those that they can manipulate or measure, preferably under controlled conditions, to establish evidence of strong causal links. This seeks to identify the client, the would-be problem solver the researcher , and the problem owner roughly, stakeholders.
The second of these uses implies that it can be used for process evaluation. In this session I begin by describing it as Checkland does. Systems Thinking, Systems Practice 1981 and Soft Systems Methodology in Action 1990 together with an earlier paper Towards a Systems-based Methodology for Real-World Problem Solving 1972 have long been recognized as classics in the field. This implies that revision of the conceptual models is warranted. We therefore focus primarily on the process for understanding.
They allow the essential features of the situation to be abstracted from the complicated situation. We argued there, following Dewey, that validity is a function of situation and intended outcomes. These twin streams of enquiry, logic and culture, are incorporated into the rich picture. Checkland doesn't entertain this option and I doubt that he has any sympathy for it. My second reservation concerns a conceptual point that lies at the heart of the methodology. You can do this as a 3-column exercise -- resources; activities; outcomes. As an action research methodology, soft systems methodology pursues understanding which can inform action and be informed by it.
At this stage in the process, participants were not positive about where it was leading, as they had brought to light many difficult and interrelated problems, with no solutions being apparent. Check that you have included in this the culture and politics of the situation. This might blind them to more effective and creative ways of achieving the transformations. It has been adopted by many organizations and incorporated into other approaches: in the 1990s for example it was the recommended planning tool for the 's. Checkland and other practitioners emphasise, however, that it is not a mechanical, linear process. Out of this comparison, there arise possible improvements to the situation.
It focuses on action within a systems perspective. I have recently joined a small non-profit organization, Sustainable Silicon Valley, and want to contribute to improving the sustainability of Silicon Valley in particular, and the world in general in a timely manner. Do the ideals achieve all of the transformations captured in the root definitions? In effect, Checkland has developed a process which can be regarded as a general inquiry process for action research. The implementation phase provides the final test. It depends who you regard as the client, and how you define the goals. A different description This is the same process being described here. Despite certain limitations, the paper provides findings about various important open issues in systems science and management science, such as the possibility of combining different systems methodologies, particularly the methodologies belonging to different paradigms.
In such situations even the actual problem to be addressed may not be easy to agree upon. An action plan was developed and used as the basis of an application for funding to establish the multi-agency network. Devise better ways, more satisfying to the stakeholders and yourself, for turning the inputs into outputs: for achieving those outcomes within the same resource constraints. Checkland puts it this way. As far as can be judged from the literature, soft systems methodology is often used with low to moderate levels of participation. Action research methodologies, as we said above, are intended to produce both understanding and change.
In doing this, they try not to be influenced by the details of the actual situation. The use of multiple cycles allows the early conclusions of the researcher s to be scrutinised and refined in the later stages. In practice, Checkland makes clear the importance of considering cultural, social and political systems in the analysis. As before, they now alternate between the two perspectives. The purposeful action analysed is a system itself interacting with other systems. What resources are you trying to turn into which outcomes? For action research, with its need for responsiveness and change, different concepts of validity are required. The third dialectic between ideals conceptual models and reality It is now apparent that the root definitions allow the researchers to distance themselves from reality.
In particular, we think that involving participants and negotiating a relationship with them are often crucial to the success of the endeavour. This work established the now accepted distinction between 'hard' systems thinking, in which parts of the world are taken to be 'systems' which can be 'engineered', and 'soft' systems thinking in which the focus is on making sure the process of inquiry into real-world complexity is itself a system for learning. Do this individually, noting the points at which you have trouble imagining it. Brisbane: Action Learning, Action Research and Process Management Association. A mismatch can have several sources.