“Hard” vs “Soft” Systems Thinking

Checkland (1981):

Soft systems approaches
• Organizations are complex, with problems which are “fuzzy”, ill-defined, not well-structured, and where multiple points of view exist Hard systems approaches • Focus on the certain and accurate in situations e.g. structured approaches, SSADM (Structured System Analysis and Design Method)

Hard Vs Soft Approaches (Based on Checkland. 1981) Hard Problem Situation Straight Forward Soft Messy (Problematic) Purpose Organization Problem Solving Given Problem Structuring To be Negotiated Methodology Results Logical/Mathematical model Product/Recommendation Conceptual Models Learning Process .

• It is way of dealing with problem situations in which there is a high social.Soft Systems Methodology • It is a qualitative technique that can be used for applying system thinking to non systemic situation. . political. human activity component.



Stage 1 and 2 • Find as much information as possible. accept many different views • The analyst tries to develop the richest picture possible of the problematic situation. .

Stage 3 • The analyst moves from the real world to systems thinking.g. which describes 6 elements that the root definition ought to include .. e. Calculator • Checkland present the 'CATWOE'.

CATWOE • C: the Customers of the system referring to the interest groups who are the beneficiaries or victims within and/or without the system and who are affected by the systems activities. . • A: the Actors within the system who carry out or cause to be carried out the main activities of the system.

• W: the worldview or perspective from which the root definition is seen. ..Cont. • T: the Transformation process by which the inputs to the system are transferred into defined outputs.

Cont… • O: the Owners of the system who have the ultimate power to cause the system to cease to exist. affect. and change. • E: the Environmental constraints on the system that to a large extent has to be taken as 'given' and difficult to influence. .

The conceptual model "is simply the structured set of activities which logic requires in a imaginary system which is to be that defined in the root definition.“ .Stage 4 • For each root definition the analyst makes a conceptual model.

.Stage 5 • In stage 5 the analyst leaves the systems thinking and initiates the debate concerning desirable feasible changes by setting up discussions which compares the models build in stage 4 with the problem situation expressed in stage 2.

. and in 'attitudes‘.Stage 6 and 7 • Stage 6 and 7 concerns the implementation of the changes to improve the problem situation. in procedures (activities). • Checkland describes the possible changes within 3 categories: changes in (organizational) structures.

Application of the model. Expressed Problem Situation – drawing rich pictures. feasible and desirable? 7. show problem and relationships 3.Tighten the constructed description of human activity system. . Unstructured Problem Situation -find as much info as possible. Root Definitions . accept many different views 2. Accessing feasible and desirable change .Logical model of key activities and processes to satisfy root definition 5. Build Conceptual Models . Comparison of 4 with 2. SSM does not describe methods for implementing solutions! Only provides a framework through which problem situations can be understood. Use the CATWOE technique 4.An analysis of the proposed changes can be made.Different alternative models can be compared to reality 6.1. Action to improve the problem situation .