Soft System Methodology


Soft System Methodology (SSM) is a methodological process of analyzing “Real World” problems. Notably, SSM was established by Peter Checkland in the UK (Checkland & Scholes 1990, p. 63). According to Wilson (2001, p. 235), SSM has turned out to be a learning and development tool. The models being established are not supposed to symbolize the real world but are majorly supposed to change an individual’s perception concerning the issues of the real world. This is achieved through the application of the guidelines and principles of the system with normative and expressive elements. Ragsdell (2002, p. 195) states that Soft system methodology limits an individual’s thinking capabilities.

Consequently, this blows away the notion that system thinking is much more extensive (Ragsdell2002, p. 195). The system majorly compares the current world and the models that can be applied by the next generation. From the comparisons, people are able to obtain more information about the world by carrying out various researches (Khosrowpour 2000, p. 342). Consequently, they can develop some constructive ideas that can be used to bring some improvements. According to the system, the researchers are supposed to identify some of the problems being faced around the world and develop certain models that can solve the problems (Khosrowpour 2000, p. 367). SSM can be carried out in seven stages, with the majority of the stages addressing the issues of the real world while others address issues of the theoretical world (Byrne 2011, p. 68). This indicates why SSM is important in problematic situations.

Stages in the Soft System Methodology

In the first stage, the situation is recognized, explored, and defined according to the soft system methodology. Byrne (2011, p. 68) states that decision is supposed to be made on what is to be explored without first defining the problem. Additionally, the entire area to be explored is then assessed. A good example can be Sustainable Food Collaboration. The main action of this collaboration is establishing some methods that would ensure food sustainability. In addition, the activities are backed up by classification and auditing fees. It is also supported by some donations from the main foundation. The activity can change at some given point to become sustainable food production. In stage two, the problem situation is to be articulated in some way. During the expression, guidelines like structures, climate, individuals and processes, should be taken into consideration (Wendell & Cecil 1973).

Stage three deals with the original description of the activity systems that are important. This is the stage of transformation from the real world to that of the systems. Additionally, it is a more exclusive and interesting part of the system. According to Stowell & Welch (2012, p.201), the first phase is to learn about the different viewpoints that can bring out the real picture. Checkland defined the different perspectives as “holons.” There are numerous holons that can be applied in Sustainable Food Collaboration (Stowell & Welch 2012, p. 210). The first Holon is employing food specialists to ensure that the foods being produced are of high quality. Based on the different models discussed, the right decision process would be considered. At the onset, the problem would be identified accurately. The problem could be identified as the unavailability of hand gloves in the workshop. The causes of the problem would be analyzed carefully to understand the problem completely. All relevant information would be gathered from different sources.

The other one is ensuring that the customers are assured about the viable practice used in making the product. People should be provided with some opportunities that would make them feel directly linked with the food and beliefs of sustainable produce (Kock 2007, p. 188). Creating a society where innovation has more value is also another example of the holons. The fourth stage of the Soft System Methodology is the development of the model. This is majorly carried out through the application of the conventions of the system (Kock 2007, p. 196). In step five, the model is matched with that of the real world. Consider what is currently available and what is missing and what is really taking place in the actual world (Beckhard & Harris, 1987).

From the comparison, perceptions are created, and some vital ideas that can be used for enhancements are determined. Step six is about the development of the necessary and viable interventions. For instance, the methodology is made flexible so that it can obtain the greatest leverage. At this stage, probable interventions are explored by evaluating their viability. According to Melnick & Everitt (2008, p. 299), Checkland developed some ways of exploring the interventions. Going through the model several times using different perspectives and scales are some of the suggestions. In the last stage, actions are being taken to ensure that the situation is improved. For instance, numerous goals, different assumptions, and people’s views are some of the issues that should be evaluated (Melnick & Everitt 2008, p. 356).

Problem-solving requires an organization to first frame the concerned problem. In other contexts, this will follow three key rules, including the identification of the key questions, developing the issue tree, and formulating hypotheses. Consequently, it is imperative to develop a process map and create a content map to test hypotheses. This activity will determine a project and establish priorities for its completion. According to Clancy, Krieg, & Wolf (2005), it is vital for an organization or organization to first identify the concerned problem for it to establish viable solutions. For example, after establishing the right market for the products, the company will spend less money in carrying out advertisements and other expenditures geared towards reaching the customers (Checkland 2000).

While an individual is making decisions based on rational decision models, he or she first investigates several alternative solutions to the problem before coming up with the best decision. This demonstrates how Soft System Methodology is important in an organizational context. The alternatives can be considered depending on the scenario that is likely to be experienced as a consequence of the decision made (Schein 1988). Even though different circumstances are considered by the possibilities, an individual making the decision can be able to predict the likely impact of each and every alternative. The ultimate option for the course of action will be based on the alternative that can result in the best possible consequence (Shanks, 2007). This is a critical provision in the context of development and problem-solving quarters. It is vital to understand the aspects of SSM following its significance in handling both conventional and unique issues.

Importance of the softer behavioral aspects in consultancy

Soft system methodology plays an important role in most consultants. They are able to construct, analyze and solve some of the problems that might be encountered in systems that include people. Additionally, consultants are able to culturally, reasonably, and politically analyze a situation that has been creating some problems (Ciampi 2008, p. 192). Consequently, they are able to come up with some vital ideas that can be put into action to ensure that the situation is improved. Moreover, the system has proved to be of more importance to the managers and consultants who are specialized in information technology (Ciampi 2008, p. 253). They have also assisted the consultants who are trying to solve an organization’s problems.

Through the application of soft system methodology, consultants are able to establish some effective ways of obtaining their well-defined goals. According to Daniells (1976, p. 34), the consultants are able to obtain more information about a problem situation. Additionally, they are also able to formulate some vital activity models that would address probable future actions. The methodology helps consultants to take appropriate actions that can bring some improvements to an organization (Daniells1976, p. 48). Besides, they are able to acquire more analytical techniques that can be used to bring some vital improvements within an organization.

Precisely, Soft System Methodology is appropriate in the behavioral aspects demanded during consultancy. For instance, problem-solving mechanisms require an organization to first frame the concerned problem. As indicated before, this will follow seven key rules, including the identification of the key questions, developing the issue tree, and formulating hypotheses. According to Beckhard & Harris (1987), it is vital for an organization to first identify the potential target market for its new products for it to realize more sales and considerable profitability. Through consultancy, the priorities will be set regarding the company’s goals and objectives. In addition, the priorities will be set after considering some other projects the company needs to develop (Weiss, 2002).

Through Soft System Methodology, some projects should be given the first priority if they will be considered to be more vital compared to other projects. In the context of organizational leadership, the business plan should also contain some of the information on what the project is all about and how it is going to be carried out. Additionally, the knowledge and skills of the people setting up the project must also be taken into consideration. For example, it is vital to understand that the results of the study, established to support the previously formulated problem, will assist the organization in identifying the right targeted market for its commodities. According to Wendell & Cecil (1973), this is a noteworthy provision in diverse contexts, especially when establishing viable plans through Soft System Methodology (Checkland 2000).

How soft system methodology helps in structuring problems and how it develops the solutions?

Soft system methodology has been a vital tool when it comes to the structuring of the various problems being faced by an organization. For instance, it helps in structuring the problems by exploring some of the unstructured problems and establishing viable solutions that can bring some positive changes. The method is also used in structuring by using rich pictures to show the existing problems. Moreover, the pictures are used to obtain more information regarding the problem situation. For instance, a structure can be used to show borders, structures, and communication networks (Werner & Desimone2009, p. 301). It structures the problem by establishing the major definitions of the appropriate systems and the relevant viewpoints of the problem situation. Soft System Methodology helps in the structuring of the problem through the use of formal system ideas and other system thinking. Action is also taken to ensure that advancements are made to the problem situation (Clarke 2000).

How to convince the customers to apply the SSM?

According to Dougherty & Dougherty (2009, p. 362), the customers can be convinced by explaining to them that they are not correct most of the time; hence they should explore some of the alternative opportunities. The other way of convincing the customers is by creating some new models that are attractive to them. People who are in charge of marketing are responsible for convincing the customers by creating an insight into a safe business environment (Rakus-Andersson 2009, p. 140). Additionally, they can be convinced by ensuring them that they are in a safe position and can be refunded in case of any fraud. Customers should be educated on the importance of using soft system methodology; hence they are able to make the right choices when they want to solve their problems (Checkland 2000).

For instance, in the context of organizational leadership, it is also important to establish plans that are frequently updated. This indicates why Soft System Methodology is important in an organizational context. The business plan should also contain some of the information on what the project is all about and how it is going to be carried out. Additionally, the knowledge and skills of the people setting up the project must also be taken into consideration. They must have some information regarding the business and its environment (Checkland & Holwell 1998). This will assist them in making the right decisions that will make the project be successful. The company’s knowledge is also used to evaluate some of the factors considered important for the intended project. An algorithm will be applied to avoid political infringement in the process of setting up the priorities. Precisely, this exhibits why Soft System Methodology is important in an organizational context. It is vital to convincing customers extensively on the use and application of SSM when solving critical budgetary issues.


According to Checkland & Holwell (1998), SSM and problem-solving judgments involve a seven-step procedure that serves as an effective tool in making appropriate decisions in problematic situations. The mentioned seven steps involve; identification of the problem, collecting much information about the problem based on facts and assumptions, development of various solutions to the problem, examining and comparing different alternative solutions to the problem, making decisions based on the best alternative selected, making a plan for execution and finally applying the plan (Hicks, 2004). Through SSM, the mentioned seven steps of problem-solving are extensively observed. This implies that there are facts and assumptions that should not be ignored. Information should be gathered from the relevant sources. According to Daniells (1976), through SSM, instincts, and feelings should be taken into consideration to come up with the best solution to any problem. This should be followed by proper planning and execution of the decision to solve the problem. However, if these steps are not involved in making decisions, poor solutions might be attained.

List of References

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