Soft Systems Methodology

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Unit 1: Soft Systems Methodology


This is a possible unit in a Module on Problem Structuring Methods. These methods assume that the hardest part of solving a problem is getting agreement on what the problem actually is. Another aspect to problem structuring is to realise that you can describe the problem as being part of a system. Distinctions are normally made between hard and soft systems. Soft systems include the human element.

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Upon completion of this unit you will be able to:

  • Discuss some of the differences between Soft Systems Methodology and other Problem Structuring Methods.
  • Explain the processes of Soft Systems Methodology

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Students are able to apply Soft Systems Methodology to a simple problem

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What is a system, systems thinking

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  • Soft systems - systems with a human element
  • PSM - Problem Structuring Methods
  • OR - Operations Research (also called Management Science, especially in the USA)
  • system -
  • SSM - Soft Systems Methodology

What is a system?

A good example is a living organism. If you dissect a mouse it cannot function as a living system anymore. A system is more than just its parts.

Why Soft Systems?

Different kinds of systems. Hard and soft. Different kinds of problems. Hard problems, messes. Complex versus complexity versus chaos. Refer here to the overview in the book by Rosenhead.

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Maybe: Create a list of problems and then classify them

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Apply SSM to a problem of your choice

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How can you use SSM in your life and work?

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Systems are all around us... many ways of dealing with problems


  • Rosenhead, J. and Mingers, J (eds) (2001).Rational Analysis for a Problematic World: Problem Structuring Methods for Complexity, Uncertainty and Conflict, 2nd Edition. Wiley: London. ISBN 978-0471495239

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Web Resources

More information at: