Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Mastering systems thinking in practice
Mastering systems thinking in practice

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6.2 Distinctions between Mode 1 and Mode 2

Table 2 sets out some distinctions which an observer might make between Mode 1 and Mode 2 use of SSM by a practitioner.

Table 2 Possible distinctions between Mode 1 and Mode 2 use of SSM by a practitioner
Mode 1Mode 2
Method-drivenSituation-driven
InterventionInteraction
Sometimes used only as a linear sequenceAlways iterative
SSM as an external recipeSSM as an internalised model
(Adapted from Checkland and Scholes, 1990, p. A36)

Checkland and Scholes (1990) characterise Mode 2 as occurring when the systems practitioner interacts in the events (practices) and ideas (theories) which unfold over time. Another way of saying this is that the practitioner is a participant in the situation rather than being external to it (and it is for this reason that the history of the practitioner – called a tradition – was drawn to your attention). I have set these two modes of using SSM out as if they are two categories but Peter Checkland (personal communication) says that:

‘It ought to be made clear that Mode 1/Mode 2 are not two categories; they define a spectrum; they are ideal types; any actual study will be somewhere on the spectrum. The ‘Mode 2’ concept arose naturally as, with experience, two things came together:

  • the ‘technology’ of SSM became internalised; it became tacit knowledge which we did not have to stop and think about; and
  • the experience of the use of SSM convinced us that there was a need to pay attention to the process being enacted as much as the content which the process was addressing.

Mode 2 was thus an emergent development arising experientially not a designed development.’

Both the evolution of a method/methodology and its use in practice is a learning process flowing from experience in action outlined in Figure 3. SSM, like other approaches, is a learning process that can be mapped on to a learning cycle as Peter Checkland himself has done in Figure 9.

SSM as a learning system
Figure 9SSM as a learning system