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Systems engineering: Challenging complexity
Systems engineering: Challenging complexity

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3.9 Systems methodologies for managing change: soft systems approach

Various ‘softer’ approaches to problem solving have been proposed. The one that I shall describe is based on (although not exactly the same as) the methodology developed by Peter Checkland and his collaborators at the University of Lancaster. This has been applied to systems problems in a number of projects.

The soft systems approach is based on a number of key principles.

  • Problems do not have an existence that is independent of the people who perceive them.

  • Solutions are what people perceive to be solutions.

  • People perceive problems or situations differently because they have different beliefs about what the situation is and what it should be.

  • Problems are often linked into what are called ‘systems of problems’ or ‘messes’.

  • The analyst, researcher or manager trying to solve the problem is an integral part of it!

The stages of the soft systems approach are illustrated in Figure 36.

Figure 36
Figure 36 The soft systems approach