A Simplified Approach to Soft System Design: Adapting Soft System Methodology
Designing or analyzing of a system is a complex task. To study all elements of a system, its inputs and outputs is usually work of a systems engineer. However, systems thinking should be present in most of activities of human life as a part of a holistic approach. That includes not only so-called well-defined “hard systems”, but also “soft systems”, which are composed mostly of humans. There are many tools for systems design and analysis of hard systems, but very few for soft ones. One of approaches aimed for soft systems Soft System Methodology (SSM) by Peter Checkland, which is in use for more than 30 years. SSM tends to be a universal tool for system analysis and problem solving in environment of soft systems. On one side, it seems very straightforward in its use of seven basic steps and use of so-called rich pictures for drawing a systemic situation etc. However, its universality requires also awareness of many points of view on a system studied, which again makes it a tool for systems engineers rather than for common people. With proper adaptation it could be used also as an approach for problem-solving and systems analysis and design in non-profit, business or governmental sphere accessible to any manager, employee or a citizen, who would like to take a systemic point of view of a situation. In previous research, SSM was used to break down and re-design a system of complementary economy called Time Bank. During many iterations of the process, a simplified approach to SSM was discovered. The simplification is mainly in proposal of a template for rich pictures, which also includes connection to next steps making it simple to draw and simple to observe transformation process with its inputs and outputs. In result, a person who would like to have an overview on a system (any system that includes people including project management) can use it. The final result is very similar to what was proposed in original SSM, but simplified enough to be used by general public, which brings new added value especially to smaller organizations who cannot afford own systems engineering department, but would like choose a way of holistic approach towards their activities.
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