Soft Systems Methodology–My Understanding?

Disclaimer – I’m learning about this subject area on a module this semester so my understanding, and example given below, my be incorrect. I doing this post to gain feedback from the wider community, my tutor and fellow students.

Underlying Principle

Identify a problem. Then step back from that problem and look at the overall structure. Ask simple questions like why are doing this? What are we trying to achieve? How *should* we be doing this?

A Simple Example

So in my world of trying to make everything complex simple, leads me to bringing this subject area back to the area of football. I won’t be going in-depth so a understanding of the sport won’t be required!

Step 1 – Identify the problem (ignore the solution)

The Problem: We’re not winning football matches / trophies. Its the managers fault – sack the manager!

Step 2 – Rich Picture

Draw a rich picture showing the entire solution area – to understand connections between various stakeholders and the wider environment.

Step 3 – Step Away from the Problem:

What Are We Trying to Do: Win trophies. Be successful.

How could we do this: Ideally, we’d have the best goalkeeper, best defenders, best midfielders and best forwards in the league, if not the world. We’d also have excellent (although not necessarily the best) squad to cover any injuries and suspensions. We’d also have a very good manager to get best out of our players, and apply tactics to limit the opposition strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

Step 4 – Identify the ideal model/system to achieve this

Step Description
1 Best goalkeeper
2 Best defenders
3 Best midfielders
4 Best attackers
5 Very good squad to cover suspensions and injuries
6 Good manager to make best of our strengths and exploit other teams weaknesses

Alongside the ideal model (conceptual model) we need to consider constraints. Examples in this scenario could be money, expectations of success sooner rather than later.

We would also need to consider how to monitor progress – we could use statistics like the league table compared to this point last season, individual player stats, perhaps fitness levels.

Step 5 – Gap Analysis (Compare the Ideal model to What is Currently in Place)

Step Description Currently Have? Do Well? Further discussion
1 Best goalkeeper Yes
2 Best defenders Yes
3 Best midfielders Maybe Still best, but some getting old.
4 Best strikers No Discuss further
5 Best squad No Discuss further
6 Best Manager Yes

Step 6 – Hold Meeting to Have Discussion Points

Here we can see these likely revolve around Steps 3,4 & 5 in the model. Discussion around constraints will happen here – an immediate example would to buy 2 new forwards, but that could cost £100m – is the best investment of money, and is the money available.

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