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HFSD Soft Systems Methodology. Objectives Understand the difference between Hard and Soft systems Describe the Soft Systems Methodology and the techniques.

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Presentation on theme: "HFSD Soft Systems Methodology. Objectives Understand the difference between Hard and Soft systems Describe the Soft Systems Methodology and the techniques."— Presentation transcript:

1 HFSD Soft Systems Methodology

2 Objectives Understand the difference between Hard and Soft systems Describe the Soft Systems Methodology and the techniques used within it Understand the Soft Systems perspective and its value in business systems problem solving

3 Hard vs. Soft Systems Hard Systems: Adopt a Scientific approach (functional decomposition) Based of belief that initial and desired system state can be defined IT is bought only to enable IS IS exists only to serve some human activity

4 Hard vs. Soft Systems Soft Systems: Holistic approach adopted (importance of interactions among the sub-systems An organized way of dealing with “messy” situations in the real world managers unclear about objectives large, complex, poorly defined systems and not fully understood Based on work of Checkland onward

5 Hard vs. Soft Systems Soft Systems: undefined, unstructured, messy Hard Systems: clear-cut, well defined problem situation SSM Aims: deal with subjectivity in human activity systems give subjectivity an intellectual framework

6 Terminology Methodology: “ A set of principles of method, which in any particular situation has to be reduced to a method uniquely suited to that situation” (Checkland,’81) Human Activity System: those where people undertake activities to achieve some purpose (all organizations are of this type) Client: - the person(s) commissioning the study Problem Owner: - the person(s) who wishes something to be done about the problem

7 SSM in Outline REAL WORLD SYSTEMS THINKING 1. The Problem Situation: - unstructured 2. Problem Situation: Expressed (Rich Picture) 7. Action to improve the Problem Situation 6. Feasible and Desirable Changes 5. Comparison of Rich Picture and Conceptual Model 4. Conceptual Models 3. Root Definitions of Relevant Systems 4a. Formal Systems Concept 4b.Other Systems Thinking

8 SSM in Outline Sequence of stages does not have to be strictly followed Backtracking and iteration are essential Effective users use SSM as a framework not as a “cook book recipe” Stages 1,2,5,6,7 are Real World activities Stages 3,4a,4b are Systems Thinking activities

9 SSM - Stages 1 & 2 “Expression Stages” - build up the richest possible picture of the situation in which the problem is perceived Output of stages 1 & 2 = Rich Picture Pictorial representation of the Problem Situation containing:- elements of structure elements of process elements of climate

10 The Rich Picture Models overall System - helps problem owner understand and clarify problem & problem domain Summarizes all that’s known about the situation Exposes differences of opinion Self-explanatory two purposes: clarify analyst’s understanding communicate this to client

11 Elements of the Rich Picture Structure of problem domain physical layout departmental boundaries reporting structure line management formal/informal communications relationships inside/outside organization

12 Elements of the Rich Picture Business Process what happens plans operations controls “bottlenecks”

13 Elements of the Rich Picture Situation Climate - Relationships conflicts worries mismatches between new processes and old structures

14 Drawing a Rich Picture Name of Organization in large bubble in centre of page Use symbols to represent people/things that interrelate in problem situation e.g. Use arrows for relationships crossed swords for conflict think bubbles for worries beady-eye for scrutiny size for relative importance

15 Rich Picture Usefulness space restriction forces thought about what is important helps to visualise roles in organization can define aspects to be covered by system can show individuals’ worries and potential conflicts helps to identify primary tasks helps to identify issues

16 Stage 3 - Root Definitions A concise description of a Proposed System (developed from C-A-T-W-O-E) Client : benefits directly from the system Actor : will use the system Transformation : conversion input /output Weltanschauung : “world view” Owner : the system owner (could stop T) Environment : within which system works

17 Stage 3 - Root Definitions Root definitions formulated by considering elements of CATWOE & resolving differences in views of the system held by people in the organization “A system owned by De Montfort University and operated by lecturers within the British HE sector, to provide quality education and training to students, with the aim of maintaining both number and quality of graduates, and thus improve competitiveness of British industry and commerce.”

18 Stage 4 - Conceptual Models Conceptual Model indicates what the system must DO to achieve the purpose stated in the Root Definition major information flows from Rich Picture activities to perform from Root Definition activities will be sub-systems of system activities will be decomposed into several levels

19 Stage 5 - Compare Models Conceptual models facilitate coherent discussion around problem situation Used to help identify:- why objectives are not being achieved where changes could be effective conflicts and worries lack of effective communication resources not present lack of reporting back for control

20 Stages 6 & 7 - Implement Changes Three possible kinds of change Structural Procedural Attitude which changes are feasible? do changes involve a computer system? changes may create new problems! SSM not once only but on-going

21 Conclusions SSM provides a set of guidelines for clarifying where improvements are possible within an organization Does not require strict adherence to rules or procedures Main difference between SSM and other approaches are the system thinking stages Many activities undertaken by the analyst are conventional fact finding activities

22 Conclusions SSM illustrated as a sequence but can be used in any order; encourages iteration as analyst’s knowledge increases Encourages understanding of different perspectives and forms the basis of debate SSM is a participative approach Is not “final” but is a learning process aimed at accommodations among people on actions to improve the perceived problem situation

23 References Checkland, P. (1981) “Systems Thinking, Systems Practice.” Wiley Checkland, P. & Scholes, J. (1990) “Soft Systems Methodology in Action.” Wiley Hicks, M.J. (1991) “Problem Solving in Business and Management” Thompson Business Press (Ch. 12)


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