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Article
Publication date: 3 March 2020

Mohammad Reza Fathi, Mohammad Hasan Maleki, Seyed Mohammad Sobhani and Can Deniz Koksal

The purpose of this study is to formulate exploratory scenarios of Operations Research through the critical uncertainty approach and Soft Systems Methodology.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to formulate exploratory scenarios of Operations Research through the critical uncertainty approach and Soft Systems Methodology.

Design/methodology/approach

In this study, to formulate plausible scenarios, the discipline of operation research internal and external experts’ opinions of this field have been gathered through Delphi approach and uncertainty questionnaires. After use of the most important uncertainties, plausible scenarios of operations research have been mapped with the help of experts through co-thinking workshops.

Findings

Four scenarios are presented in this study. These scenarios include Solar System, Esfandiar's Eye, Rival’s Setraps and Legendary Simurgh. Naturally, the imagination of such a unitary future for all academic communities is an expectation far from reality, and given the conditions of each of these futures or any integration of them is imaginable.

Originality/value

Operations Research models have been faced with variously multiple changes since its emergence until now. Investigation into the future of operations research on the necessity for his planning has not received a reasonable notice in the literature. Sporadic activities that have been carried out are also lacking in the necessary methodology. Also, there has been no research about future study using the soft Operation Research tools (Soft Systems Methodology).

Details

foresight, vol. 22 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

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Article
Publication date: 23 July 2020

Frank Stowell

This study aims to explore the ideas of Husserl and Gadamer as a possible basis of future soft systems methods of enquiry.

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore the ideas of Husserl and Gadamer as a possible basis of future soft systems methods of enquiry.

Design/methodology/approach

In Part one, the author has taken up the argument that soft systems is underpinned by Husserl’s phenomenology. The implication of this contention is an acceptance of subjectivity, and that our understanding the world is based upon personal experience. A consequence of this thinking renders predetermined models of the world to be deficient because each situation is unique. Instead of seeking a “solution”, the soft systems investigator engenders a cycle of learning as a means of gaining greater understanding. This means that a soft systems inquiry involves exploring the situation with those involved as a means of reaching an informed way forward. In this second paper, the author continues to explore Husserl’s phenomenology and also consider Gadamer’s ideas on hermeneutics and the importance of the “cycle of learning” that is central to any soft systems inquiry. The study concludes with a summary of points that, the author suggests, should be considered when undertaking a “softsystems inquiry and in the development of any methodology that may enable it.

Findings

Both papers explore the phenomenological ideas of Husserl and the relationship to soft systems. In paper one, the basis of this exploration was Checkland's assertion that phenomenology could be the basis of soft systems. In the second paper, the author takes this further by exploring Gadamer's ideas on hermeneutics and reflect upon the possibility of blending them with Husserl's thinking.

Research limitations/implications

I had some difficulty in tracking down the published work relating to the development of soft systems, notably the Journal of Applied Systems Analysis. This journal was published by Lancaster University and covered more than 20 years of debate and provides an important record of its development. The author managed to find what might be the only compete set at the University of Southampton. This allowed the author to gain some understanding of the development of the thinking. Since the late 20th century, the number of publications on soft ideas has been severely limited, seemingly reflecting the dominance of reductionist science. It seems timely for such a paper as this to help initiate further debate.

Practical implications

As indicated above – the difficulty is finding early journal publications where the ideas and their relationship to the action research programme emerged. Checkland himself, with whom the author has always enjoyed a close relationship, has, at the age of 90, withdrawn from academic activity; the early papers in the Journal of Applied Systems Analysis are probably the only “evidence” of the developing ideas at that time. Checkland has summarised the development (see references in the author’s two papers), but these early documents have the advantage of being written by a variety of scholars at the time rather than a single source.

Social implications

The current crisis of the corona virus demonstrates the strength and the limitations of reductionist thinking. It is appropriate at this time that other methods and ideas of thinking about complexity are “visible”. Whilst there are many ideas, techniques, methods and so on in systems, these come from a common base, namely, to accept a world as tangible and easily modelled; adopting and alternative way of thinking can be challenging and healthy.

Originality/value

Soft systems thinking is 50 years old, but there has been virtually no progress since the soft systems methodology (SSM) emerged of Husserl and Gadamer in the 1970-1990s; such is the dominance of this methodology. This paper attempts to revisit the early thinking and consider what soft systems thinking means rather than focus on SSM.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 50 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 1 December 2003

Catherine L. Wang and Pervaiz K. Ahmed

This conceptual paper first examines the critical evolutionary stage of systems methodologies – from hard systems to soft systems, and elaborates their different focuses…

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Abstract

This conceptual paper first examines the critical evolutionary stage of systems methodologies – from hard systems to soft systems, and elaborates their different focuses. This paper further explores the granularity of the “softness” of systems methodologies, and identifies a missing part: emotion. The emotional aspect of systems is associated to various soft elements of systems methodologies, such as value, perception, human well‐being, creativity and learning. Unfortunately, existing literature does not demonstrate a sufficient consideration of the role of emotion in systems methodologies. This paper incorporates the emotional aspect and discusses the role of emotion in effective systems methodologies.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 32 no. 9/10
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 5 October 2015

Dejana Zlatanović and Matjaž Mulej

Respecting the growing importance of interdependence of knowledge, values and social responsibility, the purpose of this paper is to introduce the concept of…

Abstract

Purpose

Respecting the growing importance of interdependence of knowledge, values and social responsibility, the purpose of this paper is to introduce the concept of knowledge-cum-values management and to show how some soft systems approaches can support interdependence of knowledge and human values resulting in socially responsible innovative behavior, hence in success.

Design/methodology/approach

The selected soft systems approaches are used to double-check the usefulness of the requisitely holistic approach to knowledge-cum-values management and innovation. The applied methodology for qualitative analysis is the Dialectical Systems Theory.

Findings

One-sidedness, unlike the requisite holism, causes oversights and hence disables innovations as a new users’ benefit. Requisitely holistic knowledge-cum-values management prevents one-sidedness and therefore many oversights; hence it is a valuable driver of innovation. It is supported by social responsibility (exposing the systemic behavior by suggesting interdependence and holistic approach to one’s responsibility for one’s influences on society). By including values and by enabling consideration of interdependence of human values and knowledge, some soft systems approaches support innovative behavior with social responsibility.

Research limitations/implications

Research is limited to theoretical findings resulting from authors’ previous empirical studies. The novel concept “knowledge-cum-values” erases the human dangerous one-sidedness resulting from the irrational rationalistic division of the two. Social responsibility supports informal use of some soft systems theories and diminishes this danger.

Practical implications

The practical application of the selected soft systems approaches and social responsibility offers great possibilities for managers to improve the holism of their innovation processes, driven by knowledge-cum-values management. Fewer oversights are possible and lead to fewer mistakes and more success in the invention-innovation-diffusion processes. No human is rational or emotional only, either as a creator or as a consumer, but this fact is disregarded in the management literature.

Social implications

Social responsibility shall be considered as an important novel soft-system approach and part of organizational innovative behavior aimed to replace the one-sided approaches prevailing so far and causing crises: the overseen attributes do not cease, but they still impact life and are out of control.

Originality/value

The contribution introduces the new, still insufficiently researched concept of knowledge-cum-values management; it highlights new ways of attaining the requisitely holistic knowledge-cum-values management that enhances enterprise’s innovation capacity by requisite holism, supported by social responsibility.

Details

Baltic Journal of Management, vol. 10 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5265

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Article
Publication date: 6 February 2017

Sandra Hildbrand and Shamim Bodhanya

This paper aims to explore the complexity that characterises sugarcane production and supply systems by applying soft systems methodology (SSM) and the viable system model…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the complexity that characterises sugarcane production and supply systems by applying soft systems methodology (SSM) and the viable system model (VSM) based on an interpretive systemic approach. It seeks to understand the extent to which these methodologies may assist in exploring such a complexity.

Design/methodology/approach

SSM and VSM were combined with qualitative research methods to explore two sugarcane production and supply systems’ potential improvement possibilities.

Findings

Trust, transparency and communication shortcomings, poor miller–grower relationships, deficient systemic commitment, insular view, milling inefficiencies, sugarcane quality, quantity and consistency shortcomings, the industry setup and the lack of a common driver are core issues. SSM and VSM facilitated a thorough understanding, yet could not address detected deficiencies.

Research limitations/implications

The research was restricted to two milling areas, and only SSM and VSM were applied.

Practical implications

Presented findings can be used as a basis to facilitate improvement in sugarcane production and supply systems and to advocate the continuity of holistic considerations.

Originality/value

Neither SSM nor VSM have been applied in the sugar industry context. The sugarcane production and supply systems have been holistically investigated, and soft issues have been considered.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 46 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 7 March 2008

Adrian Small, Petia Sice and Tony Venus

The purpose of this paper is to set out an argument for a way to design, implement and manage IS with an emphasis on first, the learning that can be created through…

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1651

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to set out an argument for a way to design, implement and manage IS with an emphasis on first, the learning that can be created through undertaking the approach, and second, the learning that may be created through using the IS that was implemented. The paper proposes joining two areas of research namely, technology management with soft systems methodology (SSM). The framework was developed through undertaking a customer concern management project within a manufacturing organisation.

Design/methodology/approach

Reviewing the literature on information systems management, the learning organisation, and systems theory a proposed synergy is found. The outcome of this synergy allows a number of methodologies to be identified that are argued as suitable for IS design. From these information system development (ISD) methodologies, SSM is expanded to incorporate the principles of the learning organisation and systems theory. The expanded SSM framework is applied in practice through a process of participatory action research.

Findings

The outcome of the practical work argues for a complete framework that joins the areas of research (SSM and technology management) and emphasises other thinking from the areas of systems theory and the “learning organisation”.

Research limitations/implications

The paper concludes with a discussion on the advantages of joining soft systems with technology management but also the limitations created. Such limitations have been identified as moving from the soft, tacit issues of the design phases to the harder more structured aspects of technology implementation and management. A change in philosophy may restrict other issues from being explored. This issue needs to be focussed on in future research.

Practical implications

A framework has been developed that draws on the work of soft systems methodology (SSM) and a technology management process framework (TMPF) used in the area of technology management. By expanding the SSM model and joining it with the TMPF an attempt to give individuals and teams a practical tool to help design, implement, and manage IS with an emphasis on learning the framework promotes.

Originality/value

The framework provides advantages for academics, consultants and other practitioners and gives a central focus on what issues need to be accomplished more explicitly in order to undertake an ISD project.

Details

The Learning Organization, vol. 15 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0969-6474

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Article
Publication date: 27 July 2020

Frank Stowell

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between Husserl’s phenomenology and soft systems. An important idea arising from the action research programme at…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between Husserl’s phenomenology and soft systems. An important idea arising from the action research programme at the University of Lancaster is the notion of soft systems. The concept of soft systems, that distinguished it from other systems (holistic) thinking of the time, was the conscious link between soft systems thinking and phenomenology. Phenomenology is that the realm of intentional consciousness that enables the phenomenologist to develop a radically unprejudiced justification of his (or her) basic views of the world and of himself and explore their rational interconnections. Similarly, in soft systems, it is acknowledged that reality is formed by sensation and fashioned by experience. It is not exclusively a process of thought (although this may shape how we process our experience), for us the world exists as the result of a subjective appreciation of it. In Part 1, the author explores how phenomenology informs soft systems theory and practice through the work of Husserl and some of those that influenced him and were influenced by him. In Part 2, the author explores a possible relationship between Husserl and Gadamer as a possible intellectual grounding for organisational inquiry.

Design/methodology/approach

The research was conducted by examining published material relating to the development of soft systems ideas and Husserl's phenomenology.

Findings

An analysis of the ideas within the material suggests that phenomenology can be considered as a underpinning the notion of soft systems

Research limitations/implications

There is difficulty tracking down important papers that recorded the development of soft systems (i.e. 1970–1990) as Lancaster University had disposed of all issues. However, the author tracked down a source and was able to use this material as part of the research. In addition to helping research the origins of the idea, it also provides a paper trail for other researchers interested in these ideas.

Practical implications

Tracing the published material relating to soft systems necessitated visits to several universities as many of the important papers where no longer held by the University of Lancaster library.

Social implications

It seems apposite that the ideas behind soft systems are resurrected as they offer an alternative way of thinking about complexity – which the modern world seems increasingly creating

Originality/value

There is a lack of research into soft systems as the publications describing the Lancaster research programme have centred around soft systems methodology (SSM). Checkland remarked a decade or so ago that said SSM should be taken as given and other ideas explored. There is little evidence that the soft ideas have been explored outside variations of SSM, this paper is intended to encourage more research into ‘softsystems.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. 50 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

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Article
Publication date: 20 January 2012

Jürgen Staadt

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the usability of systems thinking in the process of redesigning a leading public housing provider within a problematic…

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1842

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the usability of systems thinking in the process of redesigning a leading public housing provider within a problematic situation. The paper attempts to describe the influence of evolving negative internal socio‐political arrangements on the further development of the whole organization and suggests a purposeful activity model based on constant improvement and collaborative learning for the ongoing intervention.

Design/methodology/approach

The study combines soft systems methodology, as the leading or guiding methodology, with case study research and action research. This rather pluralistic approach made it possible to adequately respond to the varying tasks and intricacies of the different research phases within a power‐laden environment. Each phase or part of the process was informed by the analysis of the preceding one, thus creating a documented learning process.

Findings

The results reveal that further development within the project‐oriented organization was hindered or blocked by failure to address the oppressive socio‐political system. The proposed new design, based on systems thinking, allocates an important role to project management and its ability to cope with different paradigms and to address tame, messy as well as wicked problems. Consequently, the discipline of project management should further develop towards an equal appreciation of hard as well as soft systems thinking which emphasises a critical systems thinking approach.

Practical implications

The project management capabilities needed in the complex housing system go beyond the strategic and operational level since a greater understanding of complex social systems as well as their behaviour is of major importance. This puts emphasis on problem structuring methods and methodologies, as well as their combination, so as to support the debate about the nature of organizational as well as societal problems rather than to focus on their solution.

Originality/value

The paper describes the first soft systems methodology intervention in a predominantly francophone country within the European Union. It proposes a new avenue to the management of organizational as well as societal problems.

Details

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 5 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1753-8378

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Article
Publication date: 1 February 1995

Nandish V. Patel

Much educational practice taught at teaching colleges regarding theprocess of teaching and learning is derived from a theoretical base.Less is based on lessons learned…

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3512

Abstract

Much educational practice taught at teaching colleges regarding the process of teaching and learning is derived from a theoretical base. Less is based on lessons learned from the observation of the actual process of teaching and learning. Undergraduate teachers and mature practitioners are left with unstructured and unsystematic personal reflections of the process of teaching and learning for meeting any deficiencies they may have perceived. Soft systems methodology is an approach that can fill this lacuna. It provides a structured and systematic as well as systemic, approach for analysing actual practices in organized human activities, or human activity systems, such as the institution of education. The methodology is of particular benefit for analysing the process of teaching and learning because it does not require starting the process as an identified and precisely defined problem requiring a commensurate solution, yet it is still capable of generating recommendations for improving the process. The methodology is applied to this process to discover whether it can reveal hitherto unrecognized teaching and learning activities which can be used to improve the process in question.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 9 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article
Publication date: 1 September 1995

David Kirk

Reviews the development of a systems approach to problem solvingand operational management, including the differentiation between hardand soft systems. Argues that, given…

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12057

Abstract

Reviews the development of a systems approach to problem solving and operational management, including the differentiation between hard and soft systems. Argues that, given the occurrence in most problem situations of both technical and human dimensions, a hybrid of scientific, hard systems and soft systems methodologies will give the best solution. The soft systems approach will ensure that the human dimension is incorporated at an early stage in the process and that all groups of people are involved in developing a solution. Within this soft systems overview, hard systems and scientific techniques can be used to optimize aspects of the solution.

Details

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 7 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0959-6119

Keywords

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