Soft systems methodology (SSM) is a systemic approach for tackling real-world complex problem situations. Developed in the 1970s by a team of academics from the University of Lancaster led by Prof Peter Checkland, and resulted from their attempts to tackle management problem situations using a systems engineering approach. The team found that Systems Engineering, which was a methodology so far only used for dealing with technical problems, proved very difficult to apply in real world management problem situations. This was especially so because the approach assumed the existence of a formal problem definition. However, it was found that such a unitary definition of what constitutes ‘the problem’ was often missing in organisational problem situations, where different stakeholders often have very divergent views on what constitutes ‘the problem’.
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