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Soft systems methodology (SSM) is a systemic approach for tackling real-world problematic situations

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  1. 1. Lecture 2 Root Definition and Conceptual Model (UCM0558E) Abdisalam Issa-Salwe Thames Valley University Faculty of Professional Studies Overview of SSM Stages situation 7 action to 1 considered improve the problematic problem situation 6 changes: systemically desirable, culturally feasible problem comparison of 2 situation models and expressed real world 5 real world systems thinking about real world 3 conceptual models root definition of systems described of relevant systems in root definitions 4Source: Checkland:Systems Thinking,Systems Practice 2
  2. 2. Two relevant models Root Definitions are used to identify what the systems purpose is, who the interested parties are Conceptual Models are used to say how the system would function, i.e. what activities are necessary for it to take place. 3Defining systems The variety of influences in a human activity system to be collected in a rich picture ordering takes place within the area of systems thinking rather than real world investigation. The situation is examined by defining systems (inputs- transformations-outputs) which are relevant to it and working out the activities that will be necessary for such a system to function. 4
  3. 3. Formal systems model (and examples) 5Stage 3: Root Definition (RD) The root definition is one way of describing what is the system how the system will work, and why we need this system. It is expressed as a transformation process some entity as input a new form of the entity as output. Note: We should not confuse the how here with the how of implementation, the how in the root definitions gives a general framework of how we are going to do this but it is not how that defines certain technology and certain steps to be taken. 6
  4. 4. Notional description Root definitions as notional descriptions of the purposes of systems: they look at an organisation or situation from different points of view. It is perfectly possible for there to be several views of the same situation. Take the following definition of the work of which produces graduates in vocational subjects to satisfy the needs of industry and commerce: The university is a system in which academic departments are responsive to the needs of industry and has its performance judged by industry and the funding council. The assumptions are that it is possible and necessary to define the requirements of industry for qualified graduates in particular subjects. 7Two types of RD Primary Task Root Definition: concern processes which the organization being studied performs as a part of their regular activities (for example, in an oil company, the process of refinement of the oil). Issue based Root Definition: Issue Based Root Definitions concern processes which are rare or one-off occurrences (such as a management restructuring). 8
  5. 5. Root definition examples primary task (relating to basic tasks and structures) A university owned and operated system to award degrees and diplomas to suitably qualified candidates (X), by means of suitableassessment (Y), (in conformance with national standards), in order todemonstrate the capabilities of candidates to potential employers (Z).issue based (relating to temporary or qualitative concerns, orconcerns of judgment)A university owned and operated system to implement aquality service (X), by devising and operating procedures to delight its customers and control its suppliers (Y), in order to improve its educational products (Z). 9Root definitions syntax short textual statements which define the important elements of the relevant system being modelled - rather like mission statements they follow the form: a system to do X by (means of) Y in order to Z what the system does - X how it does it - Y why it’s being done - Z 10
  6. 6. CATWOE CATWOE analysis helps to build coherent and comprehensive root definitions Each conceptual system has at its heart a transformation process in which something, an input, is changed, or transformed, into some new form of itself, an output. Accompanying this transformation (T for short) is a weltanschauung, or worldview – Weltanschauung defines the belief or point of view that makes the transformation reasonable - worth achieving. Together, T and W form the core of CATWOE analysis - a mnemonic which helps to build coherent and comprehensive root definitions. 11 CATWOE stands forT = TransformationCustomers the victims or beneficiaries of TActors those who do TTransformation input outputWeltanschauung the worldview that makes the T meaningful in contextOwners those with the power to stop TEnvironmental elements outside the system whichconstraints are taken as given, but nevertheless affect its behaviour 12
  7. 7. Some procedures for deriving root definitions of relevant systems Identify a problem which seems important enough for further investigation Structured root definition has three parts, referred to as what, how and why. the what is the immediate aim of the system, the how is the means of achieving that aim, and the why is the longer term aim of the purposeful activity We can compose root definitions by naming a series of relevant systems using the formula: “ A system to…………………in order to…………….” 13CATWOE to formulate and structure the real world situation in a meaningful way and also to ensure that the RD written does really represent the relevant system both the root definition and the CATWOE analysis is to consider each of them with respect to the other one, if there is any kind of inconsistency then this is a clue that there is something seriously wrong in the SSM practitioner understanding of the problem situation and he has to go back and iterate to stages one and two 14
  8. 8. Deriving relevant systems relevant systems are conceptual (in-the-mind) models of parts of the problem that are of interest they are models which follow systems principles to help structure the analyst’s impression of the problem - not definitive descriptions of systems in the real world problems can be represented as they are perceived by different stakeholders 15CATWOE example C candidate students A university staff T candidate students degree holders and diplomates W the belief that awarding degrees and diplomas is a good way of demonstrating the qualities of candidates to potential employers O the University governing body E national educational and assessment standards 16
  9. 9. Starting point:best starting point is to think first of the output of the transformation, the thing that the system is there to do, working out the transformation from that and then moving on to the Weltanschauung, such as: Who (A) is doing what (T) for whom (C), having someone to whom they are answerable (O) and working within certain assumptions (W) and within wider constraints in the environment (E). 17Stage 4: Conceptual Model CM as the core of the SSM methodology: To establish a relevant system based on defining the minimum number of activities required for this relevant system to be the one described in the root definition. It is a human activity models that is used to show each operational activity that is necessary to carry out the process described in the root definition. There must be at least one conceptual model for each RD. 18
  10. 10. Basic component of CM 19activity models - symbols activity - ‘do something’ verb + noun phraselogical dependency arrow - activity A must Acome before B, or if activity A is done badly- so will B B cook dinner study MSc boundary eat take MSc dinner examination 20
  11. 11. How to build CMTo build a conceptual model1. take the RD and think of the different activities that must be implemented to fulfill this RD2. then express each activity in a phrase containing one verb, and3. finally associate these activities in a CM showing dependencies of the activities and the flow of the information. 21 activity model - example design enrol students education programm es appreciate educate allot resources national students standards award design degrees + diplomas and carry out to students reaching assessment acceptable levels A university owned and operated system to award degrees and diplomas to suitably qualified candidates (X), by means of suitable assessment (Y), (in conformance with national standards), in order to demonstrate the capabilities of candidates to potential employers (Z). 22
  12. 12. Measurement of performanceMeasurement needed to incorporate with performance for this conceptual model. Formal System Thinking Monitoring the System 23 Formal Systems Thinking applied to the development of the conceptual model. serves as a guideline for checking the conceptual model. Example, S is a formal system if and only if it meets the following criteria: S must have some mission S must have a measure of performance S must have a decision making process S must have components which interact with each other such that the effects and actions are transmitted throughout the system S must be part of a wider system with which it interacts S must be bounded from the wider system, based on the area where its decision making process has power to enforce an action 24
  13. 13. Monitoring the SystemMonitoring the operational system consists of three activities:1. Define a measure of performance: Efficacy - does it work Efficiency - How much of work completed given consumed resources Effectiveness - Are goals being met. Note: Many including ethical, elegant, economical and other metrics which may be dependent on the context of the work being done2. Monitor the activities in the operational system, in accordance with the metrics defined in step 1.3. Take control action: Use the outcomes of these metrics to determine and execute action to control the operational system. 25Example of Monitoring of performance E1 (efficacy) - are degrees and diplomas awarded? E2 (efficiency) - how many degrees and diplomas, of what standard, are awarded for the resource consumed? E3 (effectiveness) - do employers find the degrees and diplomas a useful way of assessing the qualities of potential employees? 26
  14. 14. The complete model - example A university owned and operated system to award degrees and diplomas to suitably qualified candidates (X), design by means of suitable assessment (Y), (in conformance with enroll students education programmes national standards), in order to demonstrate the capabilities of candidates to potential employers (Z). appreciate educate allot C candidate students resources national students standards A university staff T candidate students award degree holders and diplomates design degrees + diplomas W the belief that awarding degrees and and carry outto students reaching assessment diplomas is a good way of demonstrating acceptable levels take control the qualities of candidates to potential action employers monitor for O the University governing body E1, E2, E3 E national educational and assessment standards E1 (efficacy) - are degrees and diplomas awarded? E2 (efficiency) - how many degrees and diplomas, of what standard, are awarded for the resource consumed? E3 (effectiveness) - do employers find the degrees and diplomas a useful way of assessing the qualities of potential employees? 27 More example of building a CM "A system to meet a perceived requirement for web-based resources intended to help users teach and learn SSM methodologies by constructing and publishing appropriate web pages in order to help interested parties to teach and learn". The suggested activities are: 1. Identify potential users for learning resources 2. Know about capabilities of world wide web medium 3. Know about authoring and publishing web pages 4. Know about methodologies and how to teach them 5. Identify likely help needed by potential users 6. Identify ways of meeting users teaching/learning needs 7. Design web pages intended to meet users likely needs 8. Construct web pages 9. Publish web pages 28
  15. 15. Activity dependencies and explanations for the conceptual example 29The complete conceptual model Root definition CATWOE Activity model Measures of performance 30
  16. 16. The conceptual model for a web-based system 31Stage 5: Comparison Deals with the comparison between the conceptual model(s) developed in stage 4, and the structured analysis of the problem situation from stage 2 . Purpose is to analyse the similarities and differences between the model and the real world in a thorough and structured manner. Note: the analyst will likely find out where the models are unrealistic, as well as determining where the new ideas generated from the modelling might be of practical use in the situation being examined. 32
  17. 17. Approaches to using comparison several approaches to use when comparing the real world with the models derived from the root definition. The most important are: 1) using conceptual models as a base for ordered questioning, 2) comparing history with model prediction, 3) general overall comparison, and 4) model overlay. 33Conceptual models as a base for orderedquestioning can be done when the real world situation is very different from the conceptual model. approach can be used when the two models are different. technique is simply to generate questions about the existing system. questions should be written down and answered systematically. Questions should be generated for each activity in the conceptual model. 34
  18. 18. Comparing history with model prediction prediction involves reconstructing events that occurred in the past and asking what would have happened if the relevant conceptual model had been implemented at the time. this technique should be used diligently because it could reveal inadequacies. 35A general overall comparison This can be used with a comparison table. A comparison table usually involves systematically going through each activity and link (i.e., a relationship between two activities) in the conceptual model(s) and asking specific questions about the differences 36
  19. 19. The technique of model overlay This involves directly overlapping the concept map derived from the root definitions with a second model that is used to represent what actually exists. Although the second conceptual model has not yet been created (there only exists a rich picture), the conceptual model derived from the root definition can be used to create the second conceptual model. Note: be wary of forgetting or misusing elements during the construction of the real-world concept model because the systems thinking conceptual model may be quite different from the real world. 37Comparison with the real world is it done in the real situation? comments, activity how is it done? recommendations 1 2 3 38
  20. 20. A comparison table for estimates effort. 39Example of a basic comparison of a conceptual model 40
  21. 21. 41Problems and problem owners 42
  22. 22. Stage 6 and 7:Definition of Desirable and Feasible ChangesThe purpose: to define those changes that are most feasible and desirable. the possible changes from the previous stage are considered and weighed using several criteria, including the cost and benefit of the change, and the political feasibility. those changes that seem likely, if implemented, to have a positive outcome in the situation are recommended. 43 Steps be followed For each proposed change, the following should be described: 1) Reason for change: The reason for the change should include arguments for why the change was suggested in the first place; 2) Nature of change: an explanation of the context of the change. 3) Means to bring about change: means and steps required to bring about the change; 4) Potential long-term effects of change: The long-term implications of the change to the system should also be considered. 44
  23. 23. The impact of Change The political feasibility can be analysed by considering for whom the expected outcome will be positive. Must be considered: who will likely oppose the change, and why. to examine the relative power of the individuals for and against the change. Cost feasibility analysis includes the cost implications. For example, how much will the change likely cost, and do the benefits justify the costs. Benefits should include short and long-term benefits that might offset or justify the cost. Note: Stage 6 includes a general framework for how to approach the weighing of the potential changes. 45Stage 7:Recommended Action Purpose: to help the practitioners recommend the change. also include the actual starting of the change process.Note: It is important to note that the introduction of the action may change the situation so that new problems may arise. It may be a good idea to carry out the change in a temporary mock system to gauge the repercussions. This method of testing would have to be on a fairly simple system otherwise it could require a lot of resources. Once a temporary system is used and observed by an analyst, it could then be introduced into the real system. 46
  24. 24. Preferred option(s) First, select the preferred option(s) from the previous step. the steps that are expected to have the greatest positive effect. There should be a clear understanding about whose point of view the so-called positive effect is from. It should also be understood how the opposition will react to the changes, and how they should be dealt with. After these issues have been considered, the final findings can be presented to the client in the form of a report. 47The Final Report The final report should include the following elements: 1) an outline of the measures recommended, 2) the benefits of the change, 3) the costs of the change, 4) the cultural and political implications, and 5) the feasibility of the measures. Of course, the conclusions should be easily understandable for all of the actors (i.e., stakeholders) within the organization. 48
  25. 25. References: Shehata, Mohamed and Seth Bowen (2000), “Soft Systems Methodology”, Dale Couprie, Alan Goodbrand, Bin Li, David Zhu (1997). Soft System Methodology. Checkland, P.(2000). System thinking, System practice. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Checkland, P. and Scholes, J. (1990). Soft Systems Methodology in Action. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. 49