Reference to read Checkland's Model (Flood, 1995)

Flood, Robert. L. & Jackson, Michael C. (1995) Creative Problem Solving -total systems Intervention. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. New York.



Philosophy behind Checkland:

Principles of SSM

· Learning

 · Participation

 · Culture


Methodology (7 steps)

Step 1: The problem situation: unstructured

 Step 2: The problem situation: expressed

 (the two also called ‘Finding out’. By observation, interview, sampling to gather information about problem situation, which can be summarised in a rich picture’. A rich-picture is a cartoon-like expression which allows for certain issues, conflict and other problematic and interesting features to be accentuated.

 Step 3: Root definitions of relevant systems: A root definition is an idealised view of what a relevant system should be. The aim is to draw out the essence of what is to be done, why it is to be done, who is to do it, who is to benefit or suffer from it and what environmental constrains limit the actions and activities. This is achieved by formulating the statement around six elements:

1. Customers-the victims/beneficiaries of the purposeful activity

 2. Actors-those who do the activities

 3. Transformation process-the purposeful activity which transforms an input into an output.

 4. Weltanschauung-the view of the world that makes the definition meaningful (World-view)

 5. Owner-who can stop the activity

 6. Environmental constraints-those constraints in its environment that this system takes as given.

 (CATWOE, mnemonic)

 Step 4: Conceptual model: is built directly from the root definition. It is an account of the activities which the ideal system must do in order to fulfill the requirements of the root definition. A conceptual model is constructed by drawing out the minimum number of verbs that are necessary to describe the activities that would have to be present to carry out the task named in the root definition. ….. Having formulated the conceptual models, it is often useful to think ahead to what comparisons with the real world’ they are likely to yield.

 Step 5: Comparison of 4 with 2: The aim behind the comparison stage is essentially to generate debate about possible changes that could be made to bring about improvements in the real problem situation.

 Step 6: Feasible, desirable changes: The conceptual model are meant for generating meaningful debate where participants discuss potential improvements that are worthy of consideration. By this time, we have ensured that the models conform to systemic desirability and culturally feasible.

 Step 7: Action to improve the problem situation: Taking action means implementing changes that are both desirable and feasible.

 Conclusion: The systemic learning process promoted by SSM aims to create a temporarily shared culture in which conflicts are accommodated so that action can be taken.


Critique of SSM

· Fail to consider coercive relationship in which participants do not share common interests, and conflict values and beliefs

 · The interpretive (subjectivism) thinking which sees the the social reality as a pure slf-conscious creation of human actors and sees problems as an individual of perceptions of reality do not overlap. So there are no objective law, e.g., cybernetic law which an organization must be obeyed when the organization should be organized.

 · The idealism of social practice which believes that the only way to change social systems is by changing people’s world view and not to the social practice of changing political and economic structure. So it is often impossible to change people’s world view based on SSM(subtle debate, mutual learning, communication, participation, etc.)

 · In practice, the principle of systemically desirable is often sacrificed for the dominated culturally feasible, and thus SSM do not consider that an organization can be made more effective and efficient if they were organized according to a set of systems principles.

 · Generally, there is no mechanism to transform world-view debate to practical problem solving, so the process of mutual understanding by exploring world view is a process that theoretically can and should go on for ever.

· SSM emphasizes the important role of participation, but it does not specify how and who should participate.

More Readings on SSM 


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