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Unravelling soft systems methodology

Published Online:pp 415-436

Soft systems methodology (SSM) has evolved into numerous configurations, set itself on a sophisticated philosophical foundation, and attracted much commentary. Those approaching SSM for the first time are understandably overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of information available on the methodology. A major challenge for novices is to acquire a fundamental understanding of how the methodology basically functions in itself. What is entailed in doing basic SSM? What are the essential mechanics of the methodology? How does it function internally on a fundamental level? If such questions remain unanswered, the assorted configurations of SSM available in the literature risk being misunderstood and, worse, the entire methodology risks being perceived as too confusing and therefore of little practical value. This paper addresses the questions by presenting the fundamental mechanics of the methodology.


soft systems methodology, SSM, operations research, decision making, systemic planning