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Soft Systems Methodology: Conceptual Model Building and Its Contribution

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Soft Systems Methodology: Conceptual Model Building and Its Contribution

Brian Wilson

ISBN: 978-0-470-84806-7 January 2003 278 Pages

E-Book Rental (120 Days)
E-Book Rental (150 Days)


Since its inception more than thirty years ago, the benefits of using Soft Systems Methodology for problem solving has gained worldwide recognition. Yet, despite recognising the importance of SSM, students and practitioners still experience considerable difficulty with the intellectual process involved.

Based on a lifetime experience as an academic and consultant, Brian Wilson provides guidance on how to develop a range of conceptual models across a variety of business problems. Building on his earlier work in Systems: Concepts, Methodologies and Applications he takes a practical approach to the topic based on the premise that all organisations are unique. He develops concepts to articulate ways of thinking about complexity. These are an alternative to mathematically-based concepts, and they offer rigorous, and defensible ways of answering the question 'What do we take the organisation to be?' A model of the most appropriate and relevant concept for your own organisation can then be successfully developed and applied.

Of relevance to organisations of any type, or any size, this book shows how model building within SSM can be used to cope with real-life problems. It will be an invaluable resource for students and practitioners in both the public and private sectors.


Foreword by Mike Duffy.



Models and Methodology.

Basic Principles of HAS Modelling.

Selection of Relevant Systems.

Business Process Re-engineering.

The Consensus Primary Task Model.

CPTMFormulation Using Wider-system Extraction.

CPTMAssembly Using the Enterprise Model.

Application to Training Strategy and HR.

Generic Model Building.


Appendix 1: The Albion Case.

Appendix 2: Exercises.

Appendix 3: The Development of the United Kingdom's Single Army Activity Model and Associated Information Needs and its Relationship to Command and Control.

Appendix 4: An Overview of Soft Systems Methodology.

Appendix 5: Example of Applying Information Analysis Method to Airspace Control Function.

Appendix 6: Examples of Product to Information Category Mapping.


  • provides a practical approach to an established and important topic
  • builds on the success of his own and Peter Checkland's work in the area
  • case studies include the Army, the Navy, the Prison Service, Trustee Savings Bank, Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, the Met. Office and a theatre
  • Features over 100 diagrams and a six-page pull-out section.