Creative Problem Solving – Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)


Soft Systems Methodology (SSM).
Tackling any issues or the overall “problem situation” facing a student enrolled on and studying for your current Masters degree at the University, the task is as follows:

Assume you, as the consultant, or small team of consultants, have been asked to try to improve the running of and the student experience on this particular Masters degree. The approach chosen is Soft Systems Methodology (SSM).

So you will follow the steps of the seven stage version of SSM.

Imagine you are working with, or guiding, a small group of people chosen from the problem situation. These are the people you have identified, after some discussion, as the key or most relevant people to tackle the problems.

In SSM, it is very much the case of the group or team drawn from the problem situation or organisation in question that will structure or explore the problem, and so move towards the action to take and hopefully an eventual solution. It is they who provide the ideas, concepts, relevant systems, models, and discussion.

Each person in this team will have his or her own perspective on the problem situation.

i) For the coursework, you will first look at the issues or problem situation as a whole, so giving a written summary of the whole situation, as seen objectively from the outside (300 words).

ii) You will identify and list all the stakeholders in the situation, 15 or more, and then choose and list a small team of 5 to work with on the problem.)

iii) Create a detailed Rich Picture (A3 size) with which to view the whole set of issues or problem situation, as you, as the consultant see it, taking account of all the hard and soft data or facts – including all stakeholder perspectives – that you are aware of and that belong in the full context of the problem.

iv) Identify 5-8 or more main themes or problems in the problem situation, as you see them, with a number of these to be specifically from a student perspective.

v) Decide on a notional, ideal or relevant system, with which to explore one of the above issues or problem themes, and this should be one seen by a student from their own perspective.

You can imagine the team have identified a range of possible systems, and from this set, chosen this as one of the most useful in exploring the problem situation.

Identify the P, Q and R and then the CATWOE criteria for the system, add other components as needed, and then write out a full Root Definitions. Thus you should build up the full root definition step by step, as we have done in the class sessions.

vi) Create a full Conceptual Model for the system.

vii) Using the comparison table format, compare the model with the current real world position or current activities – and identify wherever there are differences. In this way you are asking pertinent questions of the real world situation.

See sheet “SSM – stages 5, 6 and 7”.

viii) Decide on and briefly describe or discuss one or more possible but significant changes that could be made, for each problem – so wherever a difference has been identified in the previous stage.

See the sheet “SSM – stages 5, 6 and 7” for the different kinds of change possible.
Briefly, examine the feasibility and desirability of each proposed change, and take account of the other stakeholders and their likely positions on such changes – so you need to find accommodation.

ix) Draw up a list of recommendations to include the set of feasible actions or changes that need to be taken with regard to the problem area, and briefly what benefit each change will deliver.