Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 799-823

First online:

The Emergent Properties of SSM in Use: A Symposium by Reflective Practitioners

  • Peter ChecklandAffiliated withUniversity of Lancaster

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Two careers, in industry and in university teaching at postgraduate level, have led to the development of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) in a 30-year program of action research. The most cogent comments on SSM come from reflective practitioners, and in this symposium I have asked eight such users of SSM to reflect on their experience and to address the question of what it is that happens when the approach is used in real-world problem situations. Their responses reflect their different backgrounds, experience, and ways of working, but a broad general picture emerges. This suggests that SSM (whose process does not necessarily have to be made explicit to participants in a study) can engender a process of on-going (cyclic) coherent structured learning which feels natural, and which can surface previously unexamined assumptions, thus creating an arena in which accommodations can emerge which enable and motivate "action to improve" to be taken.

soft systems methodology symposium emergent properties use