Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 179–220 | Cite as

Application of SSM in tackling problematical situations from academicians’ viewpoints

  • Payam Hanafizadeh
  • Mohammad Mehrabioun


In recent years, a wide variety of studies have applied soft systems methodology (SSM) to address the complexities of the messy situations. This paper seeks to identify 1) application areas and 2) application levels of the use of SSM in dealing with problematical situations. To do so, 149 articles published between 2000 and 2015 were studied. The findings revealed the application of SSM in new application areas such as sustainable development, knowledge management and project management. The results of this study also indicated that researchers applied SSM at three levels: SSM as a process of inquiry, SSM as an action-oriented methodology, and the hybrid use of SSM. Based on the findings, SSM at the level of a single methodology for bringing out changes has been less welcomed by researchers, but the application levels of inquiry processes and hybrid approaches have been more utilized. This suggests that in the correspondence of SSM with the nature or situation of problems, a sort of incommensurability is witnessed. Factors arising from the nature of the problem, inadequate mastery of the researcher over SSM or the limitations of SSM can exert an influence on this incommensurability.


Soft Systems Methodology Literature Review Problematical situations SSM application 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial Management, Faculty of Management and AccountingAllameh Tabataba’i UniversityTehrānIran

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