Soft Systems Methodology

  • Peter ChecklandEmail author
  • John Poulter


Soft systems methodology (SSM) is an approach for tackling problematical, messy situations of all kinds. It is an action-oriented process of inquiry into problematic situations in which users learn their way from finding out about the situation, to taking action to improve it. The learning emerges via an organised process in which the situation is explored using a set of models of purposeful action (each built to encapsulate a single worldview) as intellectual devices, or tools, to inform and structure discussion about a situation and how it might be improved. This paper, written by the original developer Peter Checkland and practitioner John Poulter, gives a clear and concise account of the approach that covers SSM’s specific techniques, the learning cycle process of the methodology and the craft skills which practitioners develop. This concise but theoretically robust account nevertheless includes the fundamental concepts, techniques, core tenets described through a wide range of settings.


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Copyright information

© The Open University 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of Systems, Lancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  2. 2.Independent ConsultantBostonUSA

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