Soft Systems Methodology

  • Peter Checkland
  • 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.


Real Situation Problematical Situation System Idea Learning Cycle Human Affair 
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  1. Checkland, P. (1981), Systems Thinking, Systems Practice, Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  2. Checkland, P., Poulter, J. (2006), Learning for Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology, and Its Use Practitioners, Teachers and Students, Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Checkland, P., Scholes, J. (1990), Soft Systems Methodology in Action, Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Checkland
    • 1
  • John Poulter
  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of SystemsLancaster University, University House BailriggLancasterUK

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