Getting a Handle on the Problem
The major obstacle in resolving issues applying systems principles is defining the problem. In real life systems, different stakeholders approach the same issue or process differently, based on their perspective. For instance, an investor views the organizational process that transforms raw materials into a commercial product as a means to make profit; the entrepreneur views the process as a business opportunity, and the local community views the same process as a means to provide jobs. If the same production process faces losses, the investor might seek to sell off the investment, the entrepreneur might recommend layoffs to bring about process efficiency, the employees might recommend raising the selling price, and the local community might recommend hiring more marketing executives. The persistence of such perception-based differences creates difficulties in decision-making and problem solving.
Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) advocates resolving such issues by developing root definition or conceptual models for each issue. The root definition names the systems or process in a structured way, making it clear who performs what task, for what purpose.
Each stakeholder prepares a root definition based on their perception, and a dialog among the different stakeholders and facilitators allows by consensus, modification of root definition models to integrate various perspectives, or selection of one model overriding other models. This adopted model then forms the basis for driving the changes.
A CATWOE analysis is a systems thinking tool of SSM to prepare comprehensive root definition models.
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