After having had a look at the previous post, which dealt with soft systems methodology (SSM), one might wonder: where is the systems part in SSM? Luckily, its developer, Peter Checkland, does not tire of explaining its fundamentals. The first thing he does is distinguishing hard from soft systems. In hard systems, the world is perceived as a hierarchy of systems and subsystems that is capable of being engineered to produce solutions. In soft systems, the world is perceived as hopelessly entangled, complex, and chaotic, which makes it totally unsuited for purposeful engineering. Instead of problems to be solved, there are problematical situations that can – at best – be improved by purposeful activity models. For this to happen, the problematical situation must be explored by way of a learning process to define desirable and feasible actions to improve. Hence, in soft systems thinking, the process of inquiry is systemic, not the world. Ingeniously, Checkland captured this in the so-called LUMAS model, where LUMAS stands for Learning for a User by a Methodology-informed Approach. In LUMAS, the learner uses the (soft systems) methodology to explore the problematical situation and produce an approach that will improve the situation. Since the problem cannot be solved, it is really a Sisyphus task, with a new cycle of learning and improving looming every time a situation has been (somewhat) improved.
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