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Soft Systems Methodology Reveals Oppressive Social Environment in a Public Organisation: A single case study in the housing domain

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The purpose of this article is to suggest a possible “meta” approach of the project management field—the unit of analysis—respectful of the various perspectives in existence, while providing an integrative ontological and epistemological framework. In order to do so, I first suggest what could be perceived as being the state of the field and its main constituting “school of thoughts.” Then I open the debate on what could be the ontological and epistemological perspectives enabling us to better take into account the diversity we face in considering the richness of the field. Based on these developments, I propose to address project management as a complex integrative knowledge field, which eventually will lead us to consider “modeling—developing specific convention—to do ingeniously” as acting and learning mode in the management of projects.
In response to criticism that they do not train students to be effective decision makers, many business schools have attempted to modify their graduate management programs. We suggest that a primary ingredient missing from these attempts is a comprehensive treatment of systemic thinking. While most business functions teach about the systems housed within them, we suggest that few teach their students to think systemically. We propose a 3-part description of systemic thinking and provide results of a survey that investigates the claim that students are not being taught to think systemically.
I believe we are leaving one cultural and technological age and entering another; that we are in the early stages of a change in our conception of the world, a change in our way of thinking about it, and a change in the technology with which we try to make it serve our purposes. These changes, I believe, are as fundamental and pervasive as were those associated with the Renaissance, the Age of the Machine that it introduced, and the Industrial Revolution that was its principal product. The socio-technical revolution we have entered may well come to be known as the Resurrection.
In any subject concerned with rational intervention in human affairs, theory must lead to practice; but practice is the source of theory: neither theory nor practice is prime. We can examine this 'groundless' relation by asking what intellectual framework F is applied in what methodology M to what area of application A? If we do this for O.R., systems analysis, systems engineering etc., we see that F and M have changed dramatically between the 1950s and the 1980s, yielding the 'hard' and 'soft' traditions of systems thinking. The 'hard' tradition, based on goal seeking, is examined in the work of Simon and contrasted with the 'soft' tradition, based on learning, as exemplified in the work of Vickers and the development of soft systems methodology. The two are complementary, but the relation between them is that the 'hard' is a special case of 'soft' systems thinking. This analysis makes sense of the recent history of management science and helps to prepare us for the 1990s.
  • Christophe N Bredillet
Bredillet, Christophe N., 2004. " From the editor ". Project Management Journal, Jun2004, 35 (2): 3-4.
System Failure: Why governments must learn to think differently
  • Jake Chapman
Chapman, Jake, 2004. System Failure: Why governments must learn to think differently. 2nd ed. London, UK: Demos
  • Peter Checkland
  • Holwell Sue
Checkland, Peter and Holwell Sue, 1998. Information, Systems and Information Systems –