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Unformatted text preview: 2 A Fleshed-out Account of SSM Introduction The previous chapter has answered the basic question about SSM, namely: What is it? And it has provided some context concerning its development, its application area and its crucial difference from the earlier systems approaches from the 1950s and 1960s. In this chapter the focus is on 'how' rather than 'what': How exactly does the user move through the learning cycle of SSM, shown in Figure 1.5, in order to define useful change? Which techniques for finding out, modelling and using models to question the real situation have shown themselves robust enough to survive in many different circumstances, so that they have become part of the classic approach? The account here will follow the four basic activities of the broad-brush account (finding out, modelling, using the models to structure debate, and defining/taking action), with the usual reminder that activity in any project using SSM will reflect the kind of pattern shown in Figure 1.6 rather than a stately linear progress. The SSM Learning Cycle: Finding Out Four ways of finding out about a problematical situation have survived many tests and become a normal part of using SSM. In the language of SSM they are known as 'making Rich Pictures' and carrying out three kinds of inquiry, known as 'Analyses One, Two and Three'. These focus, respectively, on the intervention itself, a social analysis (What kind of 'culture' is this?) and a political analysis (What is the disposition of power here?). They will be described in turn. (Readers anxious to reach the stories of SSM use might turn to the first few case histories described in Part Two, but all the accounts there use the terms and language carefully defined here, so a little patience might well be worthwhile! ) Making Rich Pictures Entering a real situation in order first to understand it and then to begin to change it in the direction of 'improvement' calls for a particular frame of mind in the user of SSM. On the one hand the enquirer needs to be sponge-like, soaking up as much as possible of what the situation presents to someone who may be initially an outsider. On the other hand, although holding back from imposing a favoured pattern on the first impressions, the enquirer needs to have in mind a range of 'prompts' which will ensure that a wide range of aspects are looked at. Initially two dense and cogent questions were used as a prompt: What resources are deployed in what operational processes under what planning procedures within what structures, in what environments and wider systems, by whom? How is resource deployment monitored and controlled? Certainly, if you can answer these questions you know quite a lot about the situation addressed. But these questions did not survive as a formal part of SSM. (The problem with them is that when they were formulated, in the early days of SSM development, the thinking of the pioneers had not sufficiently divorced itself from thinking of the world as a set of systems. The questions imply intervention in some divorced itself from thinking of the world as a set of systems....
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This note was uploaded on 05/23/2010 for the course IE 398 taught by Professor T during the Spring '10 term at Middle East Technical University.
- Spring '10