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IS 788 [Process] Change Management. Lecture: Change management: People issues in BPR, 2 of 3 – Soft systems methodology Presentation and Discussion – “Using Soft Systems Methodology to Examine Communication Difficulties” . Soft-Systems Methodology.

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Is 788 process change management l.jpg
IS 788[Process] Change Management

  • Lecture: Change management: People issues in BPR, 2 of 3 – Soft systems methodology

  • Presentation and Discussion – “Using Soft Systems Methodology to Examine Communication Difficulties”

IS 788 14.1

Soft systems methodology l.jpg
Soft-Systems Methodology

  • Can I have a show of hands of those who believe that with sufficient exercise of logic all process related issues are amenable to objective, quantitative solutions.


IS 788 14.1

Some situations are inherently messy political and confused l.jpg
Some situations are inherently messy, political and confused.

  • SSM is a tool for dealing with such situations – where decision making entails dealing not only with planning, but also with political and social entities.

  • HSM is concerned with achieving objectives

  • SSM is a learning and managing process

IS 788 14.1

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Paradigms of inquiry confused.(say wha?)

  • There are multiple, commonly used ways of viewing and learning about the world.

  • In a psychologically demonstrable way (as opposed to a touchy-feeley way) the mode of inquiry creates perceived reality.

IS 788 14.1

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SSM seeks to reconcile different realities confused.

  • HSM: the system or process is engineered to achieve objectives

    • Useful at the operational level, particularly when consensus exists on goal and objectives and means to achieve them

  • SSM: acknowledges HSM as one (of many) possible perspectives. Assumes common goals and methods are to be discovered – that they are not obvious.

IS 788 14.1

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HSM stalls when: confused.

  • There are multiple realities and each is unacknowledged by the other

  • When the problem is over-constrained – too complex and attempting to serve too many objectives at the same time

  • Many soft problems can masquerade as objective issues when social realities are ignored!

IS 788 14.1

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Human activity systems confused.

  • Any process not completely automated – including automated inputs and automated customers – is a human activity system

  • SSM explores and surfaces the “crucial element of subjectivity embedded in all human activity systems.”

IS 788 14.1

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SSM / HSM Summary confused.

IS 788 14.1

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SSM: How? confused.

  • Begin by identifying six key elements

    • Customers – victims or beneficiaries of the system (process)

    • Actors – perform the activities of the process

    • Transformation – the process itself

    • Weltanschauung – the worldview that sees T as important

    • Owner – who could stop the process

    • Environment – external constraints, i.e. laws, culture

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Similarities and differences to existing analysis methods confused.

  • Other enlightened process analysis methodologies investigate T- the process, C – the customer, A – the actors and even E – the environment.

  • Only SSM surfaces the deep, frequently unstated assumptions in multipleWeltanschauung (one for each group)and makes political issues explicit with Owners

IS 788 14.1

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SSM: How? (2) confused.

  • Rich pictures are one proven way of beginning to identify Weltanschauung

  • A rich picture is a concept map of the entire situation – with emotions deliberately left attached to issues


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W confused.eltanschauung are key

  • The SSM ‘investigator’ is responsible for bridging multiple worldviews

  • But before this can happen -

    • How many Weltanschauung are there in the situation?

    • What are the assumptions of each? They can be radically different.

      • Freedom fighter or terrorist

      • Serving patients or ease of reimbursement

IS 788 14.1

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The analysis process confused.

From real world (I and

II) to idealized system

description (III and IV)

and back again (V, VI,

and VII)


IS 788 14.1

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From confused.CATWOE to root definitions (RD’s)

  • Identifying the CATWOE for each group gives the vocabulary – the terms in which the group thinks about itself – for expressing the root definitions of each group:

    • RD’s “express the core intention of a purposeful activity system [process].

    • RD’s are structured into

      • What?

      • How?

      • Why? (frequently omitted, but highly significant)

    • RD’s are idealized expressions of what a group wants, hopes or believes its activities are about

IS 788 14.1

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From RD’s to conceptual models confused.

  • RD’s are typically expressed in natural language: one or more paragraphs defining a group’s activities in the language of the group CATWOE. Verbs are stressed.

  • A graphical relationship between activities can be created from the RD – the conceptual model

IS 788 14.1

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Example from confused.“Using SSM to Examine Communications Difficulties”

IS 788 14.1

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RD in CATWOE terms, stressing verbs confused.(this is an activity description)

IS 788 14.1

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From RD to Conceptual Model confused.(a graphic expansion of the RD)

IS 788 14.1

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Back to the real world confused.



Compare what you want with what you’ve got






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A final word from Donald Schon, one of the most respected management scientists of our time:

  • “In the swampy lowland [a metaphor] messy, confusing problems defy technical solution. . . The practitioner must choose. Shall he remain on the high ground where he can solve the relatively unimportant problems according to prevailing standards of rigor, or shall he descend to the swamp of important problems and non-rigorous inquiry?”

IS 788 14.1

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Leadership in CAS (O & E Ch. 2) management scientists of our time:

  • Leader as facilitator – foster interactions, don’t try to control them

  • CAS are massively entangled

    • Example – the university

      • Academics typically have interaction with Federal and State governments

      • Students

      • Other COBA departments (committees)

      • Other colleges (committees)

      • Industry (advisory boards, consulting)

      • University administration

      • Other universities, some in other countries

      • Ex. The ad-hoc committee on process knowledge in the curriculum

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Massive entanglement implies management scientists of our time:

  • Traditional change strategies involving a single change agent (or agency) i.e. leader, champion – won’t work

  • In a complex organization no one participant can override the multiple messages from other system agents. (Yes, the CEO can fire you, but that still doesn’t change the organization in any meaningful way.)

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CAS are messy, but management scientists of our time:

  • Things run just fine even if -

    • You don’t have a single coherent view of (or within) the workgroup

    • There is no single source of power

    • Differences in approach and style are a benefit

  • “If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it.” Chairman, Southwest Airlines

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In a CAS formal leaders have three jobs: management scientists of our time:

  • 1. Set the container (the boundaries, both physical and procedural, of the system)

    • Set the minimum specifications

    • Provide resources and get out of the way

    • Stretch or shrink boundaries to optimize energy – prevent stasis or over-extension

    • Set general direction

  • Which of the above are traditional and which are rarely found?

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Leader’s jobs (continued) management scientists of our time:

  • 2. Exploit diverse viewpoints

    • Explore contradictory views of the group and its process

    • Accept contention and adversity – absence of conflict indicates stasis

  • 3. Facilitate interactions

    • Encourage feedback

    • Link communities of practice

    • Encourage learning

IS 788 14.1

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Summary: management scientists of our time:

  • Tightly controlled, homogenous, hierarchical organizations can be controlled by traditional methods

  • Such organizations are not competitive in a global economy – they move too slowly

  • Influencing people with incentive$ achieves movement, but by itself, does not achieve lasting change.

  • In CAS (most agile organizations) change comes bottom-up.

IS 788 14.1