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  • © The Authors, LUMEN Conference Center & LUMEN Proceedings.

    Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference

    Available online at:


    8th LUMEN International Scientific Conference Rethinking Social Action.

    Core Values in Practice | RSACVP 2017 | 6-9 April 2017 |

    Suceava – Romania

    Rethinking Social Action.

    Core Values in Practice

    A Simplified Approach to Soft System Design: Adapting Soft System Methodology

    Lukas VALEK*

    How to cite: Valek, L. (2017). A Simplified Approach to Soft System Design: Adapting Soft System Methodology. In C. Ignatescu, A. Sandu, & T. Ciulei (eds.),

    Rethinking Social Action. Core Values in Practice (pp. 919-930). Suceava,

    Romania: LUMEN Proceedings


    Corresponding Author: Lukas VALEK

    Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference

    8th LUMEN International Scientific Conference Rethinking Social Action. Core Values in Practice |

    RSACVP 2017 | 6-9 April 2017 | Suceava – Romania

    A Simplified Approach to Soft System Design: Adapting Soft System Methodology

    Lukas VALEK1*


    Designing or analyzing of a system is a complex task. To study all elements of a system, its inputs and outputs is usually work of a systems engineer. However, systems thinking should be present in most of activities of human life as a part of a holistic approach. That includes not only so-called well-defined “hard systems”, but also “soft systems”, which are composed mostly of humans. There are many tools for systems design and analysis of hard systems, but very few for soft ones. One of approaches aimed for soft systems Soft System Methodology (SSM) by Peter Checkland, which is in use for more than 30 years. SSM tends to be a universal tool for system analysis and problem solving in environment of soft systems. On one side, it seems very straightforward in its use of seven basic steps and use of so-called rich pictures for drawing a systemic situation etc. However, its universality requires also awareness of many points of view on a system studied, which again makes it a tool for systems engineers rather than for common people. With proper adaptation it could be used also as an approach for problem-solving and systems analysis and design in non-profit, business or governmental sphere accessible to any manager, employee or a citizen, who would like to take a systemic point of view of a situation. In previous research, SSM was used to break down and re-design a system of complementary economy called Time Bank. During many iterations of the process, a simplified approach to SSM was discovered. The simplification is mainly in proposal of a template for rich pictures, which also includes connection to next steps making it simple to draw and simple to observe transformation process with its inputs and outputs. In result, a person who would like to have an overview on a system (any system that includes people including project management) can use it. The final result is very similar to what was proposed in original SSM, but simplified enough to be used by general public, which brings new added value especially to smaller organizations who cannot afford own systems engineering department, but would like choose a way of holistic approach towards their activities.

    Keywords: Soft System Methodology, Time Bank, Systems Analysis, Systems Design.

    1 University of Hradec Králové, Institute of Social Work, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, [email protected]

  • Lukas VALEK | LUMEN Proceedings 1/2017 xx – xx


    1. Introduction

    In the world around us we often encounter situations when we need to analyze a situation, solve problem, organize, plan etc. Looking on situation from holistic point of view, seeing that most of elements, which we need to explore and study are interconnected, we come to conclusion we can call them a system. Systems analysis is a mental process of learning about world using systems thinking and a systems approach, understanding that the world is composed of various elements, objects, processes, phenomena, problems, etc. [3] A system we analyze might be “hard” or “soft” system. Hard systems are well defined and typical by apparent chain of causality, so we are able to trace what is happening and why through whole system. Soft systems include unpredictable elements such as human beings. To study those ranks among the most difficult tasks for systems engineering, as soft systems are ever-changing, thus unpredictable and hard to quantify and qualify by experiment. [20]

    Systems engineering (SE) is focused on design or/and analysis of systems. In daily life of businesses, non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGO), or even in life of an individual we are often standing in front of a problem to do analyze or draft a system, yet we lack necessary tools to do it in systemic way. There are many approaches to be used in sphere of SE [3], but most of them are domain of trained systems engineers. It is true that, for example, quite simple V-model [12] could be used without much preparation, but still contextual knowledge is desirable, and V-model is designed to tackle hard systems. An approach to analyze soft systems and to do systemic problem solving is called Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) of Peter Checkland [7]. It requires nothing more than a paper and a pencil, and adherence to set of rules, to explore wider systemic context of any soft system. Even though SSM is quite simple in its essence, its focus to soft systems with ever changing point of view, makes it not so simple to understand, especially for newcomers to domain of SE.

    Time Bank (TB) is a socio-economic concept of exchange of mostly services based on a time currency. TB uses concept of co-production [4], which is a tool to solve societal problems [18] by giving target groups a tool to help themselves. Among target groups can be various disadvantaged groups, but also, general population, local municipalities and businesses. It can be also described one of cheapest approaches to social support. [11] The exchange is usually based on an computer based system [2, 19] regardless of a target group. [9] TB is soft system itself [2], and it was never before studied as a system. During research of Time Banking (TB) phenomenon and its

    file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_3 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_20 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_3 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_12 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_7 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_4 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_18 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_11 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_2 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_19 file:///D:/2017/%232017_CONFERINTE/1_RSACVP2017/_EXTENSO_RSACVP2017/BDI_RSACVP2017_full-papers-finale/formatate+final/Volum-integral_RSACVP2017/VALEK%20_CVP85_Lukas_23_05_2017_ISBN.docx%23_ENREF_9

  • Lukas VALEK | LUMEN Proceedings 1/2017 xx – xx


    analysis by SSM and its many iterations, a simplified approach to SSM was devised and this approach will be introduced in this paper.

    2. Reasons for the research

    Origins of this paper are related to need of advanced problem solving and systems analysis tool, which would be also accessible to general public from sphere of s