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System of Systems Methodologies (SOSM)

From SystemsWiki
While developing the Systems Thinking Definitions there was an awareness of other Systems
Sciences and I continued to ask myself how it all fit together. When I came across the Systems
Science Context Diagram I was delighted as I had a picture of how many things fit together, or
so I thought. The delight was short lived as my next question was along the lines of, now that I
have a context for all these different methodologies, models, frameworks etc. how do I know
when to use what? Fortunately the depression that set in didn't last long as I ran into Michael C.
Jackson's[1] framework.

Fig. 1 - Jackson's Framework [IM-605]

The model in Fig. 1 attempts to present a sense of approaches that are most likely to be
appropriate for dealing with a situation based on the nature of the situation along with an
awareness of its context. The dimensions of Fig. 3 are described as:

Systems characterized as being

o Simple - consisting of only a few highly structured interactions which are
relatively stable and relatively unaffected by interactions of the parts of the
system or external influences.
o Complex - implying a large number of subsystems having loosely structured
interactions wherein the purposeful parts result in adaptation over time in
response to their turbulent environment.

Participants in the system are then characterized as being

o Unitary - having similar values, beliefs and interests, share common purpose, all
involved in decision-making about how to realize their agreed objectives.
o Pluralist - basic interests are compatible though participants do not share the
same values and beliefs, space is required for debate, disagreement and conflict,

and participants need involvement in decision-making, accommodations and

compromises can be found. Participants can agree, for at least a short time, on
productive ways forward and will do so.
o Coercive - have few common interests, conflicting values and beliefs,
compromise is not possible and no agreed objectives and direct action, decisions
based on who has the most power and coercion employed to ensure adherence to
In concert with these definitions there comes an awareness as to the manner in which one should
endeavor to interact with an entity to enhance performance. The following provides the
performance enhancement dimensions and the contexts for which they seem to be most

Improving Goal Seeking and Viability

o Unitary - Simple & Complex

Hard Systems Thinking

System Dynamics

Organizational Cybernetics

Complexity Theory

Exploring Purpose
o Pluralist - Simple & Complex

Strategic Assumptions Surfacing & Testing

Idealized Design

Soft Systems Methodology

Ensuring Fairness
o Coercive - Simple

Critical Systems Heuristics

Team Syntegrity

Promoting Diversity

o Coercive - Complex

Postmodern Systems Thinking

The following is an attempt to identify the specific models and disciplines within the various
categories though I understand there may be more and I may have slotted several of these

Hard Systems Thinking - Improving Goal Seeking and Viability

o Operations Research
o Systems Analysis
o Systems Engineering

Dynamic Systems Thinking - Improving Goal Seeking and Viability

o System Dynamics
o Cybernetics
o Complexity Theory
o Complex Adaptive Systems
o General Systems Theory

Evolutionary Systems Theory

o Viable Systems Model (VSM)
o Living Systems Theory

Soft Systems Approaches - Exploring Purposes

o Appreciative Inquiry
o Idealized Design
o Soft Systems Methodology
o Strategic Assumptions Surfacing and Testing

o Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA)

Emancipatory Systems Thinking - Ensuring Fairness

o Critical Systems Heuristics
o Team Syntegrity

Postmodern Systems Thinking - Promoting Diversity

Creative Holism
o Total Systems Intervention

Critical Systems Thinking

o CST Insight
o Critical Systems Practice

1. What is Systems Thinking? A Personal Perspective - Barry Clemson. 2012

Systems Theory: When we say that a hypothesis has been experimentally
verified, what we really mean is that we failed to disprove the hypothesis.
Nevertheless, the defining characteristic of Systems Theory is that it
consists of statements we believe to be correct and which are capable of
being falsified. Systems Theory is science.
Systemic Perspectives: System Dynamics is a method for
understanding system
behavior, especially those systems characterized by feedback
loops.Number of scholars (Beer, 1975; Malik, 2009) say that the
fundamental problem with most of our business schools is they
emphasize the technical and financial aspects of businesses to the near
exclusion of the engineering and systemic aspects of the companies, thus
blinding their graduates to the real problems of the contemporary
It is no longer what we think but how we think that matters more. What to think
promotes a systematic approach. we will have to examine our assumptions, values
and beliefs each time we look at the world. Our world view needs to bear out the
truth within the framework of larger interrelated systems moving dynamically
often in a cyclical pattern.

The universe is the mega-system that interlocks infinite number of systems and subsystems in
complex interactions. look at systems in three principal ways:

Space. We have become selective in perception - bounded preconceived ideas,

preferences and biasness. This often can lead us to miss out on what could be critical.

Time. We only look for immediate responses and we at time fail to consider the series of
delayed responses or rippling effect - over time.

Relationships to what appear to be remote objects, forces, people and events. We look at
what is before us when we should be adopting Mintzbergs approach to thinking
o See ahead: look to what's coming next
o See behind: understand the past
o See above: take a helicopter view
o See below: find the diamond in the rough
o See beside: remove the blinkers
o See beyond: question what's beyond the horizon
o See through: action your discoveries above

A system will have the following properties:

A "system" is a community of inter-dependent parts interacting to form a dynamic

complex whole or functional unit;

A system can be a subset of one or more larger systems or environment. It finds its
purpose in the context of its larger environment;

There is energy-material-information exchange via semi-permeable membranes or

boundaries - among the different parts within the system, and with other systems within
the larger environment; and

Systems seek equilibrium but its response can be simple, oscillating, chaotic, and at times
exponential in nature.

A living system in contrast is open and self-organizing. Complex living systems are
capable of learning and adapting to fulfil its purpose. This purpose will determine
the structure on how its parts will be organised. This structure in turn will influence
the process on how the parts will interact, behave and relate with one another. This
process also involves the life-depicting exchange of information-material-energy

over a space-time-relation domain. If this process ends, the system ends too. The
joining and integrating among the parts through this process will create a web of
relationships from which properties of the whole will emerge.It is the emerging
pattern of relationships - not the parts - that determine the system and its
effectiveness in fulfilling its roles or functions.
Living systems are nested hierarchicallyHow each system would respond to changes
will depend on its position within the nested hierarchy.

A Computer Simulation Model of Knowledge

Management in Small and Medium Agri-Food
Enterprises Moiss Martnez Soto et al.


Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, October 2004 - System Dynamics Of

Human Resource And Knowledge Management In Engineering Education

-Lewlyn L. R. Rodrigues,


Application - Developing a Systemic View

By observing various types of systems and studying their behaviour, we can recognize common
characteristics in all systems. A black box system is representative of systems. It has a group of
interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components (inputs) working together (throughputs) as a unified and perhaps complex whole for its overall purposes (output) as it manages
(feedback/control) the changes in the environment (environment).

Yet to read

System Dynamics Model for Remanufacturing in Closed

Loop Supply Chains
System Dynamics Based Perspective to Reliability
Centered Maintenance

Lewlyn L. R. Rodrigues

Modeling Engineering Competence Pool: System Dynamics

Based Implications for KM & HRM Integration
Lewlyn L. R. Rodrigues,
Faculty, Dept. of Mechanical & IP