Systems Thinking can be used by anybody in any discipline to help understand complex situations or events. Experience has shown that despite the vast number of situations to which we can apply systems thinking, how we undertake the systems thinking can be systematised (follow a repeatable process) – now we have a Systems Approach.
These systems approaches however are all built around three meta processes:
- Convergent - Divergent thinking
- Problem Solving.
The Meta Processes we have just seen have been refined into two well-known Systems Methodologies. These are systematic and repeatable approaches to applying systems thinking to specific types of situation.
Soft Systems Methodology
Used for poorly defined situations or problems
Loose process with little ceremony
Hard Systems Methodology
Used for well-defined situations or problems
Rigorous process with high ceremony
The two approaches are often seen as opposing! They are not, they are complimentary but their efficacy does depend upon the type of situation or problem. Our experience at BHW is that most situations have a combination of hard and soft attributes and therefore we need an approach that encompasses both – hard when it needs to be and soft when it needs to be. In response, we have developed our Unified Systems Approach.