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Systems Thinking, Systems Practice 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471279112
ISBN-10: 0471279110
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Editorial Reviews


"...a primer and hidden gem..." (Health Service Journal, 20 June 2002) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Develops an explicit account of the ``systems outlook'' and shows how to use that outlook in the solution of practical problems. Describes how the theory and applications were modified through experience and includes reflections on the interaction between theory and practice.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1st edition (May 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471279110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471279112
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #999,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Well, since I've been on a bit of a 'systems' binge lately, I might as well review this old gem...
Checkland's book was the first to introduce the differentiation between 'soft' and 'hard' systems analysis. Soft analysis is much more akin to a general, somewhat philosophical approach to the methodology whereas hard analysis is the development of usable engineering models.
First off, this book is actually two books - the first is a fairly long paper that neatly sums up the systems approach over the 30 years it has been explored. The consensus? Things looked really promising at the beginning but unfortunately the approach simply got hung up on the very thing it was trying to escape: science's current preoccupation with reductionism. That is, the hard systems approach attracted the most attention and it quickly succumbed to the very trap it sought to escape starting with its use of rigidly-defined symbols right up to the detailed diddling with mathematical models that, similar to earlier approaches, did not model reality at all due to assumptions and oversimplification.
Checkland is much more interested in the soft approach and he consistently laments the fact that systems methodology is not being taught even though it holds so much promise to solving many of our pressing problems. The overview presses this point home and should be required reading for anyone in management or engineering.
The second section, the original book with a few revisions, is still very relevant. Checkland's focus, soft systems, never was given a chance given our preoccupation with reductionism. Given the recent failures of reductionism, particularly the genome-mapping fiasco, cast systems theory in new light.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first read this book I thought it to be revolutionary, ahead of it's time (as others have) and insightful. Despite the fact that Checkland has in large moved away from the ideas and the model of this book - to me it represents the original vision of SSM (soft systems methodology) more so than his later books. Checkland presents a history of systems thinking in the book then goes onto to discuss the need for a new approach - that of SSM. With extreme elegance of style Checkland delivers a long and stinging critique to Hard Systems thinking and presents a coherent and thoughtful argument for his own version SSM. Further he creates a platform for real world problem solving that is useful and interesting. A lot of his ideas have appeared in American texts (like the fifth discipline for example) and rarely are they credited or made use of in that regard. This book is a good place to start exploring the real world of problems with but I would highly recommended that before you go to his two other books you start here. This in my opinion has not been bettered in any systems context to date and I am not sure it ever will or could be. Having said that you really do need to read it and find out for yourself. Be warned it's not for those who want to be challenged in their thinking - especially those of you who don't like the qualitative stuff.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a gem. The basic concepts of systems, hierarchies and emergent properties are developed from the methodologies of physical and social sciences in chapter 3, and makes for fascinating reading. I'm currently writing a master's thesis on it! =)
If you're studying management of information systems or something similar, you are probably sick and tired of overly theoretical approaches to the subject which seem to be just excuses for academics to publish rubbish (eg. structuration, actor network theory, etc). This book may save you from a nervous breakdown.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Basically, the soft systems methodology (SSM) can in effect facilitate the incremental re-engineering of human activity systems without an explicit reverse engineering phase. Such systems are called soft because they present persistently ill-formed problem situations, largely due to their inherent complexity and contingent behavior. These attributes are typically characterized by the lack of consistently repeatable behaviors/outcomes. In particular, they exhibit nondeterminism (due to variabilities of various human agents and their institutions) as well as nonstationarity (per sporadic changes in their makeups and circumstances). Such dynamism of agendas and situations, moreover, serves to vastly complicate the static complexity of human organizations and society. In consequence, their inherent intractability results in the futility of positivist schemes for analyzing or improving them. Accordingly, the SSM or similar approaches are vital in effectively exploring such systems, as well as in incrementally improving them.

Checkland and his associates originally attempted to apply typical systems engineering methods in dealing with human activity systems, but soon recognized their unsuitability for dealing with the ill-formed problem situations as endemic to human activities. Similarly, they found general systems theory had nothing of value to offer. They then gravitated to the inquiry system concept espoused by Singer/Churchman as a means of systematically investigating and improving human activities, which the SSM characterizes in its Real World Domain. Complementary systems thinking is performed in a corresponding SSM Systems Thinking Domain.
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