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This report examines a detailed action research process, Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and discusses how the SSM approach might be of real help to managers in planning, resourcing, carryingout, monitoring and controlling new product development.

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Introduction

Contents Section Page 1. Introduction 1 2. The Need for a Methodology 1 3. Hard and Soft Systems 1 4. Overview of SSM 4.1 The 7-stage description 4.2 SSM's Strengths 3 4 6 5. How SSM can aid managers in: * Planning new product development * Monitoring new product development * Controlling new product development * Resourcing and carrying out new product development 6 6 9 10 12 6. Conclusion 13 Bibliography 14 References 14 Appendix A 15 Abstract "SSM is not usually concerned with well-defined (often technical) problems in organisations - such as how to maximise the output from a manufacturing facility, but with ill-structured problem situations with which managers of all kinds and at all levels have to cope". Checkland and Holwell (1998). This report examines a detailed action research process, Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and discusses how the SSM approach might be of real help to managers in planning, resourcing, carryingout, monitoring and controlling new product development. Statement of originality Please note that the work presented in this report is solely the work of the candidate unless where otherwise stated. Signed _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) 1. Introduction This document investigates Soft Systems Methodology, which is a way of dealing with problem situations in which there is a high social, political and human activity component. SSM varies from other methodologies as it does not deal with the HARD problems that are more technically oriented but instead it deals with SOFT problems as will be discussed in detail later on in this report. 2. The Need for a Methodology Since SSM is a methodology, the author sees it as crucial to give a brief summary of what the purpose of any methodology is. According to the definition provided by BCS (British Computer Society) Information Systems Analysis and Design Working group in 1998, a methodology is: "A recommended collection of philosophies, phases, procedures, rules, techniques, tools, documentation, management, and training for developers of information systems." ...read more.

Middle

The conceptual model is a diagram of activities depicting what the system that has been described by the root definition will do. Stage 5: Comparing models with reality This stage looks at the comparison between the conceptual model with the problem situation to identify the differences, which can then be resolved through iteration of root definition and conceptual model stages. Stage 6: Assessing feasible and desirable changes In this stage proposals are drawn up for those changes, which are both feasible and desirable by analysing the proposed changes from stage 5. Stage 7: Action to improve the problem situation When the feasibility issues have been resolved satisfactorily, recommendations are made for the actions needed to accomplish these changes. 4.2 SSM's Strengths * SSM relies very little on techniques and tools and provides all actors including the analysts an opportunity to understand and to deal with the problem situation. The analysts are not perceived as outside onlookers providing objectivity but as actors involved in solving the problem situation just like client and problem owner. * The analysts are not forced to follow a laid-down set of procedures and they learn about the system more each time, as the process is iterative. * It helps give a clear understanding of the problem situation because it does not have any pre-conceived notions of a 'solution'. 5. How SSM can aid managers in: * Planning new product development Planning is a continuous process and is concerned with defining ends and courses of action. The ends may either be precisely defined (in terms of the achievement of a desired market share) or less precisely defined (in terms of a range of possible scenarios). At a strategic level, planning is the process by which a company or enterprise can solve the problem of determining its relationship with the environment and the necessary internal structure and processes needed to maintain these relationships. ...read more.

Conclusion

Iterations around stages 2, 3, 4 and 5 will usually occur and this will allow for a model to be built, which mirrors the actual situation and aid with monitoring and controlling a new product development. 6. Conclusion At the heart of SSM is a comparison between the 'real world' as it is, and some models of the world as it might be (i.e. researchers begin with a real-world problem, they study the system which contains the problem and develop some models of how those systems might work better. The "ideal" models are then compared to the actual situation and differences between the model and reality become the basis for planning changes.) By comparing the models, one gains a better understanding of the world ("research") and this results in some ideas for improvement ("action"). It has been seen that research based theory and techniques or methodologies such as SSM allows the manager to become a reflective practitioner as envisioned by Schon (1983). SSM as a direct descendent of systems theory allows for the researcher to uncover a tremendous amount of information. It is truly iterative as it feeds upon itself by spawning new and ever expanding interactions and interconnections with other systems within the macro-system, which is being investigated. SSM is very different from traditional group processing methods but many of these methods can be readily adapted to SSM at appropriate stages. To conclude, not only is SSM a methodology with which to study an organisation, it is also a methodology with which to reflectively manage an organisation. It allows managers to take an abstraction of reality as defined by a group decision-making process and to link it with some degree of coherence to the selection of primary goals and the means or resources with which to achieve them. Because managers operate in a dynamic environment, SSM's feedback characteristics make for an on-going interplay between theory and practice. ...read more.

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