The Role of Systems Methodology in Social Science Research

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Session 1. Organizational theories

In the Library Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. Within: A framework that respects and fosters the needs and values of awareness, openness, responsibility, and equality of individuals and teams. These phases are described in the following sections.

In this phase, the situation or issue at hand is defined and the scope and boundaries of the study are identified. This is the common first step in most problem-solving approaches. However, the importance of this step is generally underestimated as managers and decision makers often assume that they readily know what the real problem is while in reality they may think about the problem symptom.

The problem structuring phase consists of the following steps:.

Systems Methodology in Social Science Research: Recent Developments

During this phase, conceptual models of the problem, known as causal loop diagrams CLDs , will be created. Causal loop modeling is the most commonly used phase of the systems thinking approach.


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  • The following steps are used in causal loop modeling:. This phase follows the causal loop modeling phase.

    An Introduction to Systems Thinking by Gerald Midgley

    Although it is possible to go into this phase directly after problem structuring, performing the causal loop modeling phase first will enhance the conceptual rigor and learning power of the systems approach. The completeness and wider insights of systems thinking are generally absent from other simulation modeling approaches, where causal loop modeling does not play a part.

    In this phase, various policies and strategies are formulated and tested. Strategy is the combination of a set of polices and, as such, deals with internal or controllable changes.

    Soft Systems Methodology

    When these strategies are tested under varying external conditions, this is referred to as scenario modeling. This stage involves working closely with all major stakeholders. One of the most beneficial and enduring outcomes of systems thinking and modeling is team and organizational learning. Once simulation models have been developed, they can be enhanced by extending them into a microworld.

    Microworlds also known as management flight simulators provide an interactive and user-friendly interface for managers to experiment with the model. The learning laboratory uses microworlds in a structured process, akin to a scientific environment, to test hypotheses and mental models designed to create individual and group learning. The following steps summarize this phase:.

    Systems thinking and modeling has a wide range of general and specific applications. In general, relationships are separated over time and space in chains that are difficult to fully understand. Everything in this domain is capable of movement to the known domain. The only issue is whether we can afford the time and resources to move from the knowable to the known; in general, we cannot and instead rely on expert opinion, which in turn creates a key dependency on trust between expert advisor and decision maker.

    This is the domain of systems thinking, the learning organization, and the adaptive enterprise, all of which are too often confused with complexity theory Stacey, In the knowable domain, experiment, expert opinion, fact-finding, and scenario-planning are appropriate. This is the domain of methodology, which seeks to identify cause-effect relationships through the study of properties which appear to be associated with qualities. For systems in which the patterns are relatively stable, this is both legitimate and desirable. Structured techniques are desirable, but assumptions must be open to examination and challenge.

    This is the domain in which entrained patterns are at their most dangerous, as a simple error in an assumption can lead to a false conclusion that is difficult to isolate and may not be seen.

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    It is important to note here that by known and knowable we do not refer to the knowledge of individuals. Rather, we refer to things that are known to society or the organization, whichever collective identity is of interest at the time. The specific applications of the systems thinking and modeling methodology cover both strategic and functional aspects of business and organizations.

    Some of these are outlined below. Systems thinking and modeling is widely used for strategy formulation and testing.

    This occurs at the level of government and industry e. Systems thinking highlights the following areas of strategy, which are often ignored or missed by other methodologies:. Systems thinking and modeling also has widespread applications in operations and design.

    Traditionally, manufacturing systems have been a prominent area of application. Service industries such as healthcare, communications, and logistics are the upcoming areas that readily lend themselves to the application of systems thinking and modeling. Some of the specific applications are:.

    In addition to the areas mentioned above, the systems thinking and modeling methodology can be used to model functional areas such as finance, marketing, information technology, and human resource management. It is important to clarify the meaning of the terms model and modeling in this context. Model is defined as being a representation of the real world. Models can take on different forms — physical, analog, digital computer , mathematical, and so on. The methodologies presented cover both hard and soft approaches because we regard these approaches as complementary and mutually reinforcing.

    Systems thinking tends to fall in the category of soft approaches, while dynamic modeling gravitates toward the category of hard modeling. In the following sections, two other approaches to systems thinking are outlined. These are soft systems methodology and cognitive mapping. While these approaches are most useful in the problem-structuring phase of systems methodology, their potential use is much wider. Another approach to systems thinking, known as soft systems methodology SSM , originated in the U.