The SoSM revisited - critical realism and the soft systems approach - the importance of social structures
Faculty of Business and Public Management
School of Business
The article revisits the System of System Methodologies (SoSM) and suggests that use of the SoSM as a framework for defining methodological assumptions is difficult when the concerned methodologies have significantly different meanings for one axis of the framework - "system" complexity. It is suggested that the purpose of the underlying system can provide a more appropriate frame for defining system approaches – such purpose being defined as interaction or transformation (Mathiassen and Nielsen 2000). The article also uses aspects of critical realism to provide insights into the SSM (as suggested by Mingers 2000b). A critical realist critique of SSM suggests that SSM would benefit from a greater acknowledgement of the role of underlying social structures. The paper proposes that stakeholder analysis may provide a useful technique for incorporating such recognition of social structures. It is suggested that stakeholder analysis is particularly important where the primary function of the system is aimed at interaction. This suggestion is highlighted by placing SSM within the new framework which includes consideration of the system purpose (interaction or transformation).