Monday, May 26, 2008

Systems Thinking, Systems Practice
Peter Checkland
John Wiley & Sons (1993) 330 pages

Author: Peter Cleveland is Professor of Systems (emeritus) in the Department of Management Science at Lancaster University Management School (UK). His research interests include "Systems thinking and its relation to real-world problem solving, especially in relation to the creation of information systems" (link). Other books include Learning for Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology and its Use, for Practitioners, Teachers and Students, Soft Systems Methodology in Action, and Information, Systems and Information Systems.

Intention: To "develop an explicit account of the systems outlook... to develop ways of using systems ideas in practical problem situations... to modify both the systems outlook and hte way of using systems ideas as experience was gained... [and] to reflect on the interaction systems thinking and systems practice in order to draw conclusions which will allow future theory to benefit from practice and future practice from theory" (xi-xii).

Structure: The book contains an introduction followed by three parts.
  • "Part I: Systems Thinking--the systems movement in the context of science" offers systems thinking (involving emergence+hierarchy and communications+control) as a solution to the inability of traditional science (reductionism, repeatability, and refutation) to solve real world problems.
  • "Part II: Systems Practice--action research to establish the use of systems concepts in problem solving" explains hard systems thinking and soft systems thinking, compares the two, and describes systems thinking in action.
  • "Part III: Conclusion" fleshes out the implications of systems practice and summarizes 'systems-based methodology for tackling real-world problems, and incidentally for exploring social reality" (20).
  • Appendix 1: Building Conceptual Models
  • Appendix 2: A Workbook for Starting Systems Studies
  • Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Name Index
  • Subject Index
Also, helpful diagrams are found throughout the book.


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