An introduction to soft systems methodology

A shiftN Academy course

‘Wicked problems’ bedevil us with technical and social complexity. We don’t know where to start solving them and we don’t even agree amongst ourselves about what the problem is. SSM has been designed to help us come to grips with just these kinds of challenges. It is a powerful and elegant approach that brings together systems ideas, dialogue and action into a coherent whole. It is a disciplined process to create clarity in a complex, problematic situation that is framed differently by multiple stakeholders. The purpose is to come to a joint agreement, despite the differences in worldview, about what actions are desirable and feasible to improve the situation.


  • Why SSM?
  • Hard vs Soft systems thinking.
  • Models of Human Activity Systems.
  • The SSM Learning Cycle.
  • The SSM Process: modulating between ‘real world’ and ‘thinking about the real world’.
  • SSM in practice: Rich Pictures, Analysis I/II/III, Root Definitions, Purposeful Activity Models, Seeking Accomodation.
Course language English
Course level Introductory, no prerequisite knowledge of systems thinking required
For whom Organisational/community change leaders, strategy advisors, innovation coaches, facilitators of participatory processes, quality improvement coaches
By whom Philippe Vandenbroeck, co-founder at shiftN
Format 2 full days, with homework on participant’s own case in between
Dates 19 April and 17 May 2018, 09:30 – 16:30h
Location Tweeperenboom, Winksele, Belgium
Price 800 euro, excl. of 21% VAT (includes meals, refreshments and course material)
Launch offer - 20%
Further reading Working with Wicked Problems


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