Introductory, no prior knowledge of systems thinking required
English or Dutch (English handout)
For Whom
Organisational/community change leaders, strategy advisors, innovation coaches, facilitators of participatory processes, quality improvement coaches
By Whom
Philippe Vandenbroeck, shiftN

Soft Systems Methodology

How to approach complex problem solving as a learning process

Start 2021

Changemakers often run into ‘wicked problems’. These are challenges that are hard to tackle because they are technically and socially complex. We don’t know where to start solving them and we don’t even agree amongst ourselves about what the problem is.

Soft Systems Methodology (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 pragmatic and 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. SSM is a low-key but immensely practical approach. It is a systemic way of thinking rather than simply a tool. In this course we are putting a foundation in place for prospective systems practitioners. The methodology is discussed in its full breadth and backed up with examples from different strategic and organisational settings. Participants will make their first steps on their own case.


  • 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 step-by-step in practice.

The SSM program is organised on demand, as from 6 registered participants.