TC 2: Soft Systems Thinking, Methodology and the Management of Change - Kees van Haperen

Training day presentation

Course Overview

This training course is intended for a broad audience which consists of systems engineers, programmes and project managers, or consultants who wish to develop their systems thinking, problem structuring and soft systems methodology competences.

Aims and Objectives

On completion of the training day, participants will have achieved an increased awareness of Soft Systems Methodology and achieved a basic ability from which to develop an improved ability to practice SSM, by:

  • Understanding the contested nature of problem definition;
  • Gaining a general understanding of soft systems approaches, and its underlying assumptions;
  • Practicing the soft systems approach for the analysis of wicked problems;
  • Having a critical awareness of the different circumstances in which soft systems approaches may be applicable

Course content includes:

  1. 1. Defining the Context: Organisational Analysis and Complexity
    • The contested nature of problem definition
    • The organisational analysis for managing complexity
  2. 2. The SSM Approach
    • ‘Soft’ Thinking in Systems
    • Overview of the Approach
    • SSM The Basics Steps and Artefacts (SSM as 7 Stages)
      • Rich Pictures
      • CATWOE
      • Root Definitions
      • Conceptual Model Building
      • Information Categories and Measures of Performance
      • Mapping: Desirable and Feasible Change
  3. 3. Group Exercises
    • Developing practical skills in developing rich pictures, root definitions, CATWOE, conceptual models and undertaking some analysis
  4. 4. Case Studies
    • Discussion of several case studies to illustrate the application of SSM for Systems Engineering
    • Programme and Project Management
    • Macro Problems
  5. 5. Use of Tools

Course Trainer


Kees van Haperen has spent the majority of his adult life figuring out how to do things differently. During most of the last two decades he worked for a wide spectrum of public and private customers. After a decade as an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force and a period of involvement with decision-making and organisational learning in crises, his engagements have been concerned with making sense of complexity and uncertainty in stakeholder-rich situations. He has been working as a ‘Strategy and Change’ consultant with experience in strategy making, innovation, management of change, portfolio and programme management and worked for a wide variety of central and local government departments and services, commercial enterprises and 3rd sector organisations.