Peter Checkland

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Peter Checkland (born 18 December 1930) is a British management scientist and emeritus professor of Systems at Lancaster University. He is the developer of soft systems methodology (SSM):

Quotes[edit]

  • We have no aces to what the world is, to ontology, only to descriptions of the world... that is to say, epistemology... We should never say something in the world: 'it is a system'; only: "it may be described as a system'.
    • Checkland 1983, p.671 cited in Stephen K. Probert (1998) "The Metaphysical Foundations of Soft and Hard Information Systems Methodologies". In: Robert Macredie (1998) Modelling for Added Value. p.86

Systems Thinking, Systems Practice, 1981[edit]

  • We reduce the complexity of the variety of the world in experiments whose results are validated by their repeatability, and we may build knowledge by the refutation of hypotheses.
    • p.51 cited in: Rosário Macário (2011) Managing Urban Mobility Systems. p.52
  • The concept of action research arises in the behavioural sciences and is obviously applicable to an examination of human activity systems carried out through the process of attempting to solve problems. This core is the idea that the researcher does not remain an observer outside the subject of investigation but becomes a participant in the relevant human group. The researcher becomes a participant in the action, and the process of change itself becomes the subject of research. In action research the roles of researcher and subject are obviously not fixed: the roles of the subject and the practitioner are sometimes switched: the subjects become researchers... and researchers become men of action.
    • p. 152 as cited in: R.L. McCown (2001) "Learning to bridge the gap between science-based decision support and the practice of farming". In: Aust. J. Agric. Res., Vol 52, p.560-561
  • A methodology will lack the precision of a technique but will be a firmer guide to action than a philosophy. Where a technique tells you 'how' and a philosophy tells you 'what', a methodology will contain elements of both 'what' and 'how'.
    • p.162 cited in: Rob Pooley, Pauline Wilcox (2003) Applying UML: Advanced Applications. p.50
  • In a certain sense human activity systems do not exist, only perceptions of them exist, perceptions which are associated with specific Ws.
    • p.219 as cited in: Robert L. Flood, Norma R.A. Romm (1997) Critical Systems Thinking. p.206
  • The core of a root definition of a system will be a transformation process (T), the means by which defined inputs are transformed into defined outputs. The transformation will include the direct object of the main activity verbs subsequently required to describe the system.
    • p.223 as cited in: Gillian Ragsdell, Daune West, Jennifer Wilby (2002) Systems Theory and Practice in the Knowledge Age. p.82. In the original quote Checkland summarised his earlier work with Smyth published in 1976.

Systems thinking, systems practice: includes a 30-year retrospective, 1999[edit]

  • Making drawings to indicate the many elements in any human situation is something which has characterized SSM from the start. Its rationale lies in the fact that the complexity of human affairs is always a complexity of multiple interacting relationships; and pictures are a better medium than linear prose for expressing relationships. Pictures can be taken in as a whole and help to encourage holistic rather than reductionist thinking about a situation.
    • p.16
  • Cursory inspection of the world suggests it is a giant complex with dense connections between its parts. We cannot cope with it in that form and are forced to reduce it to some separate areas which we can examine separately'. ..
    • p.60 cited in: Frederik Pretorius (2008) Project Finance for Constructions and Infrastructure. p.36
  • In an unrestricted science such as biology or geology, the effects under study are so complex that designed experiments with controls are often not possible. Quantitative models are more vulnerable and the chance of unknown factors dominating the observations is much greater.
    • p.65
  • A root definition describing a notional system chosen for its relevance to what the investigator and/or people in the problem situation perceive as matters of contention.
    • p.319 cited in: Raymond W. Y. Kao (2010) Sustainable Economy. p.411

About Peter Checkland[edit]

  • Systems thinking, as written about and practiced by Russell Ackoff, C. West Churchman, Peter Checkland and others, contained within it many of the impulses that motivate the application of design ideas to strategy, organization, society, and management. Ideas such as engaging a broad set of stakeholders, moving beyond simple metrics and calculations, considering idealized options and using scenarios to explore them, shifting boundaries to reframe problems, iteration, the liberal use of diagrams and rich pictures, and tirelessly searching for a better set of alternatives were all there. If the business and management community had bought it, we would not be having the many discussions about design, design thinking, and expanding management education to engage the intuitive, to embrace values, to look beyond available choices.
    • Fred Collopy (2009) "Lessons Learned -- Why the Failure of Systems Thinking Should Inform the Future of Design Thinking". In Fast Company blog, June 7, 2009.

External links[edit]

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