Soft, Hard and Viable Systems

System Dynamics & Systems Thinking
Knowledge Center


Paul Tonks
Manager, United Kingdom

Soft, Hard and Viable Systems

Three systems methods are normally used:
1. Soft systems method - complex messy situations
2. Hard systems method- difficulties where we know the cause and desire endstate
3. Viable systems method - comparing operations, management and control with environmental influences and looking at the links between elements (communications, audit, feedback etc)
Thus in conclusion; systems approaches aid analysis because it compares reality with the perceived ideal and takes all viewpoints and influences into consideration in an attempt to manage the cause and affect created by our decision making.


Professor, Ukraine

Soft and Hard System Approach

Classical management balances in the space between hard mechanical and soft humanistic approaches. These terms denote the system analysis methodology.
- The "rigid" methodology allows for a single interpretation of the objective system essence and is effective in modeling technical systems.
- The “Soft” approach allows for multiple interpretations of reality when individuals and project teams that have their own goals act largely on their own.
Hard and soft system approaches differ in the nature of problem solving. If all management factors are rigidly formalized, then in this case the situation is presented as "hard". Soft systematic approach related to intangible categories refers to such "subtle", poorly formalized concepts as motivation, dynamic leadership, hierarchy of values, diligence etc.


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