Soft Thinking and Intellectual Capital

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University of Glamorgan
MSc International Logistics and Transport Programme/Strategic Procurement Management STRATEGY AS PRACTICE
Soft Systems Thinking and Intellectual Capital
Assignment 1
*Student No: *08193738
Assignment Date: 5 April 2009
*Submission Date:* 15 May 2009
Module Lecturer: Paul Davis
Word Count:* * *2,* 600
Critically evaluate the role that Soft Systems thinking can play in promoting organisations Intellectual Capital. To evaluate the benefits of Soft Systems Thinking (SST) in promoting an organisational intellectual capital it is necessary to understand the concept of Soft Systems Methodology and how this methodology can be used to foster teamwork, communities of practice and social learning, and whether these learning outcomes adds knowledge to employees, and leads to improved professional practice and efficacy. So what price do you put on learning – and as an intangible asset does it need to be measured to promote Intellectual Capital (IC) to support the “effective delivery of strategic goals by focusing management activities and processes”. Andriessen (2004). Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) advocated by Checkland and Scholes (1990) is a methodology based on applying systems thinking to non system situations. It is a holistic way of dealing not with the problem but the “situation” in where there are “social, political and human activities” Checkland and Scholes (1990). As opposed to “hard system methodologies, which can be quantified, measured and are technology orientated. Soft Systems takes a group of “actors” through a process of a shared “problem” appreciation. Learning about the problem, then formulating a root definition of interrelated systems, these examine the relationships of the relevant subsystem: which are the stakeholders, such as customers, employees, the worldview (weltanschauungen) and the management who are “all active in the system and take collective action to improve the situation” Checkland (1981) Senge (1990) also describes systems thinking as having five learning disciplines, personal mastery, me_ntal models, shared vision, team learning, and the overarching discipline of systems thinking. _Therefore, soft systems thinking is a tool that helps in the solving of problems involving human activities where the outcome is learning. Soft systems thinking can enable subjective perceptions of problems and potential solutions. Checkland and Scholes (1990). There are a number of different issues and approaches that can be used to develop a framework for the application of systems thinking for promoting the intellectual capital of any organisation. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) advocated by Checkland and Scholes (1990) helps to achieve a clearer understanding of organisational issues and problem “situations”, as it approaches issues holistically. “System thinking is a discipline for seeking wholes, recognizing patterns and interrelationships, and learning how to structure those relationships in a more effective and efficient way ” Senge and Lannon-Kim (1991.) Therefore, managers having a range of skills and knowledge can add value to any improvement initiative. Rose and Haynes (2001) developed and used the methodology in a number of settings in the NHS and Iles and Sunderland (2001) cited the potential of SSM as an aid to implementing organisational change initiatives at King’s College Hospital London. (Iles and Sunderland, 2001:35) Soft systems thinking can help organisations to develop new perspectives, as it accounts for factors that otherwise would be ignored. A human activity system, can compliment strategic frameworks, such as the “Balance Scorecard” to co-ordinate business activities and improve internal and external communications. Kaplan and Norton (1992) However, humans view problems differently because they come from different backgrounds, and have different cultural roots, experience, and education, and as a...
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