Ryan Armstrong
Change management. Learning. Maps.

Conference Presentation - Implications of adopting a critical realist approach for soft systems methodology

20 June 2018

A presentation of my research to date on soft systems methodology. Here’s the abstract to the paper. that was eventually published from it:

“This paper explores the implications of adopting a critical realist approach to soft systems methodology (SSM) both to address local problematic situations and to develop deeper explanations. However, its potential as a means for developing generalizable knowledge for management science has been limited due at least in part to its adherence to strong interpretivism. After exploring the history of soft systems methodology and basic tenants of critical realism, the paper builds on previous discussions of ways in which SSM is compatible with a critical realist approach. Next, the consequences for such an approach are considered by examining a case in which SSM was integrated into a critical realist approach for discovery as means to guide large-scale reform in a nonprofit organization. The case revealed that critical realism served as an effective guide both for incorporating existing knowledge as well as setting the stage for its possible modification. Opportunities and challenges in the approach are presented. Apart from the adoption of a realist ontology, a critical realist approach to SSM requires assuming a dual-role as an insider–outsider, which presents a number of challenges. However, it appears soft systems methodology are highly compatible and could serve to help bridge the practice–research gap.”

Sidenote: This was one of the most exciting moments of my Ph.D. because two of my biggest heroes came to the presentation, Fran Ackermann and Colin Eden, whose work continues to be a significant source of inspiration.