Within the methodology of soft systems, one encounters the claim that people’s thinking processes are essentially restricted. In this context, one might mention the notion of embodiment. In other words, person’s mental experiences are prerequisite and limited by their bodily functions and capabilities. However, one should not think that this makes people “simple organisms”. Thus, some researches strongly disagree with the point of view of hard systems that describe humans as “passive” objects (Patching 1990). Scientists suggest that bodily experiences are inextricably connected to people’s brain functioning. In addition, there’s evidence supporting the fact that one should not separate their spinal cord from the brain. The reason is that they both are parts of one incredibly complex and intrinsically connected unit.
The soft systems methodologies have faced a decent amount of criticism recently, one of the main claims being the inconsistency. It is true that soft systems approach is fairly whimsical when studying real life situations. In other words, the methodologists of soft systems approach study the situations in a way that explicitly lacks structure. Although the researchers have some frame, it is very approximate, and one might consider it non-binding. According to Checkland and Scholes (1991), the situations have to be studied in all their “richness”. In addition, the authors provide an approximated and very narrow list of features that have to be included in the description of any imaginable situation, which will be discussed later in this paper (Checkland & Scholes 1991).
Moreover, there is vague irony in mentioning this fact in a discussion dedicated to IKEA; thus, Checkland (1999) suggests that one should present the situation under discussion in a form of a picture.
Apparently, it makes much more sense to look at the situations in all their complexity rather than try to simplify them. However, if the task is to achieve a result quickly and disregard the underlying implications and inferences, one might prefer to apply the hard systems approach. The reason is that the point of hard systems approach is the development of a simulacrum of a particular entity in the real world.
Thus, hard systems are suitable when one has to calculate approximate results of a problem that has originated long ago and now need a slight intervention in order to develop. In the case of IKEA, it required the introduction and work of soft systems (since for an idea to originate, soft systems need to be involved). In other words, the launch of the IKEA project by Ingmar Kamprad is a result of the work of soft systems, namely a complex conflict, people’s needs in basic items, and, as a result, the solution to this problem. In its due course, the hard systems’ work is providing approximated and supposedly successful marketing strategies, testing them empirically, analyzing feedback and re-applying successful ones over and over again. Thus, when tackling the pitfall, it is vital to always remember about innovation.
The first stage, according to Checkland (1999), is the endeavor to define the situation under discussion. As it was mentioned above, there are six basic elements one needs to keep in mind whenever they are going to discuss and develop an analysis of any situation. These elements include “structures, processes, climate, people, issues, expressed by people, and conflicts” (Checkland 1999).
In this case, when talking about the first component, it is the structure of interactions and interconnections between a supplier of certain goods and services and the consumers of those goods and services.
The process under discussion is the exchange of goods and services for money. The following stage comprises the collection and analysis of the data about customers’ reactions. Afterwards, there is the stage of producing goods based on the feedback.
With regard to climate, is sufficiently positive. It is based on the match between people’s needs and possibilities (namely, the price ranges) as well as the goods and services offered.
People factor can be referred to a social layer of people that are a target audience for the IKEA Company, namely the middle class.
Concerning issues expressed by people, they are clearly listed in the textual instructions to this task. They are the common human needs to have comfortable and aesthetically acceptable living conditions. The founder of the IKEA enterprise comes from a background where all the above-mentioned challenges were a reality.
Finally, the conflict is the gap between sustainable and acceptable leaving condition for a human being and affordability of the means of providing them. Apparently, IKEA provides the solution for that. Naturally, the solution of one problem gives rise to another one. In this particular case, the problem concerns the way one can keep pace with the growing demand for the aesthetic aspect of the affordable furniture.
The very concept of IKEA started as an innovation. Ingvar Kampard’s revolutionary idea was that there should be comfortable and affordable lifestyle for “ordinary people”. Thus, one encounters a new brain mapping which for the first time over long years connects affordability with convenience and aesthetic pleasure.
In addition, it is worth approving that IKEA has its own sort of philosophical background.
The key notions of this background are innovation, knowledge, experience, and accessibility.
These notions are easy to explain when assessing a furniture shop. In fact, people very often expect them and take for granted. However, it was big news back in the day. Nevertheless, currently, the importance of such background is quite considerable. Apparently, it makes it easier for the staff to have a better work ethics. What is more, it helps keep the morale high. As a result, with cheerful and motivated staff, IKEA is able to provide high-quality services for the customers. Thus, in its due course, it is reflected in the positive feedback loop, which is profitable for the shop. Profits of the shop lead to staff’s encouragement, thereby forming a pattern.
The whole concept is successfully reflected in IKEA’s advertising campaign. It is aimed at attracting people by introducing a completely new and luring concept. Thus, since it is successful, it is an entirely new brain mapping. It has both positive and negative features. For example, on the one hand, it is evident that IKEA provides reliable and sustainable furniture. On the other hand, it is sometimes mocked and criticized for being “cheap” and “commonplace”. However, the appearance of these concepts is a sign of successfully established mapping.
As it was already mentioned before, soft systems approach is one of the most favorite methods. Consequently, much attention is going to be paid to the methods empowered by the methods of soft systems. In addition, this choice can be justified by something more essential than just a personal preference. Soft systems approach is to be used whenever one has to tackle a complex situation. One might argue that every activity, event, or situation that relates to human beings, is to be considered quite complex. What is more, hard systems approach regards all the humans as passive and automated beings. Apparently, one should not disregard the hard systems approach when re-implementing already proven successful strategies. However, when the task is to develop a means of solving problems, one should use SSM. It is easily explained because while trying to understand the needs of a customer, one has to keep in mind all the implied features of human character, namely motifs, emotional responses, and even season changes.
Therefore, in order to be able to solve problems successfully, one has to proceed with a situation under discussion firstly through defining the situation.
It has been scientifically proven that people’s thinking processes are highly artistic and metaphorical in their nature. Therefore, the more means one will deploy for representing the situation, the better results will be. Thus, if the situation is tackled in various ways, the bigger there is a chance of having an innovative solution for the problem.
The second step is the logical consequence of the first one. In fact one needs to create a material model of a problem project. According to Checkland (Checkland 1999), the best way of representing is a picture. Apparently, it would be relevant to have a creative approach and use all the tools available. For example, attribute certain music, and provide a scheme, among others.
The third step is to identify and clearly understand the transformation one would like to encounter and implement. It is necessary to make sure that every entity involved in the project development understands what kind of commitment and involvement is needed. In addition, one can never overestimate the importance of time management. Every department should be aware of the deadlines they have to meet. Moreover, there should be a responsible and reliable control entity that will provide monitoring and motivation for the working staff.
- After the desired transformation is identified, the project staff has to address the following issues:
- Customers who benefit from this transformation
- Actors who facilitate the provision of the transformation for these customers
- Re-forming from “beginning” to “end”
- Owner to whom the “system” is answerable and/or could cause its demolition
- Environment that influences but does not control the system (Checkland 1999)
To summarize, the research attempted to make it clear that a successful outcome of a project is predetermined by the contribution by every staff member. The example of IKEA foundation clearly indicates that people matter and their opinions are capable of making a change.