Systems Research and Behavioral Science (SRBS) is the official journal of the International Federation for Systems Research.
SRBS is recognized as the premier journal that serves the international community of systems researchers and practitioners.
The opening paper by Michael C Jackson is the fourth of a series of papers on the stages of critical systems practice. Critical systems practice is a multimethodology that seeks to employ the ideas of critical systems thinking to intervene in and improve complex real-world “messes”. It has four stages — Explore (the problem situation), Produce (an intervention strategy), Intervene (flexibly), and Check (on progress) — called to mind as EPIC. This paper discusses the fourth stage, Check. During Check, decision makers, and other stakeholders, evaluate the intervention, reflect on what has happened with a view to improving future interventions, and discuss next steps.
Next, is a letter to the editor by Michael Quinn Patton in which the author presents a critique of Jackson’s ideas presented in the previous paper. Patton critiques Jackson’s assertion that system concepts are “of limited use” for evaluation. Bringing to fore, his 50+ years in evaluation experience, Patton emphasizes that his critique is not a matter of opinion but a matter of evidence. With this starting point, Patton presents 12 rebuttals to Jackson’s ideas presented in the “Check” stage of his EPIC framework. This includes the rejection of the sequential nature of EPIC with “Check” as the last stage.
Following the above letter, Michael C Jackson provides a response in which the author presents his agreement and defense with respect to each of the 12 rebuttals. Jackson expresses his intent to find a “golden mean” between his own and Patton’s thinking for the greater benefit of evaluation practice. The paper by Jackson, followed by Patton’s rebuttal and Jackson’s response make this dialogue an interesting part of this special issue.
In the next paper, Ian Newsome and David Lloyd outlines a series of typical case studies to help illustrate how combinations of participative systems methods, models and facilitation practices can be employed within complex, multi-stakeholder policing situations to address challenges that come in the way of inclusion and stakeholder participation.
This is followed by a paper by Rajneesh Chowdhury, Amanda Gregory and Miguel Queah in which the authors demonstrate the conceptual lens of Holistic Flexibility in practice in an NGO setting to enhance child protection. Critical Systems Heuristics is chosen as the preferred methodology, strengthened with two methods from two other systems methodologies – CATWOE (a mnemonic for Customers, Actors, Transformation, Worldview, Owners, Environment) from Soft Systems Methodology, and issues (assumption) rating method from Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing.
The following paper, by Yasemin Torun and Nuri Gökhan Torlak, presents a study that uses the two strands model of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) with other change methodologies within a single intervention to elicit new insights into a multi-methodology and address problems detected in a women’s prison in Turkey. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of SSM, the study proposes to use SSM, as a core approach, with Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing, Critical Systems Heuristics and Interactive Planning, as subordinate methodologies.
Next, Angela Espinosa, Jon Walker, Kartikae Grover and Maya Vachkova offer a briefing on the viability and sustainability (V&S) approach providing an example of application of the self-transformation methodology (STM) at the Breast Care Unit in an English Health Trust. The paper demonstrates how the V&S approach and the STM enabled the collective identification of more effective policies and strategies for improving individual and organizational effectiveness for this health service unit, when interacting with a complex and changing environment.
In the next paper, Clive Kerr introduces a discourse on the inherent flexibility in the roadmap metaphor for journey-making to establish the concept of strategic roadmapping. The practice involves charting future courses of action to help realize a vision. The paper outlines roadmapping’s flexible nature from a systems perspective. The key attributes of the approach being general, scalable, customizable and dynamic are characterized.
The following paper is by Theresa Arnold, Heiko Kleve and Steffen Roth. The authors combine key insights from social systems theory with systemic family coaching tools to come up with a novel approach to address challenges faced by business families related to exposure to diverse role expectations and systems logics. With an illustrative example from a family business succession planning, the authors demonstrate how systemic approaches can be of help to business family members.
Next, Christian Hoyer, Indra Gunawan and Carmen Haule Reaiche explore the relationships between Industry 4.0 implementation factors through systems thinking and network analysis. The results of their research show that the roles of implementation factors are not static, and what role they play depends on their position in the network, complementing the findings of previous investigations about the drivers of change. Furthermore, the findings indicate that multiple intervention points exist, shedding more light on how to develop effective implementation strategies.
In the last research paper, Masood Rabieh, Abbas Rezaei Pandari, Zeinab Amiri, Mahdi Esmaeili and Shermineh Mojtabavi Naeini present their Organizational Systems Thinking Excellence Model (OSTEM). The authors argue that using this model, the performance level of systems thinking in an organization can be assessed while determining the strengths and weaknesses of the organization in achieving excellence in systems thinking. It is suggested that the OSTEM model be used in line with insights from Senge’s learning organization framework.
The final contribution is a research note by Gabrielle Fletcher, Joshua Waters, Tyson Yunkaporta, Chels Marshall, John Davis and Jack Manning Bancroft. The authors discuss the progress, to date, of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab (IKS Lab) at Deakin University in establishing organizational processes and methods of inquiry grounded in Indigenous protocols. The authors argue that to pursue the research interest of the IKS Lab, it requires abductive reasoning, the eradication of discrete discipline boundaries, continuous adaptive responsiveness, distributed authority, agentic dyads of individual and group sovereignties, kinship protocols for solitary/pair/group/multigroup activity, traditional embassy protocols for dialogue between diverse systems, and traditional law-based principles translated into propositions that can inform innovative systems functions and theory.