Checkland became interested in applying systems ideas to messy management problems while working as a manager in industry. His ideas for Soft Systems Methodology emerged from the failure of the application of, what he called, "hard" systems engineering in messy management problems. SSM developed from this continuous cycle of intervention in ill-structured management problems and learning from the results.
Soft Systems is a branch of systems thinking specifically designed for use and application in a variety of real-world contexts. David Brown stated that a key factor in its development was the recognition that purposeful human activity can be modelled systemically. "Rather than SSM models attempting to map the real world – impossible because there are multiple candidates for what counts as the real world in complex situations – the models are devices for learning about the real world. In short, SSM becomes a process of inquiry, a learning system."
Just like R.J. Boland (1985) brought phenomenology in the field of information systems, to critically examine this field of endeavour, raise consciousness, and clarify its path, so has Checkland (1981) done in the field of systems thinking. In so doing, sense-making and the social construction of reality have become central notions in their respective fields. With regard to systems thinking, phenomenology has allowed systems thinkers to understand that systems thinking is not about a reality considered independent from the observer and by interconnected cybernetic processes or elements, or about emergent processes. Rather, systems thinking is about how we attribute meaning to the world and construct the unity of our reality. This is an important lesson Checkland's systems thinking teaches us.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Checkland