Systems of system failures: Meta system methodology to prevent system failures


  • Takafumi Nakamura
  • Kyoichi Kijima


Systems thinking, Meta system approach, VSM, SSM, double loop learning


We propose a new meta methodology, called SOSF (Systems of system failures), to prevent system failures. SOSF is based on SOSM (Jackson,M. (2003) “System thinking”) and Taxonomy of failures (Gigch,J.P.Van.(1986) “System Design Modeling and Metamodeling”). SOSF is created from mapping the elements of mata system failure model into SOSM flame. Since SOSF enables us to identify a paradigm of where system failures resides, with its help we can adopt an appropriate methodology to a target problem. Every organization has hierarchical structure of their processes. It is very important to identify what function of the organization has to be rectified learning from system failures. In order to achieve this, we must have some common language to understand fully what have happened, what should be a root cause and what should be a counter measure. We also use VSM model (Beer,S (1981) “Brain of the firm”) to identify root cause of an organizational malfunction. SOSF is, among others, practically useful to achieve following tasks. i) To Promote common understanding between various stakeholders by uplifting specific system failure and a specific organizational malfunction into conceptual world through modeling using common (meta) language. ii) To understand system failure holistically through modeling a system failure and its root cause. iii) To identify what function of an organization should be rectified in hierarchy of the organization. iv) To confirm MECE (Mutually exclusive totally exhaustive) of counter measures This paper is unique in the sense of providing various practical application tools, that is, SO-space Map, IO Matrix, OP Matrix and Failure diagnostic flow. We structuralize the two extremes positions (i.e. ideal status and system failures) into several relations between ideal status, goal (objective), responsibility, causes and system failures. If we can detect disjunctions between elements proactively, there should be a good chance to prevent further occurrence of system failures by minimizing recognized disjunction between stakeholders. In SOSF we provide SO-space Map which elaborates soft paradigm where disjunction of plural participants’ worldview playing significant role of system failures. SO-Space MAP is spanned two dimensions, namely subjective and objective view point from responsibilities and failures causes enabling to focus disjunction between stakeholders. IO Matrix is adopted as a tool to detect disjunction between ideal status and meeting goals. OP Matrix is a tool to detect disjunction between meeting goals and problems. IO and OP Matrix promote reflective self check that current goal setting is well encompassing current problems. Finally, failure diagnostic flow is employed as a tool to promote double loop learning to rectify existing process from meta systemic view point. Traditionally various trouble shooting techniques mainly have focused on so called hard approaches where reductionistic world view playing dominant role. This paper provide actual application example of so called “soft system thinking” (Checkland,P (1999) “Systems thinking, systems practice”) into engineering arena. IT systems are main target of the application of the proposed meta methodology and we will confirm the result of promoting preventative measures that are not learned otherwise. Keywords: Systems thinking, Meta system approach, VSM, SSM, double loop learning



How to Cite

Nakamura, T., & Kijima, K. (2007). Systems of system failures: Meta system methodology to prevent system failures. Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2007, Tokyo, Japan, 51(2). Retrieved from



Systems Applications in Business and Industry