The Meaning of Failure as Applied to Human Systems: Characteristics for a Fourth Generation of Systems Methodologies

  • John N. T. Martin
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 5)


A methodology attempts to show you how to go about the basic business of responding to situations by planning and carrying out appropriate actions. The basic stages for the “man-of-action” are very obvious: some stimulus attracts your attention, you respond to it, and then you cope with the results of your response. The thinking person, however, tends to add an extra stage: the stimulus attracts your attention, you think about it and about possible responses, and only then do you respond to it and have to cope with the results. The systems person, being wholistic and purposeful, adds two further components—you keep looking over your shoulder at the systemic context of your actions, and you keep checking back to see that what you do relates clearly to what you set out to do, and whether that intention is still valid.


Wide System Prior Planning Root Definition Basic Business Extra Stage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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First Generation “Tactical” Methodology

  1. 1.
    R. L. Ackoff and M. W. Sasieni, Fundamentals of Operations Research, Wiley, pp. 8–12, 1968.Google Scholar

Second Generation “Strategic” Methodologies

  1. 2.
    A. D. Hall, A Methodology for Systems Engineering, Van Nostrand, pp. 7–11, 1962.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    E. S. Quade and W. I. Boucher (eds.), Systems Analysis and Policy Planning—Applications in Defense, American Elsevier Publishing Co., pp. 11–14 and 33–34, 1968.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    R. De Neufville and J. H. Stafford, Systems Analysis for Engineers and Managers, McGraw-Hill, pp. 5–14, 1971.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    G. M. Jenkins, “The Systems Approach,” Journal of Systems Engineering, 1(1), 1969.Google Scholar

Third Generation “Soft Systems” Methodology

  1. 6.
    P. B. Checkland, “Towards a Systems Based Methodology for Real-World Problem-Solving,” Journal of Systems Engineering, 3(2), 1972.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • John N. T. Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Systems GroupOpen UniversityMilton KeynesEngland

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