Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Dianne J. DeTurris

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Soft System Approaches have been developed worldwide to help problem-solvers and decision-makers develop solutions to complex problems, such as aerospace systems. Soft System Approaches were designed to help lower the disorder of developing a complex system by increasing understanding of a situation. Four Soft System Approaches were investigated, two from the West and two from the East. Within the context of the paper, the West refers to thought patterns associated with thinkers and scientists in Europe and North America, and the East refers to those from and around China. The two from the West are Peter Checkland’s Soft Systems Methodology and Fran Ackerman and Colin Eden’s Strategic Options Development and Analysis, and from the East they are Qian Xuesen’s Meta-Synthetic Approach and Jifa Gu and Zhichang Zhu’s Wuli-Shili-Renli Approach. The four approaches were selected due to their prevalence and notoriety within the Soft System Approach research. The Western Soft System Approaches were created as a direct response to reductionism and are more holistic than Hard System Approaches; however, they are classified as systematic due to their structure. The approaches are tools that can be deployed for a specific task. Eastern Soft System Approaches rooted in Eastern philosophy went from holism to reductionism to a unity of the two. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; therefore, approaches that seek to balance reductionism and holism and give guidance and structure while inviting in other methods. The Eastern approaches are classified as framework Soft System Approaches, which provide structure and guidance but not a formula. Systematic approaches are better for determining a course of action, while framework approaches are better for guiding a whole program. The Eastern approaches covered can and do incorporate other methods, including each other. Depending on the problem and problem solver, the systematic or framework approach may be better suited. Overall, however, the framework approach will be able to solve the most varied problems due to the lack of prescriptiveness and the use of other approaches. Knowing the difference between the approaches and how they can be used helps manage the development of complex aerospace systems.