Soft systems methodology (SSM), an analytic method commonly employed in engineering and business research, produces models focused on human activities and relevant structures used to explain complex, engineered systems. The original version of SSM involves seven stages; five address real-world aspects and observable data, while two stages leverage a systems thinking viewpoint. This approach allows the development of a simplified depiction of complex systems representative of the multi-perspective lenses used to comprehend the systemic complexity of a problem and provide a clearer picture to analysts and decision makers. This bibliometric meta-analysis of 286 relevant publications in engineering, business, and other social sciences fields explores the historic impacts of SSM on academic research and systems thinking in relevant publications that described or employed SSM for research from 1980–2018. This study produced descriptive narrative outcomes and data visualizations including information about top SSM authors, author citation impacts, common dissemination outlets for SSM work, and other relevant metrics commonly used to measure academic impact. The goal of this piece is to depict who, what, why, when, and where SSM had the greatest impact on research, systems thinking, and methodology after nearly 40 years of use, as we look towards its future as a methodological approach used to comprehend complex problem situations.
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