Evaluate the impacts to efficiently decide with CATWOE

Alexandre Claus
2 min readFeb 11, 2021
Business analysis using SSM concepts

What type of information do you need to tackle a complex situation?
How do you ensure that all aspects have been taken into consideration?
Especially how to take care of the stakeholder's expectations.

The CATWOE analysis could effectively help you to consider all these aspects as a whole, to help you to make a better decision once the impacts have been evaluated.

CATWOE was derived from the work of Peter Checkland. In the 60th, he has elaborated a method to resolve issues which is named: Soft System Methodology (SSM).

CATWOE is a kind of checklist to help to dig into problems and solutions.
It is an acronym for:

Customers: Who are there in the process we are studying?
Are they losing or gaining something?
How are they impacted?
Some additional tools like the empathy-map could help with this.

Actors: They are people involved in the process, who are they?

Transformation: This is the main business activity, in the other words what lies at the heart of its operations. (Checkland used the term ‘transformation’ because, at the highest level of abstraction, all systems exist to transform some form of input into some form of output.)

Worldview: This is about the ‘bigger picture’ and considers the different stakeholders and interested parties from the environment surrounding an organization and the influence they can have. It is also seen as the most crucial step in the CATWOE analysis. Stakeholders often have different approaches to the same issue, with other (conflicting) interests. The goal of the CATWOE analysis is to make their different viewpoint explicit.

Owners: Who will take ownership of the problem of the issue that may show up?

Environment: What constraints in the environment could prevent putting in place a solution?
Regarding the Environment, a PESTLE analysis could be used to help to investigate different aspects.

Note: It is important to consider using it in the sequence of WTCWOE.

This model fully integrates the impacts of the initial question and the solutions on the stakeholders.

The objective of this tool is to understand a system: the different impacts of a situation and the reactions.

Using CATWOE in its bullet-point form is best for the actual analysis of the stakeholders’ perspectives, but it is important to turn the results into a root definition to present the perspective back to the stakeholder. In fact, reflect their view of the situation.