A very, very short introduction to SODA

According to SODA (Strategic Options Development and Analysis), well-structured strategies have a network of goals supported by a network of strategic objectives, which are in turn supported by a hierarchy of tangible actions, see also here. Not unlike concept mapping, causal mapping can be used to provide the necessary overview and insight for strategic thinking by graphically representing complex situations – in business, development or otherwise. This enables well-facilitated, decision-making groups to identify, capture, explore, analyse, and structure potential goals, key strategic issues, dilemmas, and argumental chains with a view to design well thought out strategies. For the best result it is essential to balance process and content during the entire SODA exercise – which can last from half a day upwards – to ensure that the multiple perspectives of the various participants enter the process of negotiation on a more or less equal footing. SODA was initially developed about three decades ago on the basis of the personal construct theory of George Kelly, an American psychologist. SODA has been used with Shell, Reed Elsevier, Bombardier, the National Health Service, and Strathclyde Poverty Alliance among many others.

For dynamic icon links, click on the SODA concept map. Some of these links provide access to practical, free, online advice to enable you to get started with SODA mapping right away.

In the case of especially high-level business or government strategizing, a calculus should be made as to the use of the SODA-specific software – known as Decision Explorer – in combination with an experienced facilitator.  A specific form of sticky note mapping – known as the Oval Mapping Technique – could also be used. Personally, I prefer to work with the concept maps of IHMC, because they are free, neat, flexible, learning oriented, and I already know how to work with them. Besides, most of the SODA operations are not strictly software related anyway. While trying to elaborate a case of my own, it occurred to me that probably hardly any of us Homo sapiens sapiens does any real strategic thinking any time. One final word of warning: it’s not easy! Not even distinguishing actions from strategies. The latter typically take a long time, a range of actions, or a high cost for achieving, or they may be irreversible. Good luck!


About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see https://csl4d.wordpress.com/ or http://www.bobwilliams.co.nz/Systems_Resources.html
This entry was posted in General, Systems thinking. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s