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.
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!