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The SODA (Strategic Options Development and Analysis) was developed in the late 80's. In summary it is a methodology for helping someone understand the various viewpoints of a problem area. Whilst the detail of any projects is tailored to the specific problem, the general steps are;
- Planning meetings: Where the project is set up and an initial view of the problem / situation is achieved. At this point it is important to decide who the participants will be and what the outputs will be in order to manage expectations.
- Client interviews: Here the key people involved with the issue are interviewed, in a relaxed format, for an hour or so to obtain their individual views of the problem area / situation.
- Development of causal maps: Causal mapping is used to get depict the interviewee’s perception of the situation.
- Check-back interviews: To check with the interviewees that the causal maps have correctly interpreted their views. If not, they are modified until they are a true representation.
- Merging the maps: The individual maps are combined to form a single map.
- Presentation: Both the individual and combined maps are presented to the participants, and the merged map is worked on until everyone finds it acceptable. This is best done on a computer with projector, or using several computers and appropriate software. This allows the whole group to understand all the viewpoints and to have ownership of the final map.
- Interpret the map in terms of goals, strategies and tactics: The completed, agreed, map can be used to determine the;
- High level goals – these are usually where the causal arrow-heads that emerge from the map but don’t go any further.
- Medium level strategies - these are generally the factors that feed in more or less directly to the goals.
- Low level tactics and operational targets - these are typically the activities that feed into the medium level strategies. They are often located at where causal arrows tend to come in from the wider environment.
- Action selection, allocation and implementation: Now that the goals, strategies and targets have been determined, these need to be allocated to people for implementation