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Messing about in transformations: Structured systemic planning for systemic solutions to systemic problems


  • Georgiou, Ion


The literature on multimethodology indicates that cognitive mapping is relevant to enriching the preliminary, information-gathering phase of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), and especially the rich picture. By noting the structural complementarity evidenced between SSM’s transformations and the bipolar constructs used in the cognitive mapping methodology known as Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA), this paper shows how SODA can be applied beyond SSM’s initial stage, and much more analytically within the heart of SSM, to guide the manner in which a systemic resolution to a problematic situation may be approached. It is proposed, and illustrated through examples, that a SODA map of large numbers of transformations, resulting from an exercise in SSM, offers a methodological means for structuring what might otherwise be perceived as a mess. The paper discusses how in such cases ‘strategic options development and analysis’ of transformations, or SODA-T maps, serve, among other things, to identify relations between transformations, their hierarchies and priorities, problem epicenters and starting points for intervention. In addition, the arsenal of graph theory can be used to cut through what would otherwise appear as interlinked chaos requiring structured operationalization. In this respect, the SODA-T map offers a high-level connective orientation which can guide the interconnections between the respective human activity systems of the transformations, resulting in the final systemic plan. Ultimately, SODA-T mapping is shown to facilitate a structured approach toward systemic planning.

Suggested Citation

  • Georgiou, Ion, 2012. "Messing about in transformations: Structured systemic planning for systemic solutions to systemic problems," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 223(2), pages 392-406.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ejores:v:223:y:2012:i:2:p:392-406 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2012.06.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tegarden, David P. & Sheetz, Steven D., 2003. "Group cognitive mapping: a methodology and system for capturing and evaluating managerial and organizational cognition," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 113-125, April.
    2. Eden, Colin, 1988. "Cognitive mapping," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, July.
    3. Eden, Colin, 2004. "Analyzing cognitive maps to help structure issues or problems," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 159(3), pages 673-686, December.
    4. Ormerod, Richard, 1999. "Putting soft OR methods to work: The case of the business improvement project at PowerGen," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 1-29, October.
    5. Ion Georgiou, 2009. "Mapping Railway Development Prospects in Brazil," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(6), pages 685-714, January.
    6. Williams, Terry & Ackermann, Fran & Eden, Colin, 2003. "Structuring a delay and disruption claim: An application of cause-mapping and system dynamics," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 148(1), pages 192-204, July.
    7. Georgiou, Ion, 2009. "A graph-theoretic perspective on the links-to-concepts ratio expected in cognitive maps," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 197(2), pages 834-836, September.
    8. Georgiou, Ion, 2008. "Making decisions in the absence of clear facts," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 185(1), pages 299-321, February.
    9. Mingers, John & Brocklesby, John, 1997. "Multimethodology: Towards a framework for mixing methodologies," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 489-509, October.
    10. Ormerod, RJ, 1998. "Putting Soft OR Methods to Work: Information Systems Strategy Development at Palabora," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 75-98, February.
    11. Mingers, John & Rosenhead, Jonathan, 2004. "Problem structuring methods in action," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 152(3), pages 530-554, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arasteh, Abdollah, 2017. "Considering the investment decisions with real options games approach," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 1282-1294.
    2. repec:bla:srbeha:v:34:y:2017:i:6:p:759-772 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Yearworth, Mike & White, Leroy, 2013. "The uses of qualitative data in multimethodology: Developing causal loop diagrams during the coding process," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 231(1), pages 151-161.
    4. Cronin, Karen & Midgley, Gerald & Jackson, Laurie Skuba, 2014. "Issues Mapping: A problem structuring method for addressing science and technology conflicts," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 233(1), pages 145-158.


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