Evaluating Soft Approaches Used in Strategy Development and Planning by Mohammad Ali Jaafar (Ph...

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Evaluating Soft Approaches Used in Strategy Development and Planning by Mohammad Ali Jaafar (PhD Systems Mgmt.) da Mind Map: Evaluating  Soft Approaches  Used in Strategy Development and Planning by Mohammad Ali Jaafar (PhD Systems Mgmt.)

1. How this Process became a Learning Process?

1.1. According to Ackoff (1974), this understanding of strategy development and planning is the same as ‘interactive planning’ principles

1.1.1. Therefore: SD& P is seen as a dynamic, interactive process built upon principles of participation of individuals in the organization, coordination of various problem situations, integration of all levels in the organization, and continuous planning, leading to Learning Process

2. Overview: The paper introduces and evaluates six soft approaches used in strategy development and planning.

2.1. These are the SWOT analysis, the Future Workshop, the Scenario methodology, Strategic Option Development and Analysis, Strategic Choice Approach and Soft Systems Methodology.

2.2. The conceptual framework for evaluations of soft approaches increases the understanding of them, their transparency, and their usability in practice

3. What is Strategy Development and Planning?

3.1. According to Mintzberg (1998) strategy development and planning in an organization is understood, as a process in which strategy is developed through synthesis, creativity and a holistic approach, while planning is an analytical activity where tasks are decomposed into activities

4. Methods used to Support SD&P

4.1. There exist several soft OR methodologies to be used in problem structuring, strategy development, planning and problem solving (Rosenhead, 1996; Rosenhead and Mingers, 2001).

4.1.1. But, They have highly different ways of technically and methodologically addressing this task. Therefore, a comparison and evaluation framework is needed, to choose the methodologies that give the most suitable support to a specific problematic situation

5. The Conceptual Framework: Ackoff (1974) has formulated the process of SD&P through the four principles of interactive planning

5.1. Participation which means, that planning has value in terms of both the process it initiates and creates and the results of the plan.

5.2. Coordination which means, that planning is built upon the idea that messy problem situations needs to be addressed through holistic vision, where the interaction between problem situations becomes more important than describing concrete actions.

5.3. Integration which means, that planning must take place on every level in the organization and this planning must be coordinated. More over short-term goals must be coordinated with long term goals and actions of strategic planning.

5.4. Continuity which means, that planning cannot be seen as a static act but, plans must be re-evaluated, updated and changed continuously to address the ever changing world and the uncertainties of the future.

6. Methods and Methodologies, According to Borges (1997):

6.1. Planning Methods: Directions on how a ’good’ decision should be taken. They are steps that can be seen as a tools for solving a certain task or problem.

6.2. Planning Methodologies: Directions on how decisions are taken. Seeks to structure and support an uncertain, undefined problem situation.

6.3. We use the term Approach that include both methods and methodologies

7. Six Soft Approaches

7.1. SWOT Analysis

7.1.1. Identify the organization's internal strengths and weaknesses and its external options and threats.

7.1.2. Evaluate and prioritize different points identified and then place them in the SWOT matrix.

7.1.3. analyze and/or implement the strategy or strategies that seem(s) most relevant from the four types of strategies.

7.2. The Future Workshop

7.2.1. Objective: It is established to focus on a specific problematic situation, generate visions about the future and discuss how these visions can be realized. Participants of the workshop share the same problem, and have a wish to change the situation.

7.2.2. Process: Future Workshop does not use a specific model. It primarily focuses on the problem solving process.

7.2.3. Future Workshop Five Phases: Preparation Phase: the overall purpose of creating the necessary frames for the workshop. (ex. finding location of workshop, participants, getting pens..etc.) Critical Phase: each of the members of the workshop describe and criticizes the problem. Fantasy Phase: positive solutions & suggestions are formulated & critical items and themes are changed into positive statements, visions. Realistic Phase: critical problem areas and positive solutions are compared with the options and limitations of reality to form realistic strategies. Then presented to decision makers. Follow-up Phase: the process itself is evaluated as well as the new situation

7.3. Scenario Methodology

7.3.1. Scenario is a description of a likely future as well as the corresponding actions or ways that lead to this future.

7.3.2. The purposes of the usage of scenarios in strategy development and planning are: to find and identify priority problems (key variables) for the organization by looking at relations between variables in the areas of focus. to determine the central actors and their strategies as well as resources and means to make a successful project. to describe (in scenarios) the development of a certain system in focus by taking into account the most likely developmental trends of the key variables and to look on the different actors’ influence.

7.3.3. Two Aspects of the Scenario Methodology The Problem Structuring: In the problem structuring two approaches for describing the system in focus are considered using either the inductive or deductive principle. Approaches that can take care of the dynamics of the system in focus by applying the anticipatory or explanatory principle Methodological Aspects of Scenario Methodology There are two schools of thought behind the scenario methodology: the American school building on quantitatively oriented methods, and the French school based on more informal ways of handling the situation in a mixture of methods and methodologies

7.4. Strategic Option Decision and Analysis (SODA)

7.4.1. SODA is a way of working with a group of people and a technique for constructing cognitive maps of how people perceive and think about a problematic situation.

7.4.2. SODA is made up by a number of concepts and theories That each individual perceives the world subjectively. That the organization is made up by processes and negotiations more than structures. That the planner’s function is defined as being supportive in the above mentioned negotiation processes so decisions can be reached through consensus and agreements not through demonstrations of power. That the primary tool or technique used is cognitive maps were participants try to understand different ways of thinking and to involve all partners to redefine the problem perceptions and form ground for commitment and consensus decisions.

7.4.3. The process of SODA can be outlined as follows: Individual problem construction where each individual of the group is interviewed about the problem situation and cognitive maps are created. Individual problem acknowledgement where maps are analyzed and each map is presented for the individuals again for discussion and acceptance. Some times another interview can be carried out. Group redefining the situation, which involve that a merged map is created based on the individual maps. The merged map includes perceptions of all individuals and in this way it represents all the members of the group. Through the merged map, they can commonly redefine the problem situation. Group consensus on a number of strategies where a negotiation process has been carried out based on the redefined problem situation, and solutions are found. It is assumed that consensus and engagement lies behind the sequence of strategies being the visible results of SODA.

7.5. Strategic Choice Approach

7.5.1. SCA can be characterized as a planning methodology that focuses on dealing with the uncertainty of problematic situations and decisions

7.5.2. In SCA the planning process is divided into four modes Shaping. In the shaping mode, the decision areas and problem focus is decided upon. Designing. The most urgent decision areas are now analyzed in terms of different decision options and their interconnectedness. Comparing. Different criteria or comparison areas are now discussed to find out about the requirements for the strategies to construct. Choosing. For the combinations of decision options that look most promising, considerations to uncertainties of different types are made.

7.6. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)

7.6.1. According to Checkland (2001) Soft systems methodology (SSM) is an approach to organizational process modeling and it can be used both for general problem solving and in the management of change

7.6.2. 7-stage representation of SSM: Enter situation considered problematical Express the problem situation Formulate root definitions of relevant systems of purposeful activity Build conceptual models of the systems named in the root definitions Comparing models with real world situations Define possible changes which are both possible and feasible Take action to improve the problem situation

8. Evaluation Framework

8.1. Even though the six approaches are based on the same fundamental purpose of supporting learning processes and developing strategies, they are quite different in terms of their support in specific problematic situations. Therefore, an evaluation framework can be used.

8.2. The framework addresses the principles of Ackoff’s interactive planning and therefore directs the learning process of strategy development and planning

8.3. The four dimensions can be defined as:

8.3.1. The Process: The process’ focuses on how time is used most efficiently and if the group individuals goes through the necessary considerations in terms of reaching the wanted results of applying the approach. The Organization: The third dimension describes how the work for strategy development and planning is organized. This includes looking at the individuals and their way of being involved in the process.

8.3.2. The Product: According to Ackoff’s principles, looking at strategy development and planning with the views lying in, it is clear that, products of strategy development and planning can be obtained at different levels; in terms of substance and in terms of processes. The Organization: The third dimension describes how the work for strategy development and planning is organized. This includes looking at the individuals and their way of being involved in the process.

8.3.3. The Technology: The last dimension, the technology, refers to the ‘tools’ or techniques used in the process, i.e., the special structuring and perhaps programming tools such as pencils and software programmes. An evaluation of these tools and techniques is important because of their influence on the process and the individuals’ possibility to understand the process and its results.

8.3.4. The Organization: The third dimension describes how the work for strategy development and planning is organized. This includes looking at the individuals and their way of being involved in the process.

9. Evaluation Results

9.1. The characterization of being soft approaches is dependent on the way they are applied both by the planner and the involved participants. Viewing objectively on the descriptions of their way of working, they if have focus on supporting a learning process, on visible results of substance, can be applied individually or in groups, uses various technologies, and require a planner who must be an expert but also can be a facilitator.

9.1.1. the SWOT analysis and the scenario methodology are close to traditional planning and OR. Both approaches are in terms of background and the linear way of working not necessarily supported by a group process.

9.1.2. The future workshop is on the other hand far from the traditional OR planning methods. The future workshop supports a learning process for the individuals participating. Moreover It is assumed that all individuals participate without any power relations implicating the situation.

9.1.3. SODA support also a group process however more indirectly by focusing on the individuals and gathering their opinions on the problematic situation before a real workshop is carried out. SODA supports a learning process and gives products in all four categories

9.1.4. SCA has a very analytical way of working with the problematic situation and developing strategies. Anyhow, the SCA supports a learning process by changing between different ways of working and the cyclic view on the process.

9.1.5. SSM is a classical example on a soft approach. Through its cyclic way of working and the acknowledgement that problems are never solved but must be monitored and dealt with almost continuously, it deals with future uncertainties in the way that decisions are never definitive but can and must be changed all the time.

10. Conclusions

10.1. The evaluation shows that the six soft approaches are different in terms of the dimensions specified above and, in their way of supporting the learning processes of strategy development and planning.

10.2. Whether more suitable solutions are found using these kinds of approaches can be discussed only in terms of the context in which they are applied.

10.3. No matter which approach is chosen, it will be perceived in different ways leaving parts of the problem situation unsolved or outside the scope of the methodology.

10.4. However, rational, conscious actions are not enough, experience, intuition, creativity, and subjectivity are other ingredients needed in the process.

10.5. Practice has shown that, after some applications the learning process will develop into a situation where the group does not need a facilitator any longer and it has developed its own methodology on the basis of their experiences.

11. References

11.1. Ackoff, R.L. (1974): Redesigning the Future – A Systems Approach to Societal Problems. John Wiley & Sons, New York.

11.2. Borges, P., Sørensen, L. and Vidal, R.V.V. (1997): Strategy, Planning, Multicriteria. Why? How? For what? The Institute of Mathematical Modelling, The Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby.

11.3. Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B. and Lampel, J. (1998): Strategy Safari: a Guided Tour Through the Wilds of Strategic Management. The Free Press, NY.

11.4. Rosenhead, J. (1996): What’s the Problem? An Introduction to Problem Structuring Methods

11.5. Sørensen, L. T., & Valqui Vidal, R. V. (2008). Evaluating six soft approaches. Economic Analysis Working Papers, 7(9).