Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 781–803 | Cite as

A Comparison of Group Model Building and Strategic Options Development and Analysis

  • Etienne RouwetteEmail author
  • Ingrid Bastings
  • Hans Blokker


A distinctive tradition within group decision support uses models to structure managerial problems. In this tradition, stakeholders jointly construct a model on their issue of concern in facilitated workshops. In the past decades a wide variety of theoretical insights into and techniques for model-based decision support have been proposed and tested in practical applications. Methods are designed and used by experts; guidelines on their use are not completely spelled out in the literature. This lack of transparency may lead to difficulties in showing the value of methods to researchers in other fields, limit transferability of methods and complicate recombining elements of methods into a multimethodology. In this paper we aim to contribute to transparency by contrasting two model-driven methods: group model building (GMB) and Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA). We first develop a framework for comparing methods on a theoretical and practical level. Second, we describe the separate use of each approach, on one and the same issue, with a similar group of participants. By contrasting the choices made in a practical application we clarify process and results in different phases of problem analysis. Our conclusion is that theoretical assumptions of both approaches are more similar than expected. Each method captures different aspects of the problem and in this sense methods may supplement one another: where SODA focuses on the future and identification of actions, GMB aims to create insight into the relation between (past) behavior and structure of the problem. In choosing which element of the methods to use, it is important to realize that each element strikes a particular balance between costs (e.g. time taken from participants or modelers) and benefits (e.g. level of involvement or model verification). For instance, some elements speed up the process but do so at the cost of lowering participants’ involvement. A practical combination of elements of GMB and SODA thus requires the user to assess the relative importance of insight and action as project deliverables, weigh costs and benefits of elements of either method and string these together in a logical sequence that creates the outcomes required.


Problem structuring methods Group model building SODA Evaluation System dynamics Facilitation Facilitated modeling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Etienne Rouwette
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ingrid Bastings
    • 2
  • Hans Blokker
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Management ResearchRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.TNODelftThe Netherlands

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