As we wrap up our conversation on strategies leaders can use to articulate vision and mission, I think we would be remiss not to mention a helpful planning tool that can be used to build stakeholder engagement and in many ways, do what DeeAnne mentioned in her last blog, “go slow to go fast.” Most leaders are familiar with the time-tested method of conducting a SWOT analysis to begin planning efforts and set a vision and mission for their organizations. It’s been around for more than 50 years and has helped leaders identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
However, research and recent experience shows us that focusing on the strengths of individuals and organizations is often more powerful and effective than dwelling on deficiencies. A newer approach to strategic planning, based in Appreciative Inquiry, is called SOAR. SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. The SOAR approach to strategic planning starts with a strategic inquiry phase, and includes discovery and exploration of the organization’s strengths and opportunities. Participants then share and generate their aspirations and co-create a shared vision for the future, along with identifying measurable results that can serve as agreed-upon milestones.
Here are some questions that are asked in the SOAR process:
- What are our greatest strengths?
- What are our best opportunities?
- What is our preferred future?
- What are the measurable results that’ll tell us we’ve achieved that preferred future?
One primary advantage to using SOAR is that it involves many stakeholders at different levels throughout an organization. SWOT analyses have traditionally involved only senior-level leaders in strategic planning. The idea behind SOAR is to get an all-inclusive view to the strategic planning process that aligns strengths with opportunities, aspirations and desired results. Resistance to change is often minimized, through broad involvement and buy-in. With greater ownership among stakeholders, there’s an increased commitment to turn the goals into action.
While SWOT spends half of its focus on what might go wrong, SOAR spends 100% of the focus on creating future positive outcomes. The shift from problem solving to opportunity finding is a subtle one, but can have dramatic positive results for an organization and its people. For more on SOAR consider the Thin Book of SOAR and for more on appreciative inquiry consider the Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry.
For those of you who have used the SOAR process, what has been your experience?