I recently participated in the international OD (=Organizational Development) – Summit 2013 of Assumption University in Bangkok. The summit was centered around SOAR, a framework which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Although I had previous experience in using SOAR for strategy development, I used this opportunity to learn first hand from Dr. Jacqueline Stavros, Lawrence Technological University, Michigan, the original developer of the SOAR methodology.
You may be very familiar with SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) which is predominantly an analytical tool that is used in organizations all over the world. Although SWOT is a simple and widely accepted tool, there comes a certain danger with it. While doing the SWOT analysis, people often focus too much on the weaknesses and the threats leading to too much of a negative sentiment. SOAR, however, typically brings people in an uplifting mood.
The SOAR framework is mainly applied for strategy development and for strategic planning. It is a strengths-based approach with appreciative inquiry (http://www.thecareguys.com/2009/12/05/developing-an-appreciative-eye/) at the heart of the process. SOAR creates widespread engagement throughout the organization. It enhances relationships, connects all stakeholders and aligns vision to action.
Questions asked in the SOAR – process include:
1. What are our Strengths? What can we build on?
2. What are the Opportunities? What are our stakeholders asking for?
3. What do we Aspire to? What do we care deeply about?
4. What Results do we want? How will we know we are succeeding?
SOAR is an inclusive approach. While in a traditional strategy development session often only members of the senior leadership team are involved, with SOAR all stakeholders are part of the process. Representatives from all hierarchical levels of the organization are participating along with other stakeholders like customers, suppliers and society.
The result of the involvement of all stakeholders in the process are a shared vision and a shared strategy that have been co-created. Alignment across one’s organization is achieved. Getting people involved and making their voices heard creates enthusiasm and momentum in the organization.
One of my favourite quotes comes from John Maxwell, the American leadership guru, who says: “Managers solve problems; leaders create momentum.” SOAR is a great approach to organizational change to create momentum, a key leadership challenge that, from my observation, leaders often struggle to master.
I suggest that you give a try to SOAR in your next strategic development process. I myself will use SOAR with the NGO Raks Thai Foundation / CARE Thailand, to help them to develop their corporate strategy.