March 18, 2023

A Continuing Case for Building A Human-Centered Strategy

The SOAR framework focuses on institutional strengths. It is a shift from the traditional SWOT analysis where we reframe weaknesses and threats as Opportunities that generate positivity. Leaders benefit from creating positive energizers by enabling optimistic relationships during strategic planning.

As a thought leader, author, educator, and consultant on humanist manufacturing, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.

Picking Back Up

We began to explore building a human-centered strategy last week. First, there was content on a typical strategy practice and my thoughts on barriers to adopting a human-centered approach.  Then, we looked at call for humanism made since the days of Carvaka, Confucius, Gautama, and Socrates.  I then made a brief introduction to the SOAR framework. This week we will introduce the power of positivity as an essential aspect of developing a human-centered strategy.  

The SOAR Framework

SOAR is an acronym for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results.  A definition is "a strategic thinking, planning, conversations, and leading framework." This approach integrates Appreciative Inquiry (AI) with a strategic planning framework to create a transformational process that inspires organizations to SOAR.  The SOAR framework for strategic inquiry and decision-making uses AI to bring stakeholder dialogue into strategic planning.  SOAR accelerates the strategic planning efforts of an organization by focusing directly on those elements that will give life energy to the future and the organization's people.  It is made explicit by positive dialogue between and among these groups of stakeholders.  

Focusing on Institutional Strengths

The SOAR framework focuses on institutional strengths. It is a shift from the traditional SWOT analysis where we do not ignore weaknesses and threats but reframe them as Opportunities. SOAR uses a positive lens to understand the whole system by including all relevant stakeholders as internal and external voices of the organization. A simple change in perspective that I have found leads to a deeper level of stakeholder engagement and buy-in.  I regularly witnessed participants come to the planning session with folded arms and a "why do I have to be here" look on their faces. However, a significant transformation occurred as they began to lean in and enthusiastically participate in the first few hours of the planning session.

"Change your thoughts, and you can change your world." –Norman Vincent Peale
Mounting Evidence for Positivity

What I have experienced in my work aligns with the advice of Peale and the growing research findings. Therefore, I encourage leaders looking for extraordinary performance from their company to approach the work by leading positively.  Cameron and Wooten of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business developed four positive leadership strategies to include:

1. Enabling positive relationships – Leaders benefit from creating positive energy through facilitation and modeling positivity.  The work includes diagnosing and building energy networks by identifying positive energizers. Then, they are supported and rewarded for tasks or filling roles for interaction, coaching, and mentoring others to expand the desired energy networks. The result is stronger interpersonal relationships, leading to deeper coordination and cooperation through efficient relationships, resulting in higher levels of individual and organizational performance.

2. Enabling a best-self feedback process – Positive reinforcement will see heightened relationships with higher cohesion and mutual support. Again, results should focus on the highest talents and capabilities of the employees in their areas of responsibility.

3. Enabling positive communication – Affirmative and supportive language becomes the norm to replace a negative and critical focus as the single key factor for achieving tremendous organizational success. A study of top management teams discovered they engaged in a 5.6 to 1 ratio of favorable to unfavorable statements. Those with average performance had a ratio of 1.85 to 1, and poor-performing teams came in at a .36 to 1 ratio – a culture of negativity that yielded negative results.

4. Enabling positive meaning – Establishing a culture where people feel a profound purpose positively impacts employees by reducing absenteeism, depression, dissatisfaction, and turnover. Focusing on the positive, further increases commitment, effort, empowerment, engagement, fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction. Those seeking employment with a purpose seek a calling to do a greater good.

The power of positivity is genuine. The evidence is compelling in scientific studies. Also, in my experiences, those I have seen first-hand as a plant manager and while leading strategy sessions in various settings.  Given the many benefits of adopting a positive perspective, it makes sense to do so during strategic planning.

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Key Takeaway

The SOAR framework focuses on institutional strengths.  It is a shift from the traditional SWOT analysis where we reframe weaknesses and threats as Opportunities that generate positivity.  Leaders benefit from creating positive energizers by enabling optimistic relationships during strategic planning.  

First Step

I encourage those with skepticism about the power of positivity to view the short Positive Leadership video.  Dr. Kim Cameron introduces the heliotropic effect: "Every living system has a tendency toward that which is life-giving and away from that which is life-depleting." As Cameron states, "it makes sense."

My Gratitude

I am grateful for the work of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  The result of twenty years of impact begun by co-founders Dr. Kim Cameron and Dr. Jane Dutton is significant.  The center's work around positive organizational scholarship is vital in developing a research-based platform for why leaders should develop positive relationships across their organizations.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will dig deeper into the Appreciative Inquiry foundation of the SOAR framework essential to the transition to humanist manufacturing.  

Additional Information  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit

I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations.  The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers.  You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.

I invite you to join the Humanist Manufacturing Group on LinkedIn if you want to interact with others interested in the topic.

If you like what you have read, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.

See my virtual TEDx videos at Reinventing the Prison Industrial Complex and Humanist Manufacturing.

Feel free to sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Avamotive on Pexels

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