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.
The use of the SOAR framework to develop a human-centered strategy continues. Several recent have been to focus on an overview of the framework. Last week was an introduction to applying the SOAR framework to a human-centered strategy that begins with Strengths. The emphasis this week is on the Opportunities aspect of the framework.
SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) focuses on institutional strengths. SOAR is a strategic planning framework with the following:
• A process that focuses on strengths
• Seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of the relevant stakeholders
The focus on strengths means that the SOAR conversations can:
• Center on what an organization is doing right
• What skills could be enhanced
• What is compelling to those who have a 'stake' in the organization's success
SOAR uses a positive lens to understand the whole system by including all relevant stakeholders as internal and external voices of the organization.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston S. Churchill
Churchill's quote fits the concept of SOAR well. We began with a focus on strengths, reinforcing the positive perspective crucial to maximizing the ability of the team to realize an ideal future state of a human-centered organization. Furthermore, the shift from SWOT to SOAR is that weaknesses and threats are not ignored but reframed as Opportunities. A change in perspective that I have found leads to a deeper level of stakeholder engagement and buy-in. Using this shift in our conversations is simple in concept but a powerful one based on my experience in several settings and various industries.
In the imagine phase, stakeholders collectively explore known opportunities, hoping to discover more through stakeholder dialogue. This phase aims to have stakeholder input into opportunities to give consideration when developing short and long-term goals and creating the overall strategy. This phase also identifies the organization's shared value set, vision, and mission through opportunities for stakeholders to activate effective strategy formulation. The following questions are examples of questions to guide the Opportunities conversation:
• How do we make sense of opportunities provided by external forces and trends?
• What are the top three opportunities we should focus our efforts on?
• How can we best meet the needs of our stakeholders, including clients, customers, employees, shareholders, and the community?
• Who are possible new clients and customers?
• How can we distinctively differentiate ourselves from existing or potential competitors?
• What are potential new markets, products, services, or processes? How can we reframe challenges into exciting opportunities?
• Include those related to sustainability and regenerative business; what new skills do we need to move forward?
During this imagine phase, I encourage participants to close their eyes and visualize a work environment where they see the humanist commitments in action:
• Are employees fully invested in carrying out the company "Why"?
• Where are they doing the work?
• How are coworkers interacting with one another?
• Are they proud of their impact on their customers and the community?
• Is there joy throughout the company?
• Does work carry over into their personal lives in a positive manner?
• As shared in the first chapter's opening, are they excited to go to work each day to further benefit the world?
It is crucial to do extensive research to fully leverage our opportunities to understand our organizational challenges, industry sector, business in general, and society. My experience has been that participants limit themselves to what they currently know. An effective scan requires a comprehensive look at current and future forces, issues, and trends to flesh out opportunities fully.
Strategic planning work using the SOAR framework uses a strengths-based positive focus. However, the weaknesses and threats of the SWOT framework are not ignored but reframed as opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial to do extensive research to fully leverage our Opportunities to understand our organizational challenges, industry sector, business in general, and society.
Authors Jackie Stavros and Cherri Torres share that "Conversation is a crucial part of everything we do" is the basis of the book Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. The nature of conversations should be appreciative, achieved by using an inquiry-based approach to generate information and statement-based affirmative interactions with the intent to add value. The content of the book will guide how to reframe weaknesses and threats into Opportunities positively
I thank Jackie Stavros and Cherri Torres for their work in helping us shape "conversations worth having." In a world where most employees state that their organization is a poor communicator, this duo has guided to shape the types of dialogue necessary to transform companies significantly.
Next week's blog will review sample questions we ask in the Aspirations phase of the SOAR framework essential to the transition to humanist manufacturing.
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