March 10, 2023

Building a Case for Human-Centered Strategy

A commonality I have seen in struggling companies is that the owners or leaders do not take a human-centered approach. However, calls to adopt humanism into business are not new. A way to ensure humanism in business is to invite all internal and external stakeholders to develop a mutually beneficial strategy.

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.

Dusting Off the Old One

My experience with company strategy is that it is either ignored or something where the executive team figuratively dusts off the one from last year.  They adjust a few numbers and dates and then send it back to cloud storage for another year.  The reasons why strategy lacks more substantial attention will vary by organization.  For example, employees know insufficient funds may exist to buy equipment, develop new products or services, or invest in needed technology.  My experience is that companies that are uncommitted or ineffective at strategic planning have been those in continual firefighting mode.  Another commonality is that the owners or leaders did not take a human-centered approach.

Barriers to Adopting a Human-Centered Approach

My deepening knowledge of the experiences of organizations that have successfully integrated a human-centered focus into their operations is that they are making a significant positive environmental and social impact. Still, they also realize improved financial results, with many seeing substantial improvement. So why are more manufacturing operations not implementing similar humanist initiatives if this is true?  My experience leads me to believe that the answer to the question is multifaceted and includes the following:

• Shareholder pressure to meet short-term results with minor or no accounting for long-term effects.

• Leaders who believe they are running their companies to current best business practices.

• Many companies are constantly fighting fires. As they fight one fire, others emerge. The focus would transition to the hottest fire while the embers of other issues continue to smolder, only to reignite later.

• Large customers expect their suppliers to significantly lower the costs of the products they purchase while also requiring them to take on work previously done by the customer without compensating them.

• Our higher education system has not evolved quickly enough in many cases to teach our emerging leaders what is known by successful human-centered practitioners. As a result, talented young leaders do not consider the impact they could have in using manufacturing as a force for good.  Instead, they set their sights on consulting businesses or government services. As a result, the industry primarily focuses on hiring from traditional employment pools.

• Deeply fractured local, regional, and national governments fail to provide necessary policy changes and support for human-centered manufacturing programs.

• In cases with a recognition that things need to change, a lack of knowledge exists about moving toward a more desirable human-centered future state.

My nearly 30 years of manufacturing experience was that what had to get done each day was all-consuming. I went home each day, knowing that much work still needed to be done. I suspect that this is what most people in the industry also experience. So how can we break through the above issues that prevent other companies from becoming more humanistic?

Injecting Humanism Into Strategy

Calls to inject humanism into business are not new, as found in the article Business Does Not Need the Humanities — But Humans Do.  Carvaka, Confucius, Gautama, and Socrates are just a few historical figures espousing humanism or humanistic thought.  What is different at this point is that we live in increasingly challenging times rampant with opportunities to make a significant difference in improving the well-being of others.  A way to ensure the integration of humanism in business is to invite all internal and external stakeholders to develop a mutually beneficial strategy.

The SOAR framework provides a flexible approach that invites internal and external stakeholders into strategic planning.  Using a whole-system perspective provides a complete picture of how an organization best serves its customers and what its future can become. – Jackie Stavros
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The SOAR Framework

The theory and practice of AI and SOAR or the call to bring humanism into your organizations are not new.  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 dialogue between and among these groups of stakeholders.  

To be continued next week…

Key Takeaway

A commonality I have seen in struggling companies is that the owners or leaders do not take a human-centered approach. However, calls to adopt humanism into business are not new.  A way to ensure humanism in business is to invite all internal and external stakeholders to develop a mutually beneficial strategy.

First Step

In this case, I am doing some self-promotion to recommend that those interested in injecting humanism into their work view my virtual TED Talk on Humanist Manufacturing.  I believe the video will provide an understanding of how we can make the workplace and beyond more human-centered.  Then, exploring using the SOAR framework to help with this objective may spark your thoughts on injecting humanism into your organization.  

My Gratitude

I am grateful to the TEDx Talk platform. Their work to share “ideas worth sharing” provides a grassroots opportunity for emerging thought leaders to bring their ideas to local communities.  Additionally, it has been a springboard for many voices to national and international prominence that might otherwise be unheard.  The American Idol of emerging innovative voices with business concepts worth adopting.

Sneak Peek

Next week’s blog will dig deeper into 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.

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.

You can sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: Alexandre Peregrino on Pexels

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