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 writings have been to focus on an overview of the framework. Two weeks ago was an introduction to applying the SOAR framework to a human-centered strategy that begins with Strengths. Last week we continued with a focus on Opportunities. The emphasis this week is on the Aspirations aspect of the framework.
The SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) framework flips the script from the traditional deficit-based approach to strategy to one with a positive focus. Additionally, there is the inclusion of a wide variety of stakeholder representation across the organization, at all levels within the company, and includes external stakeholders. Those that utilize the framework as intended will see significant success with the whole system perspective that leaves no stakeholder stone unturned.
Inspiration follows aspiration. - Rabindranath Tagore
The quote by poet Rabindranath Tagore is not from a business strategist, but the person awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. However, his insight aligns with the power of the SOAR framework. It further aligns with Brené Brown's statement: "Many of us long to be part of something real." Imagine how you would feel if your employer asked you to share your aspirations for the organization. However, the approach goes against what many leaders were taught, where they instead try to manipulate people to achieve goals while ignoring them as human beings with similar aspirations, dreams, fears, and hopes. Rather, I suspect you would prefer to work for a leader who inspires you to achieve compelling organizational aspirations.
Aspirations emerge in the innovation phase with calls to co-construct the most preferred future. With these transformational factors considered collectively, organizations can create a new future and sustain a sense of commitment and urgency over a long period. This phase also involves the design of strategies and tactics to support the new business model. Examples of Aspiration questions include:
• When exploring our values and aspirations, "What are we deeply passionate about as an organization?"
• Reflecting on our Strengths and Opportunities conversations, who are we, who should we become, and where should we go?
• What is our most compelling aspiration?
• How does it align with our why, vision, mission, and values?
• Where does it align with the humanist commitments essential to achieving success from an environmental, financial, and social perspective?
• What strategic initiatives (i.e., projects, programs, and processes) support our aspirations?
Like guidance for brainstorming, the group should allow all participants to share their responses to all questions listing reactions on a flip chart. The exercise should be free-flowing and done without passing judgment during this initial phase. The objective is to gain an overall sense of what is essential to individuals in the group. Others may not have considered some thoughts that may emerge, yet once voiced, it creates an immediate consensus of being an aspirational element to adopt.
Asking for and aligning the Aspirations of the workforce inspires them to achieve levels of success atypical of conventional approaches to strategic planning. Leaders shift from looking to manipulate people to achieve goals while ignoring them as human beings. Instead, they must collectively embrace their employees' similar aspirations, dreams, fears, and hopes.
The value of integrating Aspirations into an organization's operations can be seen in the video Aspirations in Action: How CLIF Bar Feeds its Cultural Values. CLIF Bar has five aspirations: "Sustaining their Business, Brands, People, Community, and the Planet." An excellent example of developing Aspirations that compel the workforce to excel at all levels of the organization.
I thank the leadership of CLIF Bars for being an Aspirations exemplar. The results are that eighty-four percent of their employees rate the company as a great place to work. The number far exceeds fifty-seven percent of the typical company—one of a litany of other results where employees find CLIF Bar an employer of choice.
Next week's blog will review sample questions we ask in the last phase of the SOAR framework, Results, essential to the transition to humanist manufacturing.
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Cover Image Credit: Eric Sanman