Over the last year, few models have impacted the way I conduct my work more than S.O.A.R.
Developed by Jacqueline Stavros and Gina Hinrichs, S.O.A.R. is a simple yet powerful tool for framing dialogues within organizations. A lot of us were trained long-ago in the use of S.W.O.T. analyses. In the latter, the discussion traditionally revolves around identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What I kept running into was that the dialogue got stuck in the weaknesses and threats, and I found it difficult to excite myself and the audience around the strengths and opportunities.
Then a consulting trip last year to Johannesburg, South Africa, changed my world. While there, I got to work with three amazing consultants whose work is based on Appreciative Inquiry: Anastasia Bukashe, Enrique Zaldivar, and Joep C de Jong. It was through them that I learned about S.O.A.R.
S.O.A.R. constructs a dialogue between people around Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. In this model, conversations about weaknesses and threats do come up but are immediately reframed into what opportunities, aspirations, and results they present – and that helps maintain the energy and conversation in the room future-oriented. It is easy to use and it can be applied in many settings.
For example, I have applied S.O.A.R. in strategic planning, goal setting, employee engagement efforts, coaching, and team building. I have even integrated it into my DISC and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshops.
A particular way I enjoy using the tool is to divide participants into smaller teams. I then ask for each of them to conduct their own S.O.A.R. analysis and report back to the larger group. During the at-large discussion we identify themes and synergies within the data. Lastly, we identify priority areas and commit to action. Participants have shared with me that they leave the room feeling energized by the dialogue and excited about their next steps for action.
The activity does not require any technology beyond flip-chart paper and markers, and for someone to facilitate the discussion. It is also flexible in terms of length, but it is best to leave plenty of room for meaningful dialogue within the small and large teams. If I feel fancy, I create a basic handout or slide like the one below as a guide for participants:
Note: I do customize the questions in each quadrant according to the specific needs of the work. However, I generally include the ones above.
I hope this information sparks new ideas for integrating S.O.A.R. into your work, and please feel free to share your successes and challenges in applying the model.
All the credit goes to Stavros and Hinrichs for the development of such a powerful tool, and I’m deeply thankful for all the information and resources they’ve made available on their website and The Thin Book of SOAR.
Posted by: Laiza Otero, MSOD, Organization Development Consultant