Ask and You Shall Receive

A beautiful reflection of one person’s spiritual (and physical) journey and transitions

Fired & Free

I was asked a good question the other day, “what on this trip has surprised you?”  Other than finding it possible to live with and around my kids for 24 hours a day, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how kind everyone we have come across has been.  Back in April, as we got ready to embark on this adventure, I heard a lot of concerns about safety.  Some were worried about the people we would come across at RV parks and some recommended that we take a gun or weapons for the open land.  Other than a run-in with a bear, the creatures we have met have been nothing short of wonderful.  We have met people from all over the US and the world, across all socioeconomic backgrounds, and spanning the political spectrum.  Maybe, we’re just incredibly lucky.  Maybe, we just bring out the best in people.  Or maybe, just…

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Teams Need a Vision to Guide Action

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the clarity of the vision and the sense of team within an organization interact with each other. To help me sort and structure my thoughts I created the matrix below.  It is based on my personal and professional experiences within organizations, and not any formal research.  However, it is undoubtedly influenced by many great thinkers in organization development studies.  In particular, the work of John Kotter, William Bridges, and Patrick Lencioni.

What are your experiences and/or thoughts regarding the organizational dynamics I present in the matrix?

Power of Vision and Team Orientation

Useful definitions:

  • Organizational vision: refers to the stated reason for “why” an organization exists, its purpose or reason for being
  • Team orientation:  the degree to which organizational members feel and act as a team

Additional thoughts I had about the four quadrants when writing them up:

  • Q1) Clear vision + Low team orientation
    • A network of people rather than a team.
  • Q2) Clear vision + High team orientation
    • Sports teams would be a good example of the characteristics and behaviors I associate with this quadrant.
  • Q3) Not Clear vision + Low team orientation
    • To be honest, this sounds like an organizational limbo to me where there is no sense of direction and it’s full of lost souls.
  • Q4) Not Clear vision + High team orientation
    • A place full of good intentions, no clear direction, and full of uncertainties.

By:  Laiza Otero, MSOD, Organization Development Consultant


How Melodic Are Your Vision and Mission Statements?

What does melody have to do with vision and mission statements? For me, quite a bit.

Merriam-Webster defines melody as 1) “a sweet or agreeable succession or arrangement of sounds” and 2) “a rhythmic succession of single tones organized as an aesthetic whole; a hummable melody.”  When I write – whether it be articles, essays, poems, or even client reports – I intentionally arrange my words and thoughts to construct a melody.  I strive for my words to be rhythmic, flow, and provide an experience for both my audience and me.

When I am called to help develop vision and mission statements, I do the same.  I recommend to clients to keep these statements simple and memorable. I want them to easily flow out of one’s mouth and inspire forward movement, to have a hummable quality to them.

Developing long, complicated statements that detail every single aspect of why, what, who, and how an organization exists and conducts its business should be anathema to leaders.  In my experience, the outcome of the latter approach results in very few people being able to recall the information when asked.  At best, they respond with an incredible set of disparate interpretations, which may point to a lack of a shared and unifying vision and strategy. When that happens, employees may find themselves disconnecting from the larger picture and turning to their specific areas (or silos) as the driving force of their work.  You can help prevent this from happening.

Next time you develop vision and mission statements, check their melody by asking yourself:

  • How memorable are these statements?
  • Are these the rights words for what we’re trying to say?
  • Are the words arranged in an “agreeable succession or arrangement of sounds?”
  • How do the words sound when spoken aloud?
  • How inspirational / motivational are they?
  • How will we keep these statements alive and present in our organization?

By:  Laiza Otero, MSOD, Organization Development Consultant

S.O.A.R. Into Results

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:

SOAR Matrix

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