A Positive and Fun Approach to Strategic Planning

A Positive and Fun Approach to Strategic Planning

SOAR“Even the words 'strategic planning' leave me cold,” admitted a clergy person to me recently.  “I’m not trained in business practices, and besides, it seems so disconnected from anything spiritual.”

I hear this confession frequently.  Clergy are not usually trained in strategic planning, but they know their congregations need practical ways to move into the future.  Where do they turn for help?

In the past many congregational leaders have relied on the strategic planning model known as S.W.O.T.  (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).  Using this grid, a small group of leaders list the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing their congregation. Then they choose two or three issues that seem most urgent and design a plan to address them.  The next step is to share this information with the congregation as a whole.

Authors Jacqueline M. Stavros and Gina Hinrichs propose a different approach to strategic planning.  In their booklet, SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy, they describe a model that focuses on strengths and involves the entire organization. SOAR is an acronym for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results.

Instead of looking at weakness and threats, they ask: “What is the organization doing right?  What skills could be enhanced?  What is compelling to those who have a stake in the organization’s success?” - S or Strengths.

SOAR addresses “threats” by reframing them as opportunities.  The SOAR approach asks: “How do we collectively understand outside threats?  How can we reframe them to see the opportunity?” - O or Opportunities.

Building on the input of all possible stakeholders, SOAR asks: “Considering strength and opportunities, who should we become?  How do we allow our values to drive our vision?  How can we make a difference?” – A or Aspirations.

Finally, in order for change to happen, there must be action.  SOAR asks: “What are our measurable results?  What do we want to be known for? How do we translate strengths, opportunities and aspirations into something tangible?”  - R or Results.

This approach to strategic planning builds positive emotions across the organization and fosters creativity.  Through individual and whole group conversations, people experience joy, hope, inspiration and humor.  This provides the energy congregations need to move forward with enthusiasm and a “can do” spirit.  

A second wonderful aspect of the SOAR model is that it involves as many stakeholders as possible.  The more people involved in the plan, the more likely it will be done!

Spend an hour with this Positive Change approach to strategic planning, and you may be inspired.  To learn more go to  http://www.amazon.com/Thin-Book-Building-Strengths-Based-Strategy/dp/0982206801/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382381260&sr=1-3&keywords=SOAR.  

Katie Lindberg
Northwest Director