New book from LTU business prof updates unique strategic planning tool
July 18, 2019
A Lawrence Technological University business professor has released a new edition of a book that outlines a novel framework for strategic thinking, planning, and leadership at all levels of organizations.
The second edition of “The Thin Book of SOAR: Creating Strategy that Inspires Innovation and Engagement,” the book outlines a framework for “Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results,” or SOAR, analysis—a method of creating strategic plans through shared conversations, collaboration, and commitment to action by all stakeholders.
The framework was developed by LTU Professor Jacqueline Stavros. It has been used by individuals, teams, entrepreneurs, and business leaders in for-profit, non-profit, and government organizations throughout the world.
This tool differs from the commonly used SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. SOAR engages all levels and functional areas of an organization, while SWOT is typically a top-down approach. With SOAR, the focus is on the leveraging strengths and identifying opportunities that support stakeholders’ aspirations. Strategy and strategic plans go beyond the conversations of senior leaders to include other stakeholders that can be inside or outside the organization. Those conversations center on:
- What are our dynamic capabilities?
- How do our values, vision, and mission align to strategy that best serves customers?
- What are our profitable opportunities, such as new markets or innovations?
- What are the strategic initiatives that leverage those strengths and opportunities?
- What changes must be made in processes, structures, culture, or systems to succeed?
- What are the measurable results that will tell us we’ve achieved that vision of the future?
Stavros says the SOAR approach is effective because it engages representatives from every level of the organization to have shared conversations and input on strategy and strategic planning. Resistance to change is thus minimized, and employees are more likely to commit to goals and objectives they helped create. She also says the approach is flexible and scalable, so planning and decision making can be adjusted to fit an organization’s needs and culture. Finally, she says, an approach that builds on the organization’s strengths produces greater results than spending time trying to correct weaknesses.
Stavros and co-author Gina Hinrichs, a Chicago organizational change consultant, published the first edition of “The Thin Book of SOAR” in 2009. She said the new edition contains research and proven results to support SOAR-based strategic conversations that produce innovation and engagement. The second edition has new stories, new research, and a new chapter on applying SOAR at multiple levels, from the strategy of the self to the strategy of entire organizations. To learn more about SOAR and the book, visit www.soar-strategy.com.
“The second edition has all the feedback we have that SOAR is useful for creating a strategy for one’s life, one’s team, one’s department, and one’s organization, and that there needs to be alignment between all of those,” Stavros said. “We’ve learned that strategy goes beyond senior leadership and must include all levels of the organization.”
Several business and organizational leaders praised the book after reading advance copies. LTU President Emeritus Richard Marburger noted that “We continue to learn in this book why SOAR is distinguished from traditional strategic planning approaches due to its generative nature and the inclusion of stakeholders ... I am struck by the immense scope of the usefulness of SOAR to organizations of all descriptions, and particularly to business, industry, and education.” Andreas Reger, an LTU alumnus who is now general manager and CEO for North America of the Austrian plastic packaging maker ALPLA Group, said that “after 20 years of doing strategic planning and turnaround management, this book profoundly changed how I approach these situations.” And Karen Buhler, a doctor with the Department of Family Medicine at British Columbia Women’s Hospital, said that “our hospital learned how to use the Quick SOAR presented in the book and it exceeded our expectations. Not only was it an efficient planning tool, it was inclusive, engaging, flexible, and adaptable. It was also fun and inspiring. How many hospital meetings achieve that?”Stavros has 25 years of experience in strategic planning, marketing, and organization development and change consulting in the United States and overseas. She joined LTU as an adjunct professor in 1997 and began teaching full-time in 2000. She has co-authored six books, 20 book chapters, and 30 scholarly articles. She has made nearly 150 invited presentations for corporations, organizations, and management groups in more than 25 countries. Her industry work includes manufacturing, automotive, banking, technology, education, healthcare, government, and professional services. Her education includes a Bachelor of Arts in marketing from Wayne State University, an MBA in international business from Michigan State University, and a Doctorate of Management from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.