Traditional approaches to strategy development begin with a “SWOT” analysis, a thorough examination of internal Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as external Opportunities and Threats. By exploring the weaknesses and threats, however, organizations often spend more time examining the past (and what’s broken) versus looking forward. This narrows the focus around what isn’t desired, carrying little momentum to inspire innovative ideas around desired outcomes for the future.
In contrast, the appreciative inquiry process uses a SOAR analysis, an environmental scan around key Strengths and Opportunities, but with an intentional focus on Aspirations and Results – outcomes most desired that propel strategic visions forward – and with results-driven clarity so “we know it when we see it”. SOAR engenders a spirit of inquiry (openness to what can and should be) and inclusion (engaging key stakeholders in a manner that enriches buy-in and ownership of the way forward). This collaborative, asset-based and future-focused approach allows people to tap into strengths, affirm core principles for success, and explore still greater possibilities—opportunities for improvement. The result: innovative ideas for moving forward; decisions grounded by participants’ proven, positive past; and the seeding of new ideas informed by strengths, aspirations, and practical (yet bold) ideas for innovation. Pockets of cynicism and resistance are replaced by a renewed sense of possibility, shared commitment, and positive action.
Appreciative Inquiry Process
- Hold Listening Sessions. These workshops are intended to engage stakeholders in SOAR analysis through conversations with individuals from various sectors. Ideally, each workshop would have several different types of stakeholders in order to foster more idea generation. At the end of each workshop, the Alliance will synthesize key themes from the discussion. Click here to see the listening session schedule.
- Host a Strategy Retreat. The strategy retreat builds on the themes developed in the listening tour strategy workshops. The goal of the retreat is to engage a diverse group of stakeholders in developing strategic goals and commitments that can guide the Alliance’s strategic thinking and decision making. The outcome of the strategy retreat will be a living strategy that can be translated to a strategic plan.
- Draft Strategic Plan. Using the report from the strategy retreat, the Alliance will draft a strategic plan. This plan will be shared with Leadership Alliance coordinators for feedback before it is finalized.
- Share Final Strategic Plan. The final strategic plan will be reviewed at the Fall 2019 Business meeting. The Executive Office will present the goals, key initiatives, and measure outlined in the strategic plan to coordinators.