Can SOAR’ing Improve Governance?

This week in our Shaping Governance Appreciative Saturday Series, I'm going to focus on a tool that I use all of the time when I need to do a bit of thinking or solution development.

But first, let's think about being appreciative. As an improvement approach, 'appreciative' planning stems from the early work of David Cooperider in the 1980s, which led to the development of Appreciative Inquiry.  Appreciative Inquiry is now a well-known tool used by Community Development professionals to improve communities and improve health equity.   Despite its popularity, it is still unknown in the world of Governance, scrutiny and challenge - they almost seem poles apart! Can you challenge appreciatively?

Being Appreciative is:

  • Positive: solution-focused instead of focusing on challenges and problems;
  • Appreciative: looking for the good and building on what works well;
  • Grounded in practice: uncovering actual success stories;
  • Challenging: inviting people to take some risks and imagine a better future;
  • Inclusive: involving and valuing all contributions in an engaging and non-threatening manner.
  • Impactful: learning, sharing and improving practice from the outset.

There are many tools available to help you to think things through.

The traditional and commonly used SWOT analysis is one (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).  However, here at Shaping Governance, weaknesses and threats are not in the vocabulary! I am a glass-half-full person, so thinking about weaknesses and threats can put me in a bad mood!

As a lover of all things appreciative, I like to SOAR - Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

It's a tool that helps you put a positive lens to your thinking and is an excellent way to review areas you need to focus on rapidly.  SOAR was invented by Jacqueline Stavros, David Cooperrider & D. Lynn Kelley: SOAR A new approach to strategic planning, published in 2003.   So SOAR was, at the time, seen as a new approach to strategic planning that helped you to focus on your aspirations and the goals that you want to achieve.

Personally, I use it every day.  I also used it to create Shaping Governance, where it helped me create a governance improvement tool that was appreciative of governors time and effective in growing their confidence.  Shaping Governance is now in its 5th successful year, used by 100s of schools.

Besides using it for major developments, I use it when I need to think or plan, helping me to change my thought process, and now I rarely focus on the negatives.  There is always something good to focus on.

So the principle of SOAR'ing, is that by removing the 'Threats' and 'Weaknesses' from conversations, you can yield better results.

Being a school governor is a challenging but rewarding role, giving people the opportunity to benefit their local community, and a chance to make a real difference to outcomes for children and young people. Today's governor manages complex situations and challenges and makes tough decisions, to ensure that they carry out their core purpose - to provide a good education for children

I think that SOAR'ing really can help to improve the quality of discussions at the board table.  Next time your Board has something that it needs to think through, try being appreciative: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results - and let your school SOAR for its pupils.

Posted in Shaping Governance.