Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SOAR Without SWOTs

Frequently I tell people (including the grad students I teach) that strategy can be done well in many different ways.  Certainly, I prefer the Mission Impact approach, but there are a lot of great methodologies out there that can work for organizations.

One interesting approach is S.O.A.R., which you can read more about it at this link.  S.O.A.R. stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results.  In this model, stakeholders are engaged to identify Strengths and Opportunities which then lead to the creation of Aspirations and desired Results.


S.O.A.R. which has its basis in Appreciative Inquiry, which is defined by the S.O.A.R. authors as “a philosophy and organizational change approach that builds on strengths and what is called the life-giving forces of the organization’s existence, its positive core.”*

While they do not include Weaknesses and Threats in their acronym, they are not left out.  The authors add: “Weaknesses and threats are not ignored. They are reframed and given the appropriate focus within the opportunities and results conversations. Ultimately it becomes a question of balance. Why not spend as much time or more on what you do well and how you can strengthen a strategic advantage? What gives you more energy to take action? What gives you confidence to set a stretch goal and achieve results?”*

S.O.A.R. leverages a 5-I Approach which asks the following questions:

Initiate: How shall we work together?

Inquire: What are our strengths and opportunities?

Imagine: What can we aspire to?

Innovate: What can we create to achieve our aspirations?

Inspire to Implement: How do we move forward to achieve our goals?

Answering these questions then provides a roadmap forward for the organization to implement its strategy.  If you like this basic description then think about ordering the book (it’s a quick read) and SOAR on to enhanced Mission Impact!

*Stavros, J.M. & G. Hinrichs. The Thin Book of SOAR, Thin Book Publishing, Bend, OR, 2009.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

“Do More with Less???”

Can we find out who invented that phrase?  – “Do More with Less.” How crazy! I want to have a talk with him (I am sure it was a him.)

Don’t get me wrong – I am all in favor of efficiency.  And, if in pursuit of a new process to accomplish a goal you end up inventing a way to do more with less, then great.  Even setting that as an inspiring goal could be a super idea.

But that is not how “Let’s do more with less” usually gets discussed.  It gets discussed as a “spin” on a situation where more is needed, but resources have been cut.  So some brilliant “leader” tries to inspire their team with “Let’s do more with less!” 

The problem is that it often happens to people who are already under-resourced and overworked.  So it wears thin quickly.  If you find yourself in a really tough situation where resources have been surprisingly cut and you really must “do more with less” – then don’t try to put a positive spin on it.  A chocolate covered cowpie is still a cowpie.  

Be straight with your team, e.g., “we have been dealt a tough hand and we need to make the best of it.”  Yes, it does provide an opportunity to try to be creative.  But here’s the thing – don’t try to make it your new culture.  Do your best to lower the need for “more” and redouble your efforts to get additional resources.  Otherwise, you will encourage burnout and your best people will go to an organization where they “Do More with More” – how’s that for a slogan!

Resource challenges occur in good times and in bad; they are a part of any organization’s life.  The key is engaging the situation proactively and working through it with a positive attitude – without making it the “new normal.”

P.S. For a fun Dilbert “spin” on “More with Less,” see here.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Good vs Great

One of the primary roles of a leader is to focus their team or organization on the most important goals and issues that will lead to high performance.  This is no small feat.  It requires strategic thinking and great discipline.

Any organization has many improvements it "could" make in its operations.  But there is only so much time and are only so many resources.

Leaders need to make sure that they and their organizations are not distracted by working on operational improvements at which they may already be doing “good enough.” Some improvements are not going to get you very far – in a strategic sense.

The key is selecting strategic areas of improvement where you are good – but can become great, maybe even fantastic.  If being fantastic in that area will lead to overall long term success, then that is the place to focus.

You can't accept mediocrity, but you cannot be great at everything either.  One of the most important things leaders can do is to say “no” to certain proposals – while pointing the team toward the strategic initiatives that will be the priority.  What do you need to say “no” to today?

Management guru Jim Collins* once said that “Good is the enemy of great,” and this is true in many ways.

The road to organizational excellence for enhanced Mission Impact is not an easy one – which is why so few find the destination successfully.  Focused leadership on matters of strategic importance is key.

*Good to Great, Jim Collins, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Our Mom’s Legacy: Love & Duty

Our Mom passed away last week, and since then I have been reflecting on her amazing life.  We will have a memorial service for her in a few weeks at which we will hear wonderful stories from others about the difference she made on the planet during her eighty-six years here.

To me, a good part of her legacy can be summed up in two important words: Love & Duty.

Mom was also a Pittsburgh Pirates fan!
Mom had great Love for her family – her parents, brother, kids, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and more.  She had great Love for her friends, for her Church & God, for various organizations she belonged to (e.g., PEO), for the community, and for her fellow man/woman.

Mom expressed her Love in a wide variety of ways.  But one thing is for sure.  To Mom, once you have Love for someone or some thing, then there is a Duty involved in carrying out that Love.

For my three siblings and me this meant the kind of devotion that many other kids have also been blessed to experience.  Her active participation with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, swim meets, softball games, baseball games, etc., etc., etc. meant a lot to us.  She demonstrated that same devotion to her extended family and friends.

But Mom also took it a step further.  Once she retired as a Nurse, she carried out her Love for others with a Duty to serve.  This turned her into an amazing volunteer.  Locally she was active in Hospice and the Church and the Red Cross and more.  Her Red Cross Duty also took her across the country.  She served others during floods, after terrible airline crashes, helped rebuild homes after Katrina, and went twice to Ground Zero after 9/11.

And for Mom, Duty is all about doing what you say you are going to do, doing it well, and doing it on time.  It sounds simple, but what would our organizations look like if every person actually did what they said they were going to do, did it well, and did it on time?  Transformational!

Just Do It – carry out your Duty like Mom!

Thanks for the great example Mom – we love you and miss you.  


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Be a Flexible Optimist

THE IDEA:  While optimism is a very helpful attitude for success, research shows that it needs to tempered at times.

The field of positive psychology, with leaders like Dr. Martin Seligman, has demonstrated that an optimistic attitude can lead to higher levels of success for people in a wide variety of activities.  In fact, Seligman and others have developed training programs that can actually help people become more optimistic and successful.

But can optimism go too far

Yes. And this is where “flexible optimism” – a term Seligman invented – comes in.

Essentially, the most successful optimists understand they need to be careful when they are pursuing a big goal with a lot of risks.  They talk with others – especially natural pessimists – to see what risks others see in the potential course of action.  Then, either they decide not to pursue that course of action or they go into it well informed – and prepared to handle possible setbacks.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was pursuing a risky goal.  Things were not looking good as he got very close to the deadline and I asked him, “What are your back-up plans if this does not work out?”  His response: “Failure is not an option.” 

On one hand, I appreciate that attitude.  But, in this case, he did fail.  And then he and his team needed to scramble to figure out what to do while they were very stressed out.  Their response to the setback would have been much more effective if they had time to calmly think through their options before the panic of the failure was upon them.

Once we take the time to carefully assess the risk of a goal we may dial back our ambition.  Or we may go for it – fully informed and prepared to live with the consequences of not making it all the way.

Acrobats who perform death defying high wire acts without a net may provide more thrills for audiences, but the ones who use nets live longer.  The same is true for leaders who want to make a Mission Impact.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.