Are you SWOTing flies or SOARing with eagles?

It is that time of the year that Healthcare leaders are examining goals based on their 2016 strategic plan.

Hopefully the strategic plan has been a living document and did not have to be dusted off much for a look see.

Flipping through the strategic plan for most organizations it is a strong reminder of the SWOT analysis, (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) that was assessed and labored over for days by senior leaders and board members. Typically this is the way we develop the organization’s roadmap or strategic plan, goals and tactical strategies for the next 3 years.

Although the organizational strengths and opportunities are clearly stated, what stands out is the negative part of the process. The haunting organizational weaknesses that seem to basically repeat themselves year after year and the threats from those marketplace competitors, and all the what-ifs that are looming over the organization.

The Power of the Negative

The memorable takeaways I recall are the negative emotions from discussions of weaknesses and threats, such as fear and anxiety that seem to resonate silently among leaders and respected board members. The takeaways largely fall in the weakness and threat categories, rather than what was determined to be good or great about the organization. Human nature creeps in and the negative feelings can easily take over.

In fact, what would we do as leaders if we could not talk about our weaknesses and we did not have the competition to blame others or competitors when things do not go the way we felt they should. Eliminating threats is no fun if we have to give up the victim mentality. Of course I may be exaggerating and I am being facetious.

But to be honest, when it came time to perform a SWOT analysis I felt it conflicted with my my positive passion for development and growth. In fact, just the thought of doing another SWOT analysis made me feel depressed. I did not like the time spent on weaknesses and threats and felt time would be more wisely spent discussing strengths and aspirations

The Organizational Narrative

When we focus on negative attributes such as weaknesses and threats, there is just no way to circumvent the negative emotional roller coaster it brings. Discussing weak attributes can creep into our organizational narrative and easily begin to define it. Discussing threats to an organization – whether real or perceived – it may lead to fear, anxiety, potential hopelessness, even loss of control. In fact these factors tear down instead of build up an organization.

The purpose of strategic planning is to develop an organization in well thought out planned manner.
In leadership, I have participated in board retreats and many days in off campus meetings with board members, senior leaders, contracted expert strategic planning consultants or facilitators to walk away with feelings of how do we make our self not have any weaknesses and how do we beat our competition. Sound like a superhero organization mentality.

Please do misunderstand that I believe in self-reflection and the value of it for an organization. But there has to be a better way. SWOT analysis for strategic planning raise a number of concerns.

Negative Products of SWOT Analysis:

  1. A feeling of “never measuring up”
  2. A win-lose mindset
  3. Energy drain from focusing on negative attributes
  4. Negative thinking
  5. Depressed innovation
  6. Decreased creative thinking
  7. Time wasted on unavoidable elements, instead of improvable elements
    Energy and attention sent outward from the organization instead of inward
    Strategic planning is 50% negative instead of 95-100 % positive

SWOT in Healthcare

In addition to these negative elements created by SWOT Analysis that affect organizations in any industry, additional problems arise when SWOT is applied in a healthcare setting. SWOT Analysis does not support the integrated collaborative medical model of modern healthcare.

My belief is just as individuals have specific unique strengths so do organizations. A person cannot be all things to all people and neither can an organization. But any organization can be their BEST.

 Strategic Planning for 21st Century Healthcare Leadership

In my extensive experience, the SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) strategic planning, methodology developed by Appreciative Inquiry is much better-suited for healthcare strategic planning for 21st century healthcare leadership.

We begin by focusing on the organization can we do well – identifying organizational strengths. That element is then supported by identifying opportunities in which to best utilize the strengths in order to achieve the organization’s aspirations. Proceeding in this way establishes results and outcomes through positive momentum.

Making SOAR Succeed

I recommend that all colleagues be involved or represented from all areas of the organization be involved alongside leadership and patients when executing SOAR strategic planning. Any organizational perspective or information left untapped will weaken the plan produced.
Healthcare colleagues who participate in the SOAR strategic planning process will feel ownership of the deliverables from having input into the positive planning process. This is the difference maker for organizational development and change.

An Internal Focus

SOAR focuses inside the organization to maximize strengths and avoids the trap of wasting energy on things outside the organization that is not within control. It builds positive momentum and collaborative team mentality.

The Thin Book of SOAR, Stavros & Hinrichs

Learn More About SOAR

I highly recommend that you purchase The Thin Book on SOAR Strategic Planning by Jacqueline M. Stavros and Gina Hinrichs. You can use this valuable resource to provide a new approach to strategic planning for your organization.

It is time to put our talons into weaknesses and threats and SOAR as EAGLES with our wonderful strengths, opportunities, and aspirations – always aspiring and flying higher for our desired results.

SOAR with the EAGLES in 2016!

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