Romer: Eagle County ready to SOAR into 2019 with strategic planning (column)
SOAR is a strategy formulation and planning framework that allows an organization to plan its future. The goal of a SOAR exercise is to provide a strategic thinking and dialog process. SOAR applications might include: strategy, strategic planning, team building, coaching, leadership development and strategic summits.
Strategy is fundamental to organizational performance. The traditional approach to strategic planning is SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). A SWOT analysis has some drawbacks; these may include inflation levels; changes in the price of materials; changes to government legislation; lack of sufficiently skilled labor; and in our mountain communities, the whims of Mother Nature.
SOAR maintains two of the four areas of analysis from SWOT; strengths and opportunities remain, but in this tool, weaknesses and threats are replaced with aspirations and results. Aspirations address what the company wants to be doing, who the company wants to serve and where the company will operate. In addition, results define the methods of identifying and tracking progress. Results are the means of ensuring progress is being made and the overall plan of the organization is being followed.
While these strategic planning exercises are similar, the SOAR exercise is reframed in a positive manner (aspirations and results) compared to a traditional SWOT (weaknesses and threats).
The local Economic Development Advisory Council tackled a SOAR exercise in 2018 to help identify and provide feedback to regional economic development efforts and community needs.
The council has two main responsibilities: Strategic feedback (provide feedback related to implementation of the economic development plan, focusing both on near-term and longer-term challenges and opportunities); and community commitment (steward the economic development effort by reinforcing the interdependency of the various communities and municipalities within the Vail Valley service region to position our community as not only a great place to live and work, but also a great place to do business).
Strengths are defined as “our greatest assets.” It is not surprising that Eagle County’s strengths were identified as our natural environment, location, recreation and cultural amenities, tourism and our people.
Opportunities can be defined as “how we might enhance our successes.” Building on our strengths, the group had strong consensus that Eagle County’s continued economic success depends upon improving our transit and transportation infrastructure, continuing and enhancing our regional collaboration and three themes that percolate to the top when talking community: housing, health care and child care.
Aspirations are “who do we want to be?” and “what is our preferred future?” Successes and opportunities are relatively easy to identify: Aspirations bring in different viewpoints and visions of what success means. The group identified valleywide alignment, regional cooperation and the idea of “we’re better together” as the desired future for Eagle County.
Results are, obviously, the “measurable results we want to see.” It is surprise that a group tasked with feedback on economic development would focus on positive economic outcomes (increased average wages, employee/citizen retention). The group also expressed a desire to measure and focus on quality of life issues (housing, health care, child care) and diversity (including diversity of jobs and of people).
The good news? Eagle County is prepared to SOAR into 2019. Our local towns, special districts and county all have strong leadership in place who are aligned with and believe in regional cooperation and collaboration. There is positive momentum on housing and health care through both private and public efforts, and our nonprofit community is strong, vibrant and are addressing community needs.
On behalf of the Vail Valley Partnership team, we hope your business SOARs in the same way our community is positioned to.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.