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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

SOAR Analysis - A Positive Alternative To The SWOT Analysis

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

You are probably familiar with the SWOT analysis where a business or even an individual undertakes an internal and external analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. But are you looking for a more effective and positive way to analyse different options for your organisation? SOAR analysis is a tool that can help you realise the potential of your business and take it to the next level.


What is SOAR analysis?

SOAR is a powerful planning and problem-solving mechanism that helps you identify and assess the key elements that can help you reach your goals. The SOAR approach consists of four components:

  • Strengths: What advantages do you have that can help you achieve your goals? What can you build on?

  • Opportunities: What external factors present opportunities to help you reach your goals? What are your stakeholders asking for?

  • Aspirations: What short and long-term goals do you have? What do you care deeply about?

  • Results: What outcomes do you hope to achieve? How do you know you are succeeding?

Benefits of SOAR analysis

The SOAR approach helps you identify and assess the strengths of your organisation, recognise opportunities, set ambitious goals, measure results, and make informed decisions about how best to reach them.


SOAR is also beneficial because it encourages collaboration and can be used to bring together different perspectives from different levels of an organisation. By bringing diverse stakeholders together, SOAR analysis can help create a thorough and collective approach to opportunity identification.


How is it different to a SWOT analysis?

SOAR analysis is a technique for strategic planning that blends data concerning an organisation's present status with visions of its potential future. This differs from SWOT analysis in two main ways.


Firstly, SOAR incorporates the perspectives of personnel from all levels and departments within the organisation, while SWOT typically involves management only.


Secondly, SOAR is based on Appreciative Inquiry, a method that concentrates on what an organisation already excels in, and how to transform weaknesses and threats into opportunities. It is a strengths-based, positive approach to leadership development and organisational change.

SOAR helps to focus on:

  • What you are doing well

  • What can be improved

  • What is most important to key stakeholders

  • Developing strategic plans that are more dynamic, creative, and optimistic

The SOAR analysis process consists of four steps:


Step 1: Strengths - What can you build on?

Begin by discussing the internal advantages of your organisation with staff from different departments. These are the activities you are excelling at and the underlying elements of the organisation that support them.


The strengths of your business can be identified by assessing internal resources, capabilities, and assets, such as staff, technology, processes, and financial resources.


Analyse your strengths in comparison to those of your competitors. For instance, you may possess an excellent distribution network, but if every other business in your industry also has one, it's not a unique strength for you. Consider:

  • What advantages does the business have that put it ahead of its competitors?

  • What do you do better than anyone else?

  • What are you most proud of as an organisation? How does that reflect your greatest strength?

  • What is your proudest achievement in the last year or two?

  • What special resources or assets do you have that your rivals don't?

  • What do those outside of the organisation such as customers and competitors, view as your strengths?

  • What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

Come up with a comprehensive list then refine it to your top 6-10 strengths.


Note: SOAR can help to identify the strengths of a company, but it needs to be applied rigorously and with good business sense. Consider only data that is supported by evidence, not just opinions, or the results will be too ambiguous to be beneficial.


Step 2: Opportunities - What are your stakeholders asking for?

SOAR analysis can help you identify potential external opportunities to leverage. This includes assessing trends, market changes, and other factors that could create opportunities for your business. Identifying and assessing potential external opportunities is important because it helps you identify areas that you can capitalise on to make progress towards your goals.


Discuss your top 6-10 strongest qualities with people from a variety of departments. Note any new ideas that arise as well. For example, you could consider expanding into new regions, improving your products or services, or streamlining operations.


Circumstances may not always appear to be advantageous, but you may be able to adapt them to work in your favour. For example, could you exploit the strengths and weaknesses of your biggest competitor to your benefit? It is possible to provide a distinctive offering that it currently does not have?


Be aware that people may also highlight obstacles that could hinder the opportunities that you identify. Ensure you restate each difficulty into a potential positive so you can concentrate on accomplishing beneficial results, rather than just avoiding negative ones. Ensure you:

  • Detect new developments in your industry

  • Notice changes in your critical markets

  • Understand changes in the regulations or laws relevant to your industry

  • Capitalise on changes in consumer attitude and lifestyle

  • Understand how can you best meet the needs of your stakeholders, including customers, employees, shareholders, and the community

  • Reframe challenges to be seen as opportunities

  • Know what new skills you need to move forward

Go through your list of opportunities and arrange them in order of importance so that you are left with 6-10 that have the potential to be beneficial.


Step 3: Aspirations - What do you care deeply about?

The SOAR analysis process can help you set short or long-term ambitious goals such as increasing market share, launching a new product, or expanding into a new market.


When considering the future of your business, it's important to go beyond the ordinary and envision something incredible. Consider what you would like your organisation to be renowned for. Aim high and think outside the box.


Reflect on the best 6-10 strengths and opportunities. Which of these sparks enthusiasm and motivation? How can you expand on them even further? Is there anything else that hasn't been identified yet that you would be passionate about achieving?


Encourage people in the organisation to pose questions that begin with "what if… ?" to inspire their interest and innovative thinking. Ensure your organisation's objectives are strongly linked to its fundamental values. Ask:

  • What are the things that you are particularly passionate about?

  • Reflecting on strengths and opportunities, who are you, who should you become and where do you go in the future?

  • What kind of impact would you like to have on your primary stakeholders?

  • What activities, projects, processes or strategies could potentially help you reach your goals?

It is once more essential to refine and rank your list, allowing you to select the 6-10 most exciting and useful objectives to move ahead with in the next step.


Step 4: Results - How do you know you are succeeding?

The SOAR analysis process can help you measure the results. This involves tracking and measuring progress towards the goals and objectives you have set. Measuring results is important because it helps you assess the effectiveness of your strategies and make adjustments as needed.


It's an ideal opportunity to think of innovative ideas with everybody concerning the tangible improvements they hope to accomplish dependent on your examination so far. What would your business resemble when your best 6-10 goals and objectives are accomplished, and how might you understand that you have been successful in accomplishing them? Consider:

  • What meaningful measures would indicate that you are on track to achieving your goals?

  • What will be different when you reach your goal?

  • What elements of your organisation and its systems will be altered, and in what ways?

  • What resources are needed to implement vital projects?

  • What accomplishments do you want the business to be recognised for?

When conducting the analysis narrow down the results to a few that the organisation should focus on tackling first as it is not feasible to take on every single option at once. The leadership team responsible for the analysis has an important role to make sure that the chosen outcomes are realistic and thorough.


After the analysis

After you have finished your SOAR evaluation, you are ready to progress to the other parts of strategising, such as calculating risk, assessing ideas and plans, and formulating tactics.


SOAR can be done quickly or over an extended period of time and depends on the purpose/goal. It should include teams or break-out groups to address each set of questions as this is the best opportunity to involve various stakeholders at different levels of an organisation.


Here is an example of how the process could work. It may start with upper management and then breaks down into divisions to include all levels of staff and other key stakeholders workshopping the process. From there, the top three aspirations might become the organisational goals and the results become the strategies.


Best Practices for an Effective SOAR Analysis

To get the most out of your SOAR analysis, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Involve different stakeholders

This will help ensure that all perspectives are taken into account and that the analysis is comprehensive and collaborative.

  • Set measurable goals

Set goals and objectives that can be tracked and measured. This will help you assess the effectiveness of your strategies and make adjustments as needed.

  • Track progress

Track and measure progress regularly. This will help you identify areas where you are making progress and areas where you need to make improvements.

  • Take action

Use the results of the SOAR analysis to take action. This will help you capitalise on the strengths of your business, identify opportunities, and make progress towards your goals.


Example

A small marketing agency might come up with the following SOAR analysis:


Strengths

  • Our small size means we get to know our clients really well at all levels of our business giving us an excellent understanding of their business.

  • We can try new things quickly in an environment that is open to taking risks, without worrying about an oppressive corporate culture.

  • We can concentrate on doing a few things really well rather than having to offer a huge range of services.

  • Our staff are largely motivated by doing work they love and enjoy rather than by status or money.

  • We can make decisions very quickly.

Opportunities

  • We can adapt to changes in the environment faster than large agencies.

  • We can take on and turn around many smaller projects profitably.

  • We can pursue innovative funding methods to help us to expand.

  • Our rivals may not be as quick to see gaps in the market and fulfil them as we are.

Aspirations

  • We want to stay nimble and flexible while working sustainably in areas that we know really well and can provide value in.

  • We want our clients to appreciate us for our ability to innovate and our responsiveness to their needs.

  • We don't want to be followers – we want to be early adopters and lead new directions in the field.

Results

  • Continuous positive, sustainable growth, but that doesn't trap us into having to deliver large, complex, cumbersome projects that don't suit us.

  • Attaining new projects and customers who value the way we work and the work we produce.

  • More time for staff to be creative, innovate and develop cutting-edge skills, to help us to work the way that we want to on the things we want to do.

  • Be an employer of choice for outstanding talent motivated by producing quality of work.


Conclusion

SOAR analysis is an effective tool that can help you unlock the potential of your business and take it to the next level. The SOAR analysis consists of four components: strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. The process helps you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your business, identify opportunities, set ambitious goals, measure results, and make informed decisions about how best to reach them.


SOAR analysis promotes cooperation and the inclusion of different departments and personnel within an organisation. It encourages the incorporation of their insights and aspirations into the strategy-building process.


The fundamental questions that must be addressed during a SOAR analysis include: "What are our strongest points?", "What are the best chances for success?", "What type of organisation do we want to be?", and "What successes will we achieve once we reach our goal?"


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