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Strategy Frameworks

SOAR Analysis: What It Is & Step-By-Step Guide (2022)

An organization needs strategy tools that focus on more than just repairing weaknesses. The company-wide vision must also amplify internal strengths—both current successes and aspirational opportunities. 

A SOAR analysis can be the perfect strategic tool for future-focused goal creation. You can use this framework to align present market opportunities with desired outcomes and growth targets. 

This guide will help you understand the concept of the SOAR framework and how to use SOAR analysis in the strategic planning process. 

TL;DR

  • A SOAR analysis is a strategic planning tool organizations can leverage to create a shared vision of the future that aligns with the current organization’s strengths.
  • Organizations can use a SOAR analysis to visually depict on a 2x2 grid the core attributes of a company and how to execute upon those strengths.
  • Pros: A SOAR analysis is easy to use and ideal for cross-discipline, multi-department strategic planning.
  • Cons: Since a SOAR analysis offers a forward-looking perspective of an organization's aspirations, it lacks competitive threat assessment.

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What Is a SOAR Analysis?

A Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results (Acronym: SOAR) Analysis is a strategic planning framework. Visually presented in a 2x2 grid, this strategy tool helps organizations depict and contrast current organization abilities with future potential. 

When outlined, you create a shared vision of the company, one that best represents the unique values of the organization. A SOAR analysis helps your organization to draw connections between present business conditions and desired achievements. 

A forward-focused and strength-based outlook can help refine the core vision and action-oriented strategy for your business.

soar-analysis-matrix

The top row of the SOAR matrix outlines the current reality of the business, while the bottom row emphasizes what you want to achieve. The left column focuses on internal situations, while the right column showcases external factors.   

Let's get into each one of the matrix quadrants:

Strengths

When you state what works – right here, right now – you can ensure all outcomes connect to your future ambitions. It is the SOAR analysis quadrant that focuses on what you excel at, rather than on your weaknesses (save those insights for your SWOT analysis). 

Possible questions to ask your team members: 

  • What does our organization do well?
  • What are our current strengths?
  • What is our organization's greatest achievement?
  • What is our Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
  • What does our organization currently do better than all competitors?

TIP: Include your customers in the process and ask them what they love most about your products or service. You might discover factors you weren’t aware of before. This will help your business to double down on strengths, and influence sales and profits. 

Opportunities

When you clarify the available opportunities in the marketplace, you can determine which methods can leverage the current conditions for a wider market share. It is the strategy quadrant that focuses on the tangible external advantages you can achieve, rather than listing unknown and untested goals as a hail mary. 

Possible questions to ask your team members: 

  • What current trends can our organization capitalize on?
  • What partnerships or collaborations can our organization pursue?
  • Is there a market gap that we might be able to fill?
  • Do our customers have unfulfilled wants or needs?

Aspirations

When you describe the future objectives and intentions of your company, you can determine what goals are possible and where to invest your energy. It is the section of the SOAR designed to challenge the status quo and innovate towards new ideas, rather than settle with the same old boring routine.

Possible questions to ask your team members: 

  • What inspires our organization?
  • What do we hope to achieve?
  • What does our organization care about?
  • What is our desired vision of the future?

Results

When you define measurable results, you can determine tangible ways to improve your performance. It is the SOAR model quadrant that helps you set your target goals to confirm progress in your business model, rather than rely on guesswork and assumptions of success. This could include your KPIs, OKRs, or any other performance management system your organization is using.

Possible questions to ask your team members: 

  • How does the organization track its performance?
  • How do we convert our future aspirations into measurable data?
  • How does the organization define its success?
  • Do we have the right tools in place? 

TIP: Make sure you have the right tools in place so you can track progress, provide accurate data and make informed decisions. You can use a balanced scorecard, strategy dashboards, or strategy execution software like Cascade.

How To Do a SOAR Analysis And Turn Insights Into Results (In 5 steps)

Plans often die in the boardroom. It is one thing to understand the benefits of a SOAR analysis and fill in the matrix, but it is an entirely different task to execute the strategy

To get the most out of your SOAR analysis, use the following steps to influence the actual change within your organization. 

1. Analyze your current state and desired future performance

First, schedule a brainstorming workshop with your colleagues and relevant stakeholders. Perform a detailed examination of your organization. Using the top row of the SOAR matrix (Strengths and Opportunities), list the raw data that depicts or showcases the current state of your organization. 

The next step is to identify your desired future state. This means filling out the bottom row of the SOAR matrix (Aspirations and Results)

For example, the brainstorming session could list out key success factors (Results quadrant) such as: 

  • Current client relationships
  • Growth trends in new markets
  • Positive feedback from stakeholders
  • The return on investment timelines for company assets

The more information you and your strategy team can clearly label on the SOAR matrix, the more effective your SOAR analysis will be—and the better your decision-making. 

Tip: Run workshops with all key stakeholders, and include a cross-discipline group of employees and customers in the strategy session when possible. Collaboration from internal and external stakeholders is a critical element of co-creation and empowering your entire organization—use it while building your SOAR analysis.

2. Prepare a strategic plan with defined focus areas

Strategy brainstorming, by nature, is informal. Open problem-solving allows you to combine and test ideas from many different perspectives and viewpoints. 

But to turn the creative thoughts and themes that spill out into action, you need to filter and narrow down the wild variety of ideas. That's why in stage two of your SOAR analysis, you must define your priorities and prepare an action plan to close the gap between your current and future state. 

You can’t tackle everything all at once. You might have listed several different company-wide aspirations in your SOAR framework—now trim the fat and select the key goals that are attainable, relevant, and impactful. That's the very reason Cascade offers a strategic planning tool, a platform that helps you develop unified paths to action. Use the software to streamline how your company acts upon the ideas discovered through the SOAR strategy session.

3. Execute your strategy

With the plan set: execute. And that means more than just sharing a company memo. Employees who feel excluded from the overall company vision (or even worse, don’t even know about the organization’s new strategy) will simply fall back to the status quo of daily work. That can lead to a split between C-suite in their ivory tower and the actual performance by the boots on the ground. 

Disconnection can lead to confusion, low motivation levels, and a lack of engagement from disenfranchised company members, all of which will hurt business outcomes. 

The answer: communication. Management needs to invest in tools that foster understanding and buy-in from all stakeholders. Be sure to:  

Side benefit: when you take the time to execute your strategy, you build a culture of accountability, which further improves engagement metrics and overall business performance.

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4. Measure and review your performance

Once you set it, do not forget it. A SOAR analysis is not a one-off event—it should help transform the entire direction of the company, over time. It is all too easy to enjoy a honeymoon phase and then fall back into old, ineffective patterns.

To prevent strategic drift, invest in continuous review. You need to measure your progress against set targets. And wherever you see the inevitable slide back into habits or outdated thinking, take steps to rectify the issue. 

No one wants to report back to the board missed performance goals and failed strategic action, all because of a lack of evaluation or oversight.  

We know the importance of monitoring your strategy execution, which is why we created Cascade strategy dashboards. Consider it a one-stop home for your strategy. If you have the right strategy execution tool to track and review your organizational progress, you can discover data insights to act upon before it’s too late.

5. Adapt and adjust to capture new market opportunities

Lastly, adapt to a shifting industry—your SOAR analysis will need to evolve as internal and external market conditions change. What may work now will need reevaluation later. Opportunities that you can capitalize on now may disappear as the trends of the industry shift. 

Plus, your organization will develop as it scales, and that will require new assessments. Reframe your perspective, adapt your strategy and revisit your SOAR analysis as required.

 

Soar Analysis Pros

The main pros of SOAR analysis are: 

  • Easy to use and create
  • Sets action and outcome-oriented strategic objectives
  • Functions as a cross-discipline, multi-department strategic framework
  • Creates a positive and realistic organizational forecast 
  • Builds a flexible and scalable collaborative approach to strategic planning

Soar Analysis Cons

The main cons of SOAR Analysis are: 

  • Does not explore organizational weaknesses or threats
  • Can lack granularity and detail
  • Can overlap and repeat elements found in other strategy frameworks (e.g. aspirations are often listed in your organization's vision
  • Bottom-row quadrants (Aspirations and Results) may offer limited analysis and data grounded in the current marketplace

Where and When Should You Choose SOAR Analysis?

Your unique strategy needs and business environment determine if you should use a SOAR analysis. 

For example, a SWOT Analysis is far more applicable for a business about to engage in risky company initiatives, as it better assesses threats. And since a SOAR analysis provides more internal investigations and forecasting, it is not ideal for an organization that wants to test detailed components against market competitors.

SOAR analysis focuses on an appreciative inquiry as its strategic basis, so it is best suited for company discovery, learning, organization, and innovation. 

A SOAR should be used by those who benefit from a general and future-focused summary of the organization's strategic initiatives, rather than detailed threat assessments or investigative frameworks that uncover company weaknesses in need of correction.  

SOAR Analysis isn't what you're after? Check out this article with 23 best strategy tools for your organization in 2022.

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FAQs about SOAR Analysis

How Often Should I Update My SOAR Framework?

You should evaluate and update your SOAR Analysis on annual basis.

How Long Does A SOAR Analysis Take?

SOAR analysis shouldn’t take more than an hour. But it depends on the size of your organization, the complexity of your business, and how well-prepared your team is for the brainstorming session.

Who Should Be Present In A Brainstorming Session?

You need a mix of employees from all organizational levels to better capture the current reality of your business and its future desires.

Can I use a SOAR Analysis Individually?

You can use SOAR Analysis individually, but it’s best suited for cross-department planning.

Who Created The SOAR Analysis?

Jacqueline Stavros, David Cooperrider & D. Lynn Kelley created the SOAR Analysis in their paper SOAR: A new approach to strategic planning.

What Is The Difference Between A SOAR Analysis And A SWOT Analysis?

The difference between A SOAR Analysis and a SWOT analysis is that the first one focuses on current strategic goals and how they relate to future desired outcomes, while a SWOT Analysis focuses more on identifying organizational weaknesses and ways to improve them.

 

Topics:Strategy Frameworks

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