SOAR Analysis Template Step-by-Step Guide for Strategic Planning

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In strategic planning, organizations are continually seeking innovative approaches beyond the traditional SWOT analysis. This is where SOAR analysis becomes valuable—a powerful method for strategic planning, SOAR analysis originated from the collaborative efforts of Jacqueline Stavros, David Cooperrider, and D. Lynn Kelley, introduced in their seminal paper titled “SOAR: A new approach to strategic planning,” which was published in 2003. It stands for strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results, to help organizations leverage their strengths, explore new opportunities, set ambitious goals, and achieve tangible results. Digital Leadership covers an introduction to soar analysis, how to apply it practically, and provides step-by-step guidance along with real-world examples.

At Digital Leadership, our expertise assist organizations in selecting suitable frameworks, such as SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results), or SWOT/TOWS (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and helps businesses strategically navigate their challenges and leverage their strengths for optimal growth.

What is SOAR Analysis?

SOAR, Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results Analysis, SOAR analysis is a strategic planning tool, that combines details about a company’s current status with the thoughts and aspirations of individuals towards its future, enabling the creation of a compelling vision for collective efforts.

SOAR means brainstorming strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results to understand what an organization wants to achieve and refine its strategic thinking, while also considering potential negative aspects such as strengths and weaknesses.

The SOAR Matrix: How to Use SOAR Analysis?

SOAR Matrix, which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results, serves as a collaborative tool. It encourages people from different parts of the company and at different levels to join in and share their knowledge and ideas when creating strategies.

1) Strengths

In the SOAR matrix, Strengths are the foundational elements that set a business apart. These are internal attributes that contribute to its competitive advantage. Identifying and leveraging strengths is crucial for a successful SOAR action plan.

2) Opportunities

Opportunities, in the SOAR Matrix, are external factors that a business can harness to its advantage. Recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities is key to staying agile and responsive to market dynamics.

3) Aspirations

Aspirations encompass the visionary goals and ambitions that guide a business towards future success. In the SOAR matrix, this part is about picturing what the organization wants to achieve and deciding where it wants to go for growth

4) Results

Results in SOAR analysis focus on the positives and measurable outcomes. This involves evaluating the effectiveness of strategic initiatives and ensuring that the organization achieves its objectives.

The SOAR Matrix facilitates a comprehensive and in-depth analysis by integrating perspectives on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results, enabling teams to consider both internal capabilities and external environmental factors. Incorporating quantitative data allows for a more evidence-based approach to strategy formulation, ultimately aligning with the organization’s overall vision.

Process Of Conducting a SOAR Analysis Template Into Your Strategic Planning 

The integration of SOAR analysis into your strategic planning process involves a systematic approach. Here is a step-by-step guide to seamlessly incorporate a SOAR analysis template:

1) Define Business Purpose and Goals in the Strategic Planning Process

Align the SOAR analysis with the overarching purpose and goals of your business. This ensures that the analysis contributes directly to the strategic objectives.

2) Educate the Organization Team on SOAR Analysis

A successful SOAR analysis requires a team that understands its nuances. Educating the organization team on SOAR Analysis, along with SWOT Analysis, is crucial for effective collaboration. Understanding these tools’ principles and benefits enables teams to leverage them to drive organizational success. Integrating the SWOT framework in this step is important as it provides a comprehensive view of the organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats, complementing the forward-looking perspective of SOAR Analysis.

SWOT Analaysis Template
The UNITE SWOT Framework
First Published in 1965 by 3x colleagues from the Stanford Research Institue. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

3) Develop a Customized SOAR Analysis Template

Tailor the SOAR analysis template to suit the unique aspects of your business. This customization enhances the relevance and applicability of the analysis.

4) Completing the SOAR Matrix

Engage in a comprehensive assessment of Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. This step forms the core of the SOAR analysis process.

5) Develop Action Plans Based on Results

Translate the insights from the SOAR matrix into actionable plans. These plans should align with the identified strengths of your organization and opportunities while working towards the aspirations of the organization.

6) Monitoring and Reviewing Progress

Regularly monitor and review the progress of the strategic initiatives derived from the SOAR analysis. This ensures adaptability and responsiveness to changing circumstances.

7) Iterative Process for Continuous Improvement

SOAR analysis is not a one-time endeavour. It’s an iterative process that should evolve as the business landscape changes. Continuous improvement is integral to its effectiveness.

8) Integration into the Overall Strategic Planning Process

Integrate the outcomes of SOAR analysis seamlessly into your overall strategic planning process. This ensures that the insights contribute holistically to the business strategy.

Incorporating a SOAR analysis into your strategic planning process is a comprehensive endeavour that involves educating your team, customizing templates, conducting in-depth analyses, and translating insights into action plans. 

As you refine your approach, it’s time to ensure lucidity in articulating the strengths of your organization and the results you want to achieve in the future. The SOAR analysis focuses on reframing challenges as opportunities and leveraging current strengths and opportunities to create a shared vision of the future. By engaging relevant stakeholders and using appreciative inquiry, you can create a simple but effective SOAR action plan with measurable and achievable outcomes. 

Regular updates and collaboration among team members from different departments are essential to ensure alignment with the company vision and to add value to the strategic planning process.

SOAR Analysis Examples

To provide a clearer understanding of how SOAR analysis operates in various industries, let’s explore some examples:

1) Technology Industry SOAR Analysis

  • Strengths: The tech industry has super-advanced ideas and is powered by really skilled and active workers. Using these strong points helps companies stay ahead.
  • Opportunities: New technologies are a big area to explore. The world market growing, thanks to a growing need for tech solutions, opens up chances for companies to grow and try new things.
  • Aspirations: Wanting to be a leader in green tech makes a company not just a big innovator but also a good player helping the environment.
  • Results: Focusing on green tech not only makes a company more successful in the market but also helps the environment, linking business success with doing the right thing.

In the technology sector, Tesla utilizes SOAR analysis to maintain its edge. With strengths in advanced technology and a skilled workforce, Tesla capitalizes on opportunities in the expanding market for green tech. Aspirations to lead in sustainable transportation align business success with environmental responsibility, guiding strategic decisions.

2) Retail Business SOAR Analysis

  • Strengths: Established retail brands often possess a strong brand identity and a diverse product range. Recognizing and leveraging these strengths are pivotal in maintaining a competitive edge.
  • Opportunities: The growth of e-commerce provides a significant opportunity for retail businesses to expand their reach. Implementing customer loyalty programs further enhances engagement and customer retention.
  • Aspirations: Pioneering eco-friendly retail practices reflects a commitment to sustainability, aligning with the evolving preferences of environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Results: Embracing e-commerce and eco-friendly practices leads to an enhanced online presence, ultimately resulting in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Amazon, a retail giant, applies SOAR analysis to stay ahead. Leveraging strengths like its e-commerce platform, Amazon seizes opportunities in the growing online market. Aspirations to innovate customer experience drive initiatives like Prime membership, ensuring continued growth and competitiveness.

3) Manufacturing Company SOAR Analysis

  • Strengths: Efficient production processes and a robust supply chain are inherent strengths within the manufacturing sector. Optimizing and building upon these strengths is crucial for success.
  • Opportunities: Industry 4.0 integration offers opportunities for automation and advanced technology adoption. Forming global partnerships can further expand market reach and resources.
  • Aspirations: Aspiring to achieve carbon-neutral manufacturing positions a company as a leader in sustainable practices, catering to the growing demand for environmentally responsible operations.
  • Results: Improved production efficiency and the implementation of sustainable practices contribute to the company’s success, reinforcing its commitment to responsible manufacturing.

Toyota employs SOAR analysis to drive efficiency. With strengths in lean manufacturing, Toyota capitalizes on opportunities in Industry 4.0 and global partnerships. Aspirations to achieve carbon-neutral manufacturing align with consumer demand for sustainability, guiding strategic investments.

4) Financial Services Firm SOAR Analysis

  • Strengths: Financial expertise and a robust technological infrastructure form the backbone of a successful financial services firm. Leveraging these strengths ensures a competitive edge.
  • Opportunities: Collaborations with fintech companies and international expansion present lucrative opportunities for growth and diversification in the financial services sector.
  • Aspirations: Leading in ethical financial practices goes beyond profitability, fostering customer trust and positioning the firm as a responsible player in the industry.
  • Results: The emphasis on ethical financial practices results in increased customer trust and a diversified service portfolio, establishing the firm as a trusted and ethical financial partner.

JPMorgan Chase uses SOAR analysis for strategic growth. With strengths in financial expertise and technology, JPMorgan Chase explores opportunities in fintech collaborations and international markets. Aspirations for ethical financial practices ensure alignment with long-term objectives, driving sustainable growth.

Example of SOAR Analysis Questions

To facilitate the application of SOAR analysis, it’s essential to pose targeted questions that delve into each aspect of the framework. Here are examples of questions tailored to each element:

Strengths SOAR Analysis Questions:

  • What internal capabilities set us apart in the market?
    Understanding our unique strengths allows us to capitalize on our competitive advantages and differentiate ourselves from others in the market.
  • How effectively do we leverage our resources for competitive advantage?
    Assessing the efficiency of our resource utilization enables us to optimize our operations and maximize our competitive edge in the industry.

Opportunities SOAR Analysis Questions:

  • What external factors can be turned into growth opportunities?
    Identifying external factors such as market trends, consumer behaviour shifts, or technological advancements that present growth opportunities empowers us to capitalize on emerging trends.
  • How can we stay agile and responsive to emerging market trends?
    Embracing agility and responsiveness enables us to adapt swiftly to changing market conditions and seize opportunities as they arise.

Aspirations SOAR Analysis Questions:

  • What long-term goals align with our organizational values?
    Aligning our long-term goals with our core organizational values ensures that our aspirations are grounded in our commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices.
  • How can we envision success that goes beyond conventional benchmarks?
    Envisioning success beyond conventional metrics allows us to set ambitious yet meaningful goals that inspire innovation and excellence within the organization.

Results SOAR Analysis Questions:

  • How do we measure the success of our strategic initiatives?
    Establishing clear metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) enables us to evaluate the effectiveness of our strategic initiatives and track progress towards our goals.
  • Are our results aligned with our initial aspirations, or do adjustments need to be made?
    Assessing the alignment between our achieved results and initial aspirations helps us determine whether our strategies are on track or if adjustments are required to realign our efforts with our long-term vision.

By asking these targeted questions within each element of the SOAR framework, organizations can gain valuable insights into their strategic positioning, identify growth opportunities, and chart a course for sustainable success in their respective industries.

Personal SOAR Analysis Framework Example

To illustrate the application of SOAR analysis on a personal level, let’s consider an individual embarking on a career change:

  • Strengths: Technical proficiency, and strong communication skills.
  • Opportunities: Growing industry sectors, networking events.
  • Aspirations: Attain a leadership position in a tech-driven company.
  • Results: Secured a role as a tech lead, and active involvement in industry conferences.

Advantages of SOAR Analysis in Strategic Planning

SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) analysis offers numerous advantages for organizations seeking to develop robust strategic plans and drive sustainable growth:

  1. Forward-Looking Approach and Understanding the Business:
    • Encourages a forward-looking perspective.
    • Provides a comprehensive understanding of the business environment.
  2. Strategic Vision, Innovation, and Alignment:
    • Fosters a strategic vision that inspires innovation.
    • Drives alignment throughout the organization.
  3. Motivation and Employee Engagement:
    • Involves employees in the strategic planning process.
    • Enhances motivation and commitment.
  4. Effective Resource Allocation and Risk Management:
    • Facilitates informed resource allocation.
    • Supports proactive risk management strategies.
  5. Simplicity and Clarity:
    • Provides simplicity and clarity in strategic planning.
    • Ensures key insights are communicated effectively.
  6. Adaptability and Flexibility:
    • Adaptable to diverse organizational contexts.
    • Allows organizations to respond to changing circumstances.
  7. Facilitation of Strategic Decision-Making:
    • Provides actionable insights for decision-making.
    • Enables informed decisions aligned with long-term goals.
  8. Alignment with Organizational Values:
  9. Enhanced Communication and Stakeholder Engagement:
    • Promotes open communication and stakeholder engagement.
    • Fosters a shared understanding of strategic priorities.

Disadvantages of SOAR Analysis in Strategic Planning

While SOAR analysis offers valuable insights, it also presents certain challenges that organizations need to navigate effectively:

  1. Risk of Overlooking Threats and Weaknesses:
    • This may lead to overlooking weaknesses and threats.
    • Requires vigilance in identifying and addressing risks.
  2. Subjectivity in Aspirations:
    • Aspirations are inherently subjective.
    • Organizations must establish clear and realistic aspirations.
  3. Lack of Objective Metrics for Aspirations and Results:
    • Measuring aspirations and results can be challenging.
    • Requires reliable performance indicators and measurement frameworks.
  4. Dependency on External Factors:
    • Influenced by external factors beyond the organization’s control.
    • Requires consideration of external forces in strategic planning.
  5. Complexity in Integration:
    • Integrating SOAR analysis into existing processes can be complex.
    • Requires alignment and coordination across departments.
  6. The Challenge in Assessing Aspirations and Results:
    • Assessing aspirations and results requires careful evaluation.
    • Organizations must develop robust evaluation methodologies.
  7. May Not Suit All Industries or Situations:
    • SOAR analysis may not suit all industries or situations.
    • Some organizations may require alternative approaches.
  8. Dependency on Employee Perspectives:
    • Relies on input from employees.
    • Organizations must foster a culture of collaboration.
  9. The Challenge in Identifying Aspirations Alignment:
    • Aligning aspirations across different levels can be challenging.
    • Requires active efforts to ensure coherence and alignment.
  10. Potential for Overemphasis on Short-Term Results:
    • May prioritize short-term gains over long-term business goals.
    • Requires a balance between short-term wins and long-term priorities.
  11. Limited Attention to Internal Processes:
    • SOAR focuses on external opportunities and strengths.
    • May overlook internal processes critical to success.
  12. Communication Challenges:
    • Communicating findings effectively can be challenging.
    • Requires clear and concise communication strategies.

While it’s important to inspire and motivate stakeholders, organizations must strike a balance between optimism and realism, ensuring that their strategic decisions are grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the external environment.

SOAR VS SWOT VS TOWS: What is the Difference?

Understanding the distinctions between SOAR, SWOT, and TOWS is crucial for informed strategic planning:

  • SOAR Analysis: Focuses on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results. It’s future-oriented, promoting innovation and strategic vision. Encourages leveraging strengths to achieve aspirations.
  • SWOT Analysis: Analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Provides a comprehensive overview of current internal and external factors. Helps in strategic decision-making and risk management.
  • TOWS Analysis: Integrates SWOT analysis with strategic planning. Matches internal strengths with external opportunities and threats. Develops actionable strategies to maximize strengths and mitigate weaknesses.
AspectSOAR AnalysisSWOT AnalysisTOWS Analysis
FocusStrengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, ResultsStrengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, ThreatsThreats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Strengths
OrientationFuture-orientedPresent-orientedIntegrates present and future perspectives
ApproachForward-looking, innovation-drivenHolistic assessment of the current stateIntegrates SWOT with strategic planning
Strategic VisionEmphasizes strategic vision and alignmentProvides insights for decision-makingGenerates actionable strategies
It’s TimeframeLong-termShort to medium-termShort to long-term
OutcomeIdentifies growth opportunitiesAssesses current situation and risksDevelops strategic initiatives

In conclusion, SOAR analysis stands as a potent alternative to traditional strategic planning methodologies. Its emphasis on positivity, future-oriented thinking, and actionable insights positions it as a valuable tool for businesses seeking innovation and growth. As we navigate the complexities of strategic planning, embracing the SOAR framework can pave the way for a more resilient and forward-thinking organizational strategy.

Key Takeaways:

  • SOAR analysis is a strategic planning tool that focuses on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.
  • By leveraging strengths and aspirations, organizations can create a shared vision of the future and develop actionable plans to achieve their desired outcomes.
  • While SOAR analysis offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to remain mindful of its limitations, including the risk of neglecting weaknesses and threats and the challenge of balancing optimism with realism.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What are the three functionalities provided by SOAR Framework?

SOAR analysis encompasses assessing Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results, providing a framework for a positive and future-oriented strategic planning process.

2) What are the SOAR Analysis Questions?

SOAR analysis involves asking questions related to Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. These questions guide the assessment of internal and external factors for strategic planning.

3) Preparation Steps for a Successful SOAR Analysis?

  • Clearly define the business purpose and goals.
  • Educate the organization on the principles of SOAR analysis.
  • Develop a customized SOAR analysis template.
  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results.
  • Develop action plans based on the analysis.
  • Monitor and review progress iteratively for continuous improvement.

4) Who is credited with the invention of SOAR analysis?

SOAR analysis is not attributed to a single individual. It has evolved as a strategic planning methodology over time, with various contributors shaping its principles.

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