SOAR to reach new aspirations

Use this planning tool to transform your future

Fall is often a time of year to plan ahead and make change for the new year. For many, it’s also time to dust off your strategic plan and update it for the next few years. When my clients are looking to design an engaging and uplifting planning workshop, SOAR is a tool that I recommend.

I first used SOAR right in the middle of the pandemic with a client who was stretched and tired.  The leadership team were exhausted by constant demands and curveballs at their social enterprise.  And… their Board wanted to charge ahead with an update to its strategic plan. We had to think of a different way to approach the Plan update. We needed to inject energy and lightness so we could rise above the day-to-day and look forward.

SOAR focuses on planting seeds rather than pulling weeds.

We introduced a new tool that allows organizations to focus on the positives and envision a thriving future. We shaped the dialogue around 4 themes: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results (SOAR).

SOAR focuses on elements that are more likely to be influenced by the organization. It can leave leaders feeling more in charge of their destiny.

In contrast, a typical SWOT analysis (of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) requires a focus on competing forces that negatively impact an organization. SWOT is driven by competition and worrying about their next move. SOAR focuses on possibilities.

Here’s an overview of how SOAR is framed for strategic planning:

strengths chain link STRENGTHS: what an organization doing really well, including capabilities, unique features, assets, resources, and highest accomplishments

In this analysis, we dig into tough questions like:

  • What is makes you unique? What is the one thing you offer that no one else does?
  • What can your organization do better than anyone else?
  • What assets do we have that others do not?
  • Out of all our strengths, which is the most valuable right now?

opportunities starOPPORTUNITIES: external environments that could enhance revenue, unfulfilled customer needs, weakness or threats reframed into possibilities

These questions may be informed by market research or customer feedback:

  • What trends are happening in your backyard that could be leveraged?
  • What trends in the wider world are emerging?
  • Could potential threats be turned into an opportunity?

 aspirations North StarASPIRATIONS: what the organization desires to be known for; what the organization has the potential to be

I aim to shift the energy in the room and introduce these questions using playful exercises to unlock creativity:

  • Where are the gaps in your existing market?
  • Should you expand to new markets?
  • What do we keep hearing from customers? What do they want?

results chartRESULTS: the scalable or tangible items that mark when aspirations and goals have been reached

In some cases, key performance indicators (KPIs) may shift or change to new metrics. We ask questions like these to redefine measures of success:

  • What will your organization look like in the future?
  • What do you people genuinely care about?
  • How can your organization make a difference?

Are you ready to plan the way forward? Interested in a more positive way to lead conversations and find your North Star?

Let’s talk about how SOAR can be used to: help set goals, shine a light on plans for the future, define measurable actions, and engage employees across the organization.

Contact me today to help design and facilitate your next strategic plan.

Read more: related articles on strategic planning.