SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business

Strategy and tools in business – To SWOT or SOAR?

SWOT-SOAR-analysis Strategy and tools in business - Over the years a lot of good and bad stuff has been said about SWOT. Sure it is not the most robust of tools but when used in the way it was originally developed – it is a powerful tool.
Some people have argued that it is time to move on from SWOT to other things – in this piece we explore SOAR an Appreciative Inquiry tool.

An interesting article on this topic was published in Ai Practitioner magazine ( http://preview.tinyurl.com/2bvobg ) (it is available here http://preview.tinyurl.com/26wk4v – or here) for those that are not subscribers). SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

The authors propose it as:

SOAR-analysis

Indeed many proponents of the SOAR method talk of it as being a “positively re-framed SWOT analysis”.

Having read the article (and several others), the SOAR approach to my mind makes the same mistake (in the context of strategic planning) that many using the SWOT analysis do – and that is they miss the context. When the (highly researched) SOFT was changed to SWOT the new authors missed the point which is why the tool is often miss-understood. It (SWOT/ SOFT) was never designed to stand on its own, nor was it ever to be part of the direct action phase – it was a diagnosis and data capture tool.

The authors of this article article on SOAR to my mind make two fundamental mistakes:

1) They assume that all applications of SWOT are in the way they describe
2) They appear to ignore weaknesses and threats – apparently believing that their solution will soar (pardon the pun) over any difficulties.

Evidence of the authors assumptions can be seen in the way they describe SWOT:

SWOT-analysis

It is biased towards what they can do rather than consider what areas they should avoid. The completely miss the point about opportunities being created by the omission of others or changes in customer patterns. Weaknesses are supposed to be internal weaknesses, things that may inhibit the organization form delivering its promise – not a look externally at “who might out perform us”.

Would the shareholders of Enron be in the position they are now in (extinct) if they had faced up to their threats and weaknesses, rather than focus on what they thought were their strengths?

The SOAR article clearly states in its summary

“This article has attempted to address the strategy-to-execution gap. In doing so, we have discussed SOAR, a strengths-based framework that builds on the best points of SwOt (strengths and opportunities) in order to move beyond the “as-is” state of the organization’s environment to the “to-be”.“

Yes this as a framework can be used as the authors state to take SWOT data and apply it – but SOAR in itself is not a diagnostic or orientation tool. Anyone using this as a diagnostic tool is going to make the same errors as 1000’s of people have done with inappropriate use of SWOT.

Rear view mirror?

Some proponents of SOAR go as far as to say

“The reason is that 50% of the SWOT process keeps organizations looking in the rear view mirror focusing on trying to fix weaknesses and swat away real or imagined threats. Unfortunately, it keeps most organizations stuck in the status quo and saps the energy and enthusiasm necessary to move forward.”

Is this true?  Is a SWOT really just looking in the mirror? or is it about using the forward view, taking account of the rear view and side mirrors before making  a maneuver.. there is no point “changing lanes” if there is a semi-truck right next to you – its all about context and timing. Sure SWOT for personal development is not the best tool, and maybe SOAR is a better fit – but for true strategic planning its not one OR the other but BOTH….?

Appreciative Inquiry has its place

Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization proponents. In so doing, it enhances a system’s capacity for collaboration and change.

Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a 4-stage process focusing on:

  • DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
  • DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  • DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
  • DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. It is the opposite of problem solving. AI focuses on how to create more of what’s already working.

This method is more positive in nature than many others, however it is as a strategy naive in that it assumes success breeds success – many organizations are in fact where they now because by prioritising they did solve problems and did not just focus on what works.

Would a company that currently makes plastic carrier bags be advised to use SOAR exclusively – or look at the external factors which MAY bring about a reduction or indeed the end of the need for their product? Customer pressure, Environmental impact, Cost of provision etc…

Equally any diagnostic process needs to look holistically at the people and the processes, from an internal and external perspective – not just one or the other.

 

Is SWOT redundant?…..

No but it is sure made to be a more reliable process with additions of other models in the transition to application.


Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.

Comments

  1. RT @projektlotse: RT @rapidbi Blog post – is the humble SWOT analysis "old hat"? Will SOAR take over? #Ai

  2. RT @rapidbi Blog post – is the humble SWOT analysis "old hat"? Will SOAR take over? #Ai – Good article!

  3. RT @rapidbi: Blog post – is the humble SWOT analysis "old hat"? Will SOAR take over? #Ai

  4. RT @rapidbi Blog post – is the humble SWOT analysis "old hat"? Will SOAR take over? #Ai

  5. Great post! In making the transition from SWOT to SOAR, many struggle with not addressing the weaknesses and threats. However, using the plastic bag example, an AI approach may arrive at a dream of a different, more environmentally friendly carrying device; apply the strengths of the company in how well they made those plastic bags; then use those elements in designing and discovering a new plan for the future. I certainly agree that a holistic approach is always best, but believe that a shift from SWOT to SOAR can promote positive change in fundamental thinking in an organization.

    • Hi Gloria
      I’m certainly not dismissing SOAR, however I so not see that SOAR will replace SWOT – but is perhaps the logical step AFTER a SWOT analysis to positively align it.
      using the plastic bag methodology, if we only used SOAR then the fact that the environment and consumers were rejecting the technology would not have been noticed. It is the ‘rear view’ threat that would have highlighted it – else the organization would still be looking for better ways to use their existing product – plastic!
      Mike

  6. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business » RapidBI-Mgt …

  7. RT @RapidBI SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business » RapidBI-Mgt, Leadership, Business Improvement Articles

  8. Hadn't heard of SOAR before. RT @rapidbi: SWOT or SOAR is one better than the other – or do they do different things?

  9. RT @rapidbi: SWOT or SOAR is one better than the other – or do they do different things? -

  10. Jeff Marsico says:

    #Banks take note. Environ is key RT @rapidbi SWOT or SOAR is one better than the other-or do they do different things?

  11. Great article about SWOT analysis and an alternative. Good stuff this!

  12. Actually SOAR does not ignore or even marginalize weaknesses. In fact is considers them and develops strategies to address them. The difference is that SOAR starts the conversation with a discussion of strengths. By building upon what a company does well, the company can more easily address its weaknesses. Having used the SWOT analysis for years with companies big and small, there is a tendency to over emphasize the bad. SOAR attempts to address this.

    • Hi Pas
      if you take the reference to “Appreciative Intent: Inspiration to SOAR”- Author: Jacqueline Stavros , David Cooperrider , D. Lynn Kelley, in it they say:

      “If we split it 50/50, we would spend about half of our time thinking about our positives (Strengths/Opportunities) and the other half thinking about our negatives
      (Weaknesses/Threats). But let’s be honest. Even though the tool looks 50/50, human nature tends to dwell disproportionately on our weaknesses and threats.
      Unfortunately, by concentrating on what we do wrong we tend to amplify the negative.

      Welcome to the world of AI where, instead, we disproportionately focus on our strengths and opportunities, so that we can grow them until they crowd out our weaknesses and threats.”

      Your comment:

      “By building upon what a company does well, the company can more easily address its weaknesses.”

      is an interesting one… what if the companies strengths were making VHS tapes, or valve based radios, or pressing vinyl into music disc’s?
      Future success in the current and future world is not based on the operational strengths of the organization – but the strengths of the visionary leaders and their ability to manage and deliver change.

      Sure many firms miss use SWOT – or indeed ignore SOFT as it should have been – and SOAR is a good tool – WITH SWOT/ SOFT but not in place of it.

  13. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business http://t.co/7nJRIRP

  14. Katrina_D says:

    SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business

  15. Lisa Fields says:

    SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business

  16. Today it's got to be SOAR RT @RapidBI Mike Morrison SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business

  17. Mike Redwood says:

    RT @247tweet: SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business http://t.co/c8mROOE9 correct that SWOT is essentially data capture..

  18. RT @247tweet: SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business http://t.co/Nmgf8cZR correct that SWOT is essentially data capture..

  19. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business http://t.co/aidq3D3w

  20. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business http://t.co/aidq3D3w

  21. RT @RapidBI RT @247tweet: SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business – #article http://t.co/UwHCVHlu

  22. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business – #article http://t.co/RAjQwLHo

  23. SWOT or SOAR? – Strategy and tools in business | RapidBI http://t.co/tlaFaOTM

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