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Anyone who has ever participated in a strategic planning session has experienced some sort of analysis exercise. The best-known tool for this is arguably the S.W.O.T. framework, but I prefer the S.O.A.R. matrix and in this post, I will explain what S.O.A.R. is and why I like it.
Why a framework?
There are any number of factors you can consider when evaluating where you are relative to your mandate, market and goals. Using a framework or matrix helps bring clarity to all these factors by grouping them into meaningful categories.
In the case of the S.O.A.R. matrix, teams are asked to view their business or organization through these quadrants: Successes, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results.
A downloadable pdf. worksheet version of the S.O.A.R Matrix is available below.
It helps significantly if teams share a common definition for what belongs in each of these boxes. I define them below but you can amend these definitions to suit your requirements.
The main thing is to ensure everyone on your team is using the same definitions.
SUCCESSES - This is where your business or organization shines/stands out/has market advantage. These are the assets, experiences, relationships, tools and unique strengths you already have. You can stand on any and/or all of these factors to take your next steps.
OPPORTUNITIES – The timeframe for the opportunities category is more the “immediate” or “near term”. Sometimes called the “low hanging fruit”, these are the things that are “there for the taking” or “almost there” – think a grant opportunity or deepening a mutually beneficial partnership. In other words, with a little more attention, a bit of a push, a few more resources, or taking advantage of the right circumstances, your team can open these new doors.
ASPIRATIONS – The timeframe for the aspirations category is a bit more future-oriented. These are your dreams for your business or organization; what you think is likely when the right things are in place. Aspirations are achievable but you will need to establish the steps or lay the foundation before you can realize them. Depending on the situation, you may need to acquire new skills, tools or resources to turn aspirations into realities.
RESULTS - Looking at your organization through this lens allows you to think about what you measure NOW and whether what you are measuring is giving you the information you need. Maybe you are not measuring your results at all and need to create processes and tools that allow you to gauge whether your activities are delivering the results you want? What do you want to be different this time next year or in three years? The SMART goals formula is a great resource here.
So why do I like the S.O.A.R. method best?
There are aspects of the S.W.O.T. analysis that are critical to sound planning and risk management. You need to understand your weaknesses and the potential threats that may stand in your way.
But in my opinion, sometimes the biggest factor at play in a business or organization’s success is what leaders and their teams believe is possible. The S.O.A.R matrix builds on team strengths and emphasizes drawing a line of sight between vision and goals.
After identifying your strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results, now the real work begins!
How much can you do? What can you afford? How long will it take? Will it be worth it? I will write about how you move from strategic analysis to a workable plan in a future post but feel free to reach out if I can help now.