SWOT analysis the appreciative inquiry way

Most people will have heard or used the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat) analysis at some point in their career. There is an alternative to the SWOT analysis from appreciative inquiry. It is called SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results). 

What does SOAR look like?

Strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results

You need to ask appreciative questions for each of these blocks. Below you can find some examples for each of the blocks.

  • Strengths

  • Opportunities

  • Aspirations

  • ResuLTS


You figure out when your business works best and what makes it work best. You can look at customer and employee satisfaction, brand recognition, collaboration with suppliers, skills and capabilities and so much more. What you look at depends on your goals.

Here are a couple of examples of questions you can ask:

  • What are we most proud of? When do we feel proud and why?
  • What do we excel at?
  • What do we deliver to our customers that is unique?
  • What are our greatest accomplishments and what made them possible?

How to use SOAR?

You need a broad coalition of people in the room with different view, knowledge and interests. I like to use stakeholder analysis to decide who I need to get involved. Because SOAR is somewhat unknown it is important to let people know in advance the purpose of your meeting. I usually prepare with finance and control how to use SOAR after the session. They are used to SWOT and may initially be hesitant about SOAR.

Try to build on analysis and plans of previous years to show continuity, unless your assignment is to break with the status quo of course. Conduct appreciative interviews with key stakeholders before the meeting. 

A typical meeting agenda would look like this:

  • Welcome and introductions 
  • Look back on the results of last year and the plan of last year and explain the context of your assignment. Get commitment on the purpose of the meeting.
  • Explain SOAR and see if everyone is still actively involved
  • Start brainstorming on the four quadrants, either in one group or in several different groups. With different groups you can use a carrousel where everyone gets to brainstorm on each quadrant for a set amount of time.
  • Prioritize the output of the brainstorm together and make an action plan
  • Wrap up and look ahead. How are we going to make sure this was not just a great session, but that it will lead to real results.

After the session you need to make sure that the aspirations and results are a regular part of operational and strategic management in the company.


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