Consultants have been using the SWOT Framework in strategy development for years to help bring clarity to the current situations in business strategies, sales structures and any area that you seek improvement. The Framework is to provide a 360-degree evaluation of the current situation based on your goals and objectives.

A new contender is all the rage. This framework is called SOAR and is said to be a replacement for SWOT. Really? Let’s have a look and see what the two frameworks represent and if SOAR is a real substitute for the age-old SWOT analysis used in most strategic planning processes.

What is SWOT:

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

This constellation is used to understand a 360 perspective of your current situation and have an honest look at your self or your organization to see what is in the gap between your current situation and where you want to go (your vision and goals).

What is SOAR?

Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results

This constellation is intended to be a strengths-based look at strategic planning and create as “to-be perspective versus an “as-is” perspective.

There is a whole movement around a strengths-based approach forged by Marcus Buckingham and Tom Rath. StrengthsFinder 2.0 and assessment focus peoples attention on their strengths and building out their strengths. It is important to know your strengths and build upon them and use them to excel. However, if you want to be the best you need to accurately access where you are with a 360 perspective and proactively mitigate weaknesses or utilize strategies that optimize your strengths.

Although we want to develop our natural talents, we also need to work with others and that may require us to develop compensating skills for those areas that we are not strong. Is it ok for the natural salesman to make the sale at all costs, creating unhappy customers due to lack of customer service and follow-up, breaking down teamwork, or breaking company policy? Is it ok for a natural visionary to drive his vision forward berating others and overspending because of his/her lack of detail In creating a realistic budget?

David M. Corbin Author of Illuminate: Harnessing the Positive Power of Negative Thinking shows the value of bringing the negative and weaknesses into awareness to use it to become better. Being proactive and anticipating challenges before they arise is strategic and must be part of the strategy process and leadership development.

Here are the flaws in the SOAR approach.

  1. Failure to consider the marketplace

SOAR is said to be a positive reframe on SWOT. Thinking positive and avoiding the reality is no always your best bet for identifying the gap in your action plan to reach your goals. SOAR does not consider what is happening in the marketplace fully without evaluating this part of the picture.

Believe me, I am all about positive thinking but you have to shine the light on what isn’t working too. Without it you are not making decisions based on reality.

2. Redundancy

Your goals already reflect your desired results. Aspirations are a form of your vision. Your vision is focused on where you want to be and has little reflection on your current status. The vision is already reflected in the opportunities you see because they are based on your goals and your vision. So including opportunities and aspirations is somewhat redundant and keeps you from the very perspective that SWOT was designed to do which is to illuminate the gaps through weaknesses and threats.

3. Missing the objective

The objective of this exercise is to identify the gap and create an action plan.

Consider a GPS that doesn’t have your current location. It just has the results and the possible roads that lead to that location. Some of those roads come from other locations that are not easily accessible from your location. There might be construction on one of the roads but without that information, you will end up waiting an excessive amount of time and have possibly missed the event you were headed to or delayed to such a point that there were no more seats left when you got there. Had you seen your options, you could have chosen to fly rather than drive as that might provide a better choice based on your current vehicle.

You cannot accurately assess the gap without getting clarity exactly where you are now in relation to the internal operations, product line, sales strategy and current team and other aspects for your business, the market, and the economy.

Although SOAR gives us another framework to utilize, in my expert opinion as a strategic business coach it is missing the point. In your strategic planning you cannot ignore what is happening in the market place, or the ‘as-is” state of your organization. These components play an important role in bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Your can SWOT and SOAR but it isn’t advisable to SOAR without SWOTing.

Anytime you want to get clarity on where you are and close the gap, even in your time management strategies, understand your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) to come up with a customized action plan. Get into action.

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