Expand Your Strategic Planning Toolkit

One of the most widely-used strategic planning tools is “SWOT,” in which four factors are examined:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

To build momentum, add “SOAR” to your strategic planning toolkit as a supplement or alternative to SWOT.

SOAR: Moving Toward Your Preferred Future

This “Appreciative Inquiry” tool, first developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva at Case Western Reserve University, asks questions to value the best of “what is” and envision “what might be”:

  • Strengths: What are our greatest assets?
  • Opportunities: What are the best market opportunities?
  • Aspirations: What is our preferred future?
  • Results: What are the measurable results?1

While SWOT is generally used as a “tops-down” tool, SOAR works well to involve multiple levels and functional areas of an organization. Users like the positive, collaborative approach that opens thinking, encourages engagement, and creates energy. While looking for ways to capitalize on Strengths and Opportunities, it also guides planners toward implementation by looking at how to achieve Aspirations and Results.

More Strategy Tools

For more on SOAR, see Cooperrider’s and  Diana Whitney’s book, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change.

For more Strategic Planning tools, along with tools for Decisionmaking, Productivity, Creativity & Innovation, Communication, Collaboration & Influence; and Developing Teams & Talent, see Leaders Lab: 66 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skill, Strategy, and Style.


1Jackie Stavros, David Cooperrider and Lynn Kelley, “Strategic Inquiry: Appreciative Intent: Inspiration to SOAR,” AI Practitioner (November 2003).

©New Century Leadership LLC 2017.