Most club executives are familiar with one of the key analysis tools for strategic planning – SWOT – which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This technique assists a club in determining what they do well, where they fall short and what they can do better.

It is often said about strategic planning that the purpose is not just to produce a plan, but rather to produce results!

At a recent summer conference of the Florida Chapter of CMAA, Steve Swafford, co-founder of Leadership Outfitters introduced the concept of SOAR to the attendees and how it can be applied to the club industry. SOAR is grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry process first developed at Case Western University, which is based on the assumption that organizations change based on the way they inquire. Those that look to identify problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what it does best will find and discover more and more of what is good.

The process of SOAR looks at the following:

  • Strengths – What does your club do well? In what areas do you excell?
  • Opportunities – What are the opportunities that may or may not be within your control?
  • Aspirations – What does your club aspire to be?
  • Results – What measureable results do you seek to achieve? How will we know that you have succeeded?

A key factor linked to the success of a club is their ability to attract and retain members based on what they do best. This is a positive approach building on your strengths rather than dwelling on your weaknesses. It is the Glass is Half Full, not Half Empty based on the assumption that whatever you want more of already exists in most organizations. Don’t ask what problems we have – rather what is going well and build on that.  Don’t copy others; instead focus on what you do best. The strengths will overpower the weaknesses. It allows a club to stay more positive and figure out what you want and how to get there.

Actually, the SOAR process is similar to that of SWOT in that it looks at weaknesses (internal) and threats (external) as opportunities, but it is a more simplified and positive approach to strategic planning. – JS

John R. “Jack” Sullivan, CCM
Jack is Vice President of Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club and provides consulting services to private clubs. He specializes in strategic planning and other private club operational issues.