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NOISE Analysis, an alternative to SWOT. Strategic Planning

Having a solid strategic plan will allow your company and team to flourish and accomplish needed results. You must have a format and a process that is effective. NOISE analysis is that format.

Contact Mike to schedule a strategic planning meeting that will deliver results and engaged staff that are part-of the plan.

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NOISE Analysis

Working with companies and developing strategic plans everyone seems to feel that the default method is a SWOT analysis strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.  I have never been a fan and wondered if there was an alternative.

In the ‘High Performance Team Building’ class a smart friend Brian Pagkos shared an idea he had ‘SNOT Analysis’ strengths, needs, opportunities, threats. 

While preparing for a focus group meeting it came to me NOISE

  • Needs
  • Opportunities
  • Improvements
  • Strengths
  • Exceptions

A method that uses solution-focused language and is able to build upon the teams existing knowledge and goals.


When planning determining what we want to have happen and understanding the road-blocks are necessary. Developing knowledge plus skills to navigate the plan, allows us to choose focus points and what to eliminate. The NOISE analysis is a planning technique of looking at what is working good enough and determining areas to improve upon. It gives us a format to explore opportunities and exceptions that we may know about or be missing and determine if they are a needed part of the plan for our future. When we understand the NOISE conditions, we can create a path towards the future that allows the company or team or project to flourish.


  • Flip Chart Paper
  • Markers
  • Lots of Post-it Notes

Group Size

  • 5 to 20
  • I’ve led this with larger teams you can break the group into teams of 6 or less and they each work independently then get together and share (or the facilitator finds commonalities and categorizes them) OR lead a series of focus groups with smaller team separately.

Time Frame

  • At least 3 hours, I have led this over multiple days.


1.  Before the meeting it may prove helpful to decide on a goal (what-by-when) to be achieved or to send some pre-work to the participants for then to think about. Examples of pre-work:

2.  On a piece of flip chart paper draw a circle in the middle, and create four quadrants radiating from the center circle. See below.

While drawing the NOISE analysis chart explain what would be useful information in each area. Feel free to change the bullets to better match your needs. NOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning


In the center circle write “Exceptions

  • Of the N, O & I Listed what is already happening, even just a little bit?




NOISE Diagram for Strategic PlanningIn the upper left quadrant write “Strengths”

  • What is working well?
  • How do you know?
  • What is your team good at?
  • Examples?


NeedsNOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the upper right quadrant write “Needs”

  • If we just had ________ this would be a better place to work or we would be effective in completing our plan or make it fit what you need.
  • Organizational needs
  • Individual needs


OpportunitiesNOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the lower left quadrant write “Opportunities”

  • Other departments / locations / companies / teams / etc are doing ____________
  • An area of untapped talent OR under-utilized resources is ____________
  • What do we currently have that could be used differently?


ImprovementsNOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the lower right quadrant write “Improvements

  • Miracle Question: You leave here today and go to sleep. While you are sleeping a miracle happens and what you need in order to be more effective with your work happens, but you don’t know because you were asleep. You arrive tomorrow what is the 1st thing you would notice that makes you realize this has happened? How would you know?
  • Scaling Question: Currently the department, organization, team (choose appropriate) operates at X, what does X + 2 look like?
  • 1—2—3—4—5—6—7—8—9—10


NOISE Analysis Chart

NOISE Analysis Planning Organization development executive coach michael cardus

3.  After illustrating and sharing the format with the group ask them to grab some flipchart papers, markers and post-it notes if necessary and take about 45 minutes to 1 hour as a team to complete as many responses to the NOISE analysis as possible. PLEASE ask people to just share, this is a brainstorming-planning time we will evaluate the ideas later; for right now we are looking for quantity.

3a.  If you feel people will be be too judgmental.

  • Ask them to work individually for about 10 minutes (more or less) filling out post-it notes by themselves on each of the areas. Start with Strengths then progress to Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, and end with Exceptions.
  • After people have had a chance to think and work by themselves, ask them to share their responses (post-it notes) on the NOISE areas.

4.  With the team go through the NOISE areas. Starting with Strengths sort the ideas in affinity common groups, finding clusters of ideas that may fit together. Take the ideas that may be outliers and also recognize those ideas they may be breakthrough ideas.

At this stage the smaller teams of 6 or less are necessary this way any confusion over the ideas can be explained by the person that had the idea. Plus the team is small enough to discuss what belongs together and what may be outliers.

Repeat the process in each of the other NOISE areas in this order: Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, and end with Exceptions.

5.  Once you are done sorting and clustering into common groups, the team will look for broad categories for each small cluster. For example ‘Communication between sales and production’ or ‘More knowledge of how to use our internal knowledge management system’.  As the group reaches agreement on the broad categories re-write these in the proper NOISE areas.

6.  Now that everyone feels comfortable with the broad categories re-write them in each NOISE area and ask the team to dot vote on which they feel are most relevant based upon the purposes of our planning time.

7.  We have broad categories and a bunch of ideas on how to focus and improve them…Next steps would be to take the broad categories and ask the team to develop some short term measurement / milestones to show progress and achievement in the categories.

8.  Management (or the team leader) gathers all the broad categories and short team measurements / milestones for achievement and types them up in a formal ‘Plan Document’ shares them with the team, and ensures that they are all in agreement.

9.  Any feedback is taken into consideration and changes are made as needed. This Plan Document along with all the great ideas is now your improvement, strategic, etc… plan.

10. Routinely return back to the Plan Document and check for relevancy and success, plan to deal with and correct set-backs.



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Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning an experiential based consulting, facilitation, training and coaching organization. Leading to successful results in retention of staff talent, increased satisfaction with work, increased collaboration and information sharing within and between departments, increased accountability of success and failures, increased knowledge transfer, increased trust as well as speed of project completion and decision making of Leaders, Teams and Organizations.


One thought on “NOISE Analysis, an alternative to SWOT. Strategic Planning

  1. Very nice! For some years I got teams to pick one aspect in each SWOT quadrant and had them describe ‘what’s working’ and ‘what it will be like when it’s better / different’ in each corner. I like the version you describe even more.

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