NOISE Analysis an alternative to SWOT Strategic Planning

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

team building leadership organization development expert michael cardus

NOISE Analysis

Working with companies developing strategic plans most feel that the default method is a SWOT analysis strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, I’ve 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 ‘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 can build upon the team’s knowledge and goals.

  • When planning, determining what we want to have happen and understanding the roadblocks are necessary. Developing knowledge plus skills to navigate the plan allows us to choose focus points plus what to eliminate. The NOISE analysis is a planning technique of looking at what is working and determining areas to improve. It gives us a format to explore opportunities that we may know about or be missing. 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-its
Group Size
  • 5 to 20
  • I’ve led this with larger groups you can break the group into teams of 6 or less. Each team of 6 works independently then get together to share (or the facilitator finds commonalities and categorizes them) OR lead a series of focus groups with smaller teams 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. Examples of pre-work:

2. On a piece of flip chart paper draw a circle in the middle. 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 match your needs better.

ExceptionsNOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the center, circle write “Exceptions.”

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



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

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



NOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the upper right quadrant write “Needs.”

  • Needs = When we have ________ this is a better place to work, or we are more useful in completing our plan or make it fit what you need.
  • Organizational needs
  • Individual needs



NOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the lower left quadrant write “Opportunities

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



NOISE Diagram for Strategic Planning

In the lower right quadrant write “Improvements.”

  • Improvements:  Miracle Question: You leave here today and go to sleep. While you are sleeping a miracle happens and what you need to be more effective with your work happens, but you don’t know because you were asleep. You arrive tomorrow the 1st thing you would notice that makes you realize this has happened is? How would you know?
  • Scaling Question: On a scale of 0 -10 with 10 optimal and 0 being the opposition; Currently the department, organization, team (choose appropriately) operates at X, what does X + 2 look like?


NOISE Analysis Chart

NOISE Analysis Planning Organization development executive coach michael cardus

3.  After illustrating plus sharing the format with the group ask them to grab some flipchart papers, markers, and post-it notes. Take about 45 minutes to 1 hour as a team to complete as many responses to the NOISE analysis as possible. PLEASE ask people just to 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 too judgmental.

  • Ask them to work individually 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 common affinity 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 general categories re-write them in each NOISE area and ask the team to dot vote on which they believe 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 general 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 term measurements/ milestones for achievement and types them up in a ‘Plan Document’ shares them with the team, 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 or strategic plan.

10. Routinely return to the Plan Document and check for relevancy and success, intend to deal with plus correct setbacks.

 What do you think?

How can you see the NOISE analysis working for your next strategic planning meeting?

Mike Cardus of Create-Learning will meet & travel to you to facilitate your strategic planning.

Hire Create-Learning


One thought

  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.

Comments are closed.