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In Becoming a Futurist Leader, Jill Schumann speaks directly to the reasons I love SWOT analyses. They’re all about looking at the present to divine the future. And leaders need their crystal balls to identify trends, anticipate change, and be open to possibilities that will enable them to work more effectively and have greater impact. .
Let’s face it. It’s easy to stick with the status quo. Crystal ball gazing and divining is not so easy. SWOTs help leaders do this systematically and strategically. We’ve a lot invested in doing what we’ve always done. It takes courage and determination to ask the hard questions that break us out of old patterns and ruts. A structured approach can help.
A good SWOT gets all the stakeholders engaged in moving forward strategically. A good SWOT is not static. It’s a multi-step process. If you’re not familiar with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), this is what it is in a nutshell:
§ a tool for auditing an organization and it’s environment.
§ a first stage of planning; helps focus on key issues.
§ a useful tool for understanding and decision-making for all sorts of situations in business and organizations.
§ a means to measure a business unit, a proposition or idea to enable proactive thinking rather than relying on habitual or instinctive reactions.
You can do a SWOT to assess anything. Just keep it focused. Do a SWOT for your branding/marketing communications plan, fundraising plan, social media plan, board development strategy, volunteer program, any mission-driven subsidized service or any revenue-generating program.
A good SWOT gives you a snapshot perspective of one thing (one “situation”), from the view of relevant stakeholders.
SUBJECT OF ANALYSIS
SWOT IS A PERSPECTIVE OF ONE THING
Resources and capabilities that can be used as a basis for developing a competitive advantage
The absence of certain strengths may be viewed as a weakness
External environmental analysis may show new opportunities for profit and growth
Changes in the external environment may present threats
S’WOT IT IS:
You start by assessing internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) over which you have some control; you then move on to external factors (opportunities and threats) which are more outside your ability to determine. It’s best to use a facilitator, and brainstorm as many ideas as you can. Once patterns and trends have been identified, it’s time to turn them into actions.
Simple Rules for Successful SWOT Analysis
1. Clearly identify the subject/division/situation/function you wish to analyze
2. Be realistic about strengths; weaknesses
3. Distinguish between where you are today and where you could be in the future
4. Be specific. Avoid gray areas.
5. Analyze in relation to your competition (i.e., better than or worse than)
6. Keep SWOT short and simple.
7. Remember: SWOT is subjective.
8. List factors in relevant boxes.
Now what? The key to success is translating your SWOT into action. This takes discipline. Please, if you’re not going to take this final step don’t bother with the whole thing. You’ll just frustrate yourself and everyone else.
How to do it?
After the SWOT Analysis: Next Steps
Sort issues into program planning categories:
1. Product – What are we selling?
2. Process – How are we selling it?
3. Customer – Who are we selling it to?
4. Distribution – Where/how does it reach them?
5. Finance – What are the prices, costs and investments?
6. Administration – How do we manage all this?
Translate SWOT into actions within the categories, e.g., if it’s a business and aim is to improve it, then work on translating:
S– maintain, build or leverage
W– remedy or exit
O– prioritize or optimize
T– counter into actions
Here’s a matrix I’ve found useful.
SWOT Planning Matrix
S-O pursue opportunities that are a good fit to strengths
O-W overcome weaknesses to pursue opportunities
S-T identify ways to use strengths to reduce vulnerability to external threats
T-W defend/prevent weaknesses from making you susceptible to external threats
What’ been your experience with SWOT? Love it as much as I do? Or do you have a better method? Please share in comments.