SWOT Analysis – The Key to a Unique, Strong Plan
This is the time of the year when many of my clients are taking a look at their previous strategic plan. Trying to figure out what went well and what needs improvement. Often the plans are very similar to the plans that preceded them. As they move into a new year, they find themselves wondering “what can we do to breathe life back into this plan?”
Indeed, there is little as uninspiring as an organization continuing to circulate the same old strategic plan. Many organizations change little yet continually ask colleagues to implement it with a renewed spirit.
If you find yourself looking for a way to refresh your forward-looking plans as we enter a new year, consider conducting a SWOT Analysis.
Simply put, the SWOT methodology is designed to provide a simple framework for determining your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats. For the purposes of this blog, we will consider this analysis at the organizational level. But keep in mind that this same format can be leveraged at the departmental, team, and even on a personal level.
To achieve maximum output from this exercise, assemble all the key stakeholders to your group and conduct a brainstorming session against all 4 criteria of the SWOT. At this point, all answers should be accepted as you review the following:
The first step of a SWOT Analysis is to ask the question, “What are we good at?”
This is a broad question, but it is important to understand the areas in which your organization excels. These are your differentiators.
If stuck, use your previous planning documents as a guide. Which projects yielded the best results? As an organization, what have your customers, internal or external, found the most value in? Financial figures should also play a role here.
Where is your organization most financially sound and thus less vulnerable to competition or changing circumstances?
While uncomfortable for many leaders to assess, perhaps the most “bang for your buck” can be found by effectively understanding your areas of improvement.
The key to this portion of the exercise is to create an open environment where your attendees can feel comfortable sharing.
The goal is not to single out any leader or department, but to fully understand where the organization can get better.
Following your discussion on strengths, things you are already doing well, and weaknesses, items you are working on but not seeing results, ask yourself “What are we NOT doing that could take our organization to the next level?”
These could be emerging trends in your industry that you have not taken advantage of, shifting marketplace dynamics, or even internal opportunities you have not yet leveraged. Again, in this phase, it’s important to consider all possibilities.
Lastly, take some time to analyze those items on the horizon that could be potentially harmful to your organization.
If it helps, think of the strengths of your competitors. In today’s uncertainty of COVID-19, threats are more abundant than ever before.
It is important that your stakeholders have a firm grasp of where the organization is vulnerable. Do not be afraid to look internally here as well.
Once you have examined all four aspects of your SWOT Analysis, you will be faced with an exhaustive list of potential actions to take. Naturally, you will want to build on your strengths, boost your weaknesses, hear off threats, and exploit opportunities.
Before you add them all to your roadmap, look for potential connections across the quadrants of your matrix.
Could some strengths open opportunities?
By eliminating weaknesses, could you mitigate your threats?
The goal is to prune and prioritize your ideas so you can clearly focus on the most significant areas. Continue to distill these statements until they are clear, actionable items such as “Increase revenue by 8% in areas A, B, C” rather than “Increase Revenue”.
By doing so, and sharing these learnings across your team members, you can create the type of plan that takes your organization to the next level.
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