02 Mar 2015

Taking SWOT Analysis to the Next Level

OK, I’m reposting a blog from a while back. It received a ton of traffic over the years so I’m hoping if finds new life and helps some of you out.

We are fortunate to help some of our clients with their annual strategic planning process. We use a number of facilitated exercises to assess the market and organization, the successes, challenges and changes that have occurred, all in order to help us formulate how we adjust our strategies for the coming year, and five-year trajectories.

As part of this annual discipline, we perform a number of analyses and research to understand the drivers at play in the current market. A very traditional analysis used in strategic development is the SWOT. This effort has a company observe and capture its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. While documenting these differing points of analysis is valuable unto itself, the true value of analyzing data is only found when it is Synthesized.

Synthesis is the actual sifting, comparing, and consideration of data sets to help formulate decision. So while collecting SWOT data  is valuable, synthesizing that data is what is truly needed to mobilize that data so that it is valuable for strategic decision making.

To do this for our client, we used a simple 2×2 table to derive areas of decision that we could use as we started to drill down to annual objectives development.

In a nutshell, the 2×2 forces us to synthesize the data we capture when we perform the analysis.

S+O – Pairing company strengths with opportunity allows us to see the “low hanging fruit” that we we might pursue immediately. In theory, these valuable achievements can be made with existing resources and skill sets.

S+T – Considering threats with strengths in mind allows us to consider how we might leverage our current capabilities to proactively address drivers that may pose a risk to the business.

O+W – By looking at an organization’s weaknesses alongside key opportunities, leaders can make more informed decisions about how and where to allocate efforts and resource to build organizational competency.

W+T – Finally, in looking at weaknesses and threats collectively, leaders can better understand scenarios that pose high risk to an organization in the short term. This insight allows leaders to more quickly mitigate risks in the marketplace.

Of course this synthesis can be adjusted based on what an organization is pursuing and what is being analyzed. None-the-less, we often see organizations that gather the SWOT data, but fail to successfully mobilize it in a valuable way. Try this approach next time you have the opportunity and see how it might change your perspective on your organization’s strategic development.


Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith

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