SWOT: Revisiting an old friend

Skidbiz SWOTIt’s and old familiar friend and most will concede the SWOT analysis is invaluable when making a big decision to purchase a new business or restart an existing one.  However, its great for making other strategic and tactical evaluations as well.  It’s a lot like taking corporate selfies.  Identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on various issues can be a perpetual practice as your company matures and the marketplace paradigms shift. It is one of the most basic and yet most valuable multitools available to the business professional and while everyone gives it the knowing nod it remains underutilized. So use it beyond just those big picture applications.

The versatility of the SWOT analysis is clearly revealed in a Google search of SWOT images. The hundreds of iterations crisscross from the basic and specific Starbucks versions to Novamind mind mapping (there will no attempt at covering that subject here). They are applied to lean management, sales force improvements, crisis management, competitive market analysis, revenue improvement and about any aspect of your business that can benefit from a closer look.

I’m a big fan of co-creating solutions with lots of other associates. The SWOT process is well suited as a template for this. Bring your people together and ask them to give you a rapid fire version of what they perceive as the standout strengths of the issue in question. Write the items down on a poster size sheet. Give each person a limited number of stickers or post-its to “vote” on their most important entries by pinning them next to their top picks and add up the scores.   Make a list, vote, repeat process for weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The result is a consensus of opinions that most can align with and a feeling they were part of the decision making process. Your ongoing conversations will now be driven by the results that everyone contributed to and buy-in is a beautiful thing.

The SWOT analysis can help marketing focus, sales growth planning, team building and calamity avoidance. It can certainly accelerate changes, and be an essential step in making those mid course corrections that can make a solid difference to your company. Its uses are only limited by your business imagination. Heck, spread it on your toast in the morning and sprinkle it on your ice cream in the evening, just don’t file the concept in your desk drawer and forget it. The process stimulates conversation between associates and it costs so little to implement as an ongoing practice.

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