What SWOT is NOT
I started writing about strategic deep thinking — the importance of finding more than one solution to any problem and realistically advancing by leveraging opportunity for years here at Successful-Blog.
As part of my research and discussion on the topic of strategy, it’s not unusual for me to ask someone their definition of strategy. Recently a conversation like that reminded me of a bad experience with the misuse of SWOT Analysis.
“SWOT Analysis is a powerful technique for understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses, and for looking at the Opportunities and Threats you face.” says James Manktelow
SWOT IS a powerful tool for analysis.
Unfortunately, some folks who use SWOT dropped the word Analysis. They think of SWOT as strategy.
SWOT is not strategy. It’s analysis.
The Difference Between Strategy and Analysis
SWOT is first reconnaissance then analysis. Analysis is not strategy.
A SWOT analysis is the examination and interpretation of the elements that make up a tactical position in business. Analysis reviews and reports a single moment’s position.
Analysis underpins strategy.
Strategy is a realistic plan to leverage opportunity and strength (avoiding weakness and threats) to advance forward over time. Strategy changes as that position changes.
Some folks treat SWOT as what it’s not. They do the analysis and believe they’ve got a strategy. They identify strengths and weaknesses. They list threats and opportunities. Then they go off to execute on tactics to reach their goals, totally leaving out the strategy step. The thinking never went to the strategy level — because they thought they were there already.
Instead their corporate thought was stuck in the abyss of analysis with only passing thought to what came after that.
How SWOT Analysis Creates a Strategy of Fear or Opportunity
Most folks do move onto something more strategic. They write the notes from the white board and circulate them. They give their analysis have room to breathe. They apply the deep thinking required to make informed choices after the analysis.
Where we focus that thinking is critical to our culture and the strategy that comes from it. The same SWOT chart with the wrong thinking can create a culture that is defending against failure rather than achieving success.
If we focus on the threats and weaknesses, the strategy we build will be a defense — focused on protecting ground, not gaining it. It will center around the strengths and moves of the competition. The “Plan B” we build will be one that is a lesser achievement than our “Plan A,” because it will be what happens if a weakness or a threat overcomes us. In that way, our company will be building a culture and strategy based on fear.
If we focus on the opportunities and strengths, the strategy we build will be and offense — focused on gaining ground, not protecting it. It will center around our own strengths and unique openings in the competitive field we can leverage to our own advantage. The “Plan B” we build will be a detour — another route to the same strong achievement as the “Plan A,” because it will be what happens when we engage our strength and find new openings. In that way, our company will be building a culture and strategy of opportunity.
Next time you do a SWOT analysis, rather than building shields around your weaknesses and threats, consider how to turn them into strengths and opportunities. The way we build our defense or offense can affect our entire culture.
How to you build strategy achieving toward opportunity rather than defending against threats?
Building opportunity is irresistible.
–ME “Liz” Strauss