SWOT – A tool not a TV Show

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SWOT – I can never stop humming the theme to SWAT (a TV show from the 70’s) whenever I hear that term, and to be honest…they are alike in a way, as they are both ways to attack your problems.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a  strategic planning tool that separates influences on a business’s future success into internal and external factors, and to us ex-Military guys…its an acronym we can all understand.

By plotting items on a SWOT Matrix (see to the right), you are able to separate and compare internal and external influencers and discern the following results:

  • Define realistic goals
  • Improve capability
  • Overcome Weaknesses with Strengths
  • Identify Threats and that can be turned into Opportunities

Of course, each of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats will vary from organization to organization – but they should be easily identifiable and (once identified and raised) actionable.

A common method of doing this in a group session is to have everyone write ideas or commentary down on Post-It notes, and then place them in one of the four quadrants that make up the SWOT Matrix.   Once you have everything plotted on the board, there should be a good visual where the pros and cons lay – allowing you to  attack them with one of these four types of Strategies:

  • Strength/Opportunity (S-O) or Max/Max Strategy – Using a strength to maximize an opportunity
  • Weakness/Opportunity (W-O) or Min/Max – Improving capability to maximize an opportunity
  • Strength/Threat (S-T) or Max/Min – Minimizing a Threat with a Strength
  • Weakness/Threat (W-T) or Min/Min –  Minimizing Weaknesses and Threats at the same time

As a tool,this type of internal appraisal can be used with external customer survey (or a User Story Board like THIS) to marry up SWOT to existing strategies or to create new one – providing clarity to your future roadmaps.

Speaking of clarity – Hopefully this gives you a basic overview of SWOT, its usages and how you can implement it in your working environment.

And now – for your listening pleasure.

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