One of the most important things you can do to plan for the future of your business is conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Analysis (SWOT Analysis). Once complete, you’ll have a better idea of how to conduct your operations to ensure your continued growth—regardless of the challenges with which your organization is faced.
Here’s how to conduct a SWOT Analysis.
Where To Begin
The first step is to form a committee made up of the managers and team leaders who are in a position to articulate these factors. Experts tend to differ on whether it is better to start with strengths and weaknesses, or threats and opportunities. In most cases, it’s easier to identify strengths than weaknesses, which makes it easier to overcome the inertia associated with starting a new project. Once you get rolling on your strengths, your weaknesses tend to make themselves apparent. Having a solid grounding in your strengths also makes opportunities easier to identify. Within those opportunities will naturally follow threats, which makes this a logical pattern in which to proceed. During the course of the analysis, you should treat each area independently, working through the entire process before moving on to the next one.
The Brainstorming Session
Beginning with strengths, go around the room asking participants to list what they perceive to be a strong point of the company. Write each response on a flip chart. You just want to capture the elements at this point; you’ll evaluate them later in the process. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad response. All ideas are valid at this stage in the game. This will encourage participants to contribute openly—particularly when you get to the negative factors. As an example, if you sell electronics, one of your key strengths might be the value the knowledge of your staff provides the customer.
Consolidation and Clarification
Once you’re confident you’ve captured all possible ideas in a category, you’ll probably find overlap. Consolidate those where possible under a single point. But avoid over consolidation, as this can soften your focus. Once you have the ideas consolidated, go through them and clarify points that may seem a bit abstract. When you’re dealing with the negative factors, it’s important to avoid the temptation to generate solutions on the spot. Keep your focus on consolidation and clarification of the ideas.
Identify and Summarize The Top Factors
With brainstorming, clarifying and consolidating complete, it’s time to identify the top three factors in the category. Have the group vote on their choices for the three most significant and list them on a flip chart under the heading of “Strengths”. Repeat the process for each of the other three categories. When complete, you’ll have a clear view of where your company is and what you need to address to be successful going forward.
OK, So Now What?
With a solid grounding in your strengths, you’ll know how to leverage them to best take advantage of the opportunities you’ll identify. You’ll also see how they can be employed to mitigate threats. Identifying weaknesses will help you better understand how to shore up your defenses and where you need to improve to better embrace opportunities.
In other words, once you have a clear picture of your attributes and your problems, you can use the one to deal with the other. As you’re considering how to conduct a SWOT Analysis, keep in mind, the ultimate goal here is to prep your business for future growth. However, this undertaking is just as much about the present as it is the future. To get where you want to go, you need to understand how what you have can help you get there.