SWOT

Strategic Thinking: Our Trusty SWOT Tool

By Walt Brown

Every year, I am lucky enough to spend around 140 full days huddled inside corporate “war rooms.” On these days, I help leadership teams do the gutsy work of improving their organizations and remaining competitively relevant, if not dominant. An easy to overlook tool that really comes into play at ALL levels of strategic thinking is the trusty SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

Unfortunately, we can get trapped and look at SWOT as a tool that is only used globally—something pulled out once a year in a global, all-company SWOT review. A dramatic underutilization of an incredibly valuable resource.

One great use of SWOT is to help groups quickly get on the same page with their thoughts around an issue, to see the issue from all of the angles. As an example, let’s look at “Bob,” an outside salesperson at Company X. Here is how Bob looks under a SWOT analysis:

Strengths, 

  • “Legacy industry knowledge” (he knows the history and the old ways, not the new ways.)
  • “Not really costing us anything” (really?)

Weaknesses,

  • “Does not follow the process”
  • “Does not update the systems”
  • “Does not believe in or sell our latest offerings”
  • “Does not sell our latest offerings to his relationships”
  • “Does not embrace the technology we are trying to deploy”

Opportunities:

  • “Get him out of the way so we can sell the latest and the best to our customers”

Threats:

  • “He takes some of our worst clients with him if he is asked to leave.” 
  • “We would lose some margin dollars per month, (although other producers are contributing 4-5x of Bob).

When examined through this lens, the writing is on the wall for Bob. Bob needs to be dealt with. This is a reality that can often become obfuscated by the practicalities of working closely people or projects. When we take a step back to be truly objective, the decisions we must make seem simple.

Regular SWOT reviews will increase your decision making speed and streamline your organization.

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