Step 1: Assemble a SWOT Team
Include members of your organization from all departments and all levels of the org chart. The greater the variety in the perspectives, the more honest and accurate the picture of your business will be.
Step 2: Pick a Meeting Time and Place
Pick a neutral location where all team members will be comfortable. And pick a time that is convenient to the majority. It’s hard to get people to focus on the task at hand if they are continually feeling the pressure of time and looking at their watch!
Step 3: Set the Ground Rules
Everyone should be empowered to say what they really think without fear of retribution. There is no “wrong” answer. You want honesty and realistic comments at all times. More answers are better. You may get opposite responses from different departments – talk out the discrepancy. Find out why there is a difference of opinion or perspective.
Step 4: Strengths
Set a positive tone by starting with what you do well within your organization. Cover topics such as your product line, marketing, unique selling proposition, resources, reputation, organizational structure, culture, location, operations, knowledge and experience, qualifications and certifications, financial resources, patents and intellectual property, mission and philosophy.
Step 5: Weaknesses
Now it’s time to be honest. Open up the kimono and take a long, hard, honest look at the business and ask yourself, “What can we do better?” Where are there gaps in what you do? Or in some cases, a strength may be a weakness. For example, you may say that being small is a strength because you can respond more quickly to customer demands. But being small may also be a weakness if you cannot support large customer orders. Think about the disadvantages of your value proposition, vulnerabilities, issues, and distractions, and anything that could be improved.
Step 6: Opportunities
Back to the positive side but this time from the perspective of what is going on outside your company in the world at large. What is happening in your industry that you might be able to take advantage of? What are the current trends in the world that might benefit your business? As gas prices continue to climb, how can you capitalize on the market’s desire to drive less? Consider trends in technology, niche markets, possible partnerships or joint ventures, new product development, lifestyle trends, competitor weaknesses, and global influences.
Step 7: Threats
Changes outside of your organization can present a clear and present danger for your business. Identifying a potential problem may give you the time to protect yourself from the impact. Consider where you may be exposed from the regulatory, political, environmental, resource, and financial perspectives.
Step 8: Analysis
The last step is the most fun – what does all this information mean? It’s time to turn the data into workable strategies for your business to pursue! We’ll mix up the acronym S-W-O-T to identify new strategies for your company. After having developed the SWOT answers, give your team a week to ponder what the information means to them and how it can be used to improve your operations. Consider the following 4 approaches to overlap and analyze the data:
Look for opportunities that fit with your organization’s strengths. Do you have a product that could be marketed to a broader audience? Could you establish a partnership with a company with a complementary product line?
Take steps to overcome a weaknesses to take advantage of an opportunity. If you have high turnover, what could you do to increase you employee engagement and loyalty that would in turn provide a more consistent and positive sales team?
Identify ways that your existing strengths could help mitigate external threats. If there is a new competitor entering your market, how can you capitalize on the fact that you were one of the first companies to provide services in this space? How will you use your knowledge and experience to position yourself in a more positive light?
Identify the “perfect storm” issues – what are the external threats that could play on your weaknesses and do serious damage to your business? Develop a prevention and recovery plan so that if the worst happens you have a chance of survival. If your business is online only, you are highly susceptible to technology failure. Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Would you know what to do for you, your employees, and your IT location was destroyed by fire?