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Posted by Sarah Brown on 23 Sept '21

Seizing Opportunities - why SWOTs don't work

The first step for many strategies is a SWOT analysis but where does it really get you? It's a roundabout, not a motorway and it attracts negative thoughts.

My passion is to inspire and help identify new ways forward, which is why I hate the SWOT analysis tool. Strategy is complicated, and the tools should make it easier, but a SWOT can just lead you down a dead end.

It's not that old. The SWOT dates from the early '60s and got its matrix format from Weihrich in 1982. He split it into internal factors (i.e. the strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (i.e. opportunities and threats) to supposedly systematically generate strategies that ought to be undertaken by the organisation.

I have used it, but in the end, as a tool, it just doesn't take you forward. You are left with a set of information that you need to sort in some way and probably write up somewhere else. It annoys me. In addition, in my experience, people focus on the negative; they can always find more weaknesses and threats. The layout also seems to lead from positive to negative. In the west, we write from left to right, so often the conclusion is on the right, and that is where we finish reading. The weaknesses and threats on the right of the grid are what our eyes tend to read across to.

I prefer to focus on the positive, so my 4Ps tool has Powers, Perils, Potentials and Priorities. That's two positive sections to one negative. The far-right of the tool lists the priorities, what we will do going forward - the action points.

But the critical difference is that on the same page, you identify from the information you have set down the priorities to address, and the tool allows you to cross-reference so you understand what has prompted your focus.

You can download the tool here and let me know what you think.

If you are interested in strategy here are some other blogs you may find useful

How to produce a business plan that can really create success for you

The six steps to successful growth

Do you know how you get sales?

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