A strategic review without a S.W.O.T. is inconceivable but has the S.W.O.T. become like the vegetables that too often accompany the steak – merely “a plate-filler” with little flavour or substance; a decoration; not to be take seriously?

I’d contend that “Yes” the SWOT Tool as we know it has well gone past its “sell by date” and is in urgent need of a radical rethink.

I’ve yet to encounter a SWOT Analysis that did not look like this:

S.W.O.T. Of ABC Ltd

s.w.o.t

But is this a critical and purposeful summary of the organisation at a point in time? It should be!

The S.W.O.T. seems to me to too frequently then be left hanging in space, essentially ignored in the framing of subsequent strategy and action plans.

This does a great disservice to this valuable and I’d argue, core tool of strategic planning and reviews on 2 counts:

Count 1. It fails to focus the organisation on the external environment in which it must today operate with great flexibility and openness. Instead it continues the moribund internal organisation naval gazing that leads to atrophy

Count 2. It fails to extract meaning from the S.W.O.T. that should directly be reflected in the follow-on strategies

I have long argued with clients, learners and fellow consultants the need to rethink the S.W.O.T. and make it once again a relevant analytical tool for management decision making and strategy formulation.

My preferred SWOT looks like this

preferred-s.w.o.t

This model forces the organisation to critically review the external environment first before looking back into itself for Strengths and Weaknesses.

Having completed this exercise the final step and what really makes the O.T.S.W. a powerful tool for organisations, is to write up statements of the Key Issues that bounce off the page for the organisation in the short term i.e. for the next 12-18 months and then for the medium term. These should be written with the prefix “How to or Need to” e.g.

  • We need to develop into new markets in the immediate terms as our current markets are moving into the mature stage with little growth evident on the horizon
  • We need to modify our existing product to provide a lower cost but good margin offer as customers become price sensitive.

The strategies you then develop must seek to address these short and medium term issues.