Based on my experience, I don’t think that SWOT analysis is necessarily the best way to strategically grow your brand and business.
I’ve used SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) many times internally and externally in the past to try and develop new, forward-looking plans to grow business both strategically and tactically.
It’s never felt quite right.
Yes, it delivers some clarity around the four different strands and can deliver insight that you wouldn’t have gained otherwise.
However, for me, it’s too right brained.
Let me explain.
When asked about any of the strands, you’ll almost certainly deal in cold, hard facts. You know you’re strong in design skills, let’s say, but you know you’re weak in billing. You know that there’s a burgeoning marketing in SME web development, but you know that there are a million other companies out there just like you, vying for the piece of pie.
So you tighten up on the billing and go away to think about what will lift you above the herd.
That’s fine, as far as it goes.
However, let me suggest another model (and one which I’ve used to great effect).
It goes something like this:
Thoughts – what are your thoughts about the situation or challenge? Deal only in cold, hard facts here.
Feelings – What do you feel about the situation/challenge? Don’t let anything cold and hard derail your discussions. Be open and make sure that everyone contributes. Opinions are good, let them flow.
Dreams – never mind all of the practicalities, what do you dream the future will look like? If time, money etc were no object, what would you do? Put a cow on the moon, paint the Houses of Parliament pink, move to an office near the river – whatever it is, dream it and record it.
Action – Once you have all of the previous three steps completed, you can start to marry up the items listed and create action that will have both tactical and strategic impact.
Using this model (and an open-floor what’s-said-in-the-room-stays-in-the-room approach), I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll come out of the process with a much better idea of what needs to be done at all stages of the business.
This works for one, simple, reason.
We are right and left brained animals.
Decisions taken at work affect us not just practically, but emotionally as well.
- We worry about not being efficient at billing (because bills pay the wages).
We’re concerned about the level of competition in the marketplace (because we’ve got to keep ahead of the pack).
We fret about not getting work in, or out of the door, on time.
And so on.
But the beauty of this model is that everyone can contribute. I’ve seen even the friendliest SWOT put off the less strategically-minded colleagues, who then sit there in silence and wonder what they can add to the discussions.
But everyone has thoughts and feelings. Everyone has dreams.
And everyone in your business should be contributing to its success…
So, down with the SWOT and up with the TFDA. It’s not as catchy, but pretty acronyms don’t spell success.