Let’s be clear.
I've had great experiences running super successful SWOT analysis with client’s, but also some where it was hard to get to an effective conclusion.
What was the difference?
The difference is the point in the planning cycle that you carry out the SWOT analysis and I was reminded of that this week.
I received an email from a business influencer this week. She was explaining that her latest cohort of students on her business improvement programme had completed their first week and their SWOT analysis…
I was somewhat perplexed.
The right time for a SWOT analysis
As a business planning coach working with many company’s, I know when a SWOT analysis is done as the very first part of the planning process, it rarely yields great insight. You can't bake great cakes if you don't follow the process in order.
Yes, it gives you a quick overview of where you might be but there’s a tendency to cloud future thought and research. Usually, its little better than useless when done as the first exercise.
Because it’s impossible to populate the SWOT when you haven’t done the preparation.
Back to the influencers article…… My initial thought was to dismiss this suggestion that a SWOT would be the first place to go and initially I did. What it did do, was prompt me to rethink our strategy of putting the SWOT further along in the planning process.
Where SWOT fits into the planning process
How much further along the process you might ask? My answer is a long way along the planning process. Your preparation for a successful SWOT must include a review of ‘right now’, your future thinking, research and analysis.
Reviews - Thinking – Research – Analysis
Once these stages are complete, it’s time to populate the SWOT, review, make your decisions and prepare your plan.
So, I must disagree with the business influencer.
SWOT is a brilliant analysis tool.
It pulls everything onto one page. You know you have considered all areas of the business and the external environment, you have captured your thoughts. Now you can better decisions because of the knowledge you now have. SWOT enables you to consider your strengths, to maximise your opportunities, mitigate threats and address weaknesses and assess potential risks to the business. Not every risk is terminal not every opportunity is a silver bullet.
Throughout the planning process we use in The Grown-up Business Program, its core focus is reviewing, assessing and researching each of the elements (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) using our comprehensive internal and external review process. This is guaranteed to get business owners thinking much wider and always brings unexpected opportunities, surprising results, turnkey products, opportunities for growth, expansion, a pivot or diversification.
I'm thrilled when businesses use SWOT analysis alongside the business planning program, but only when it’s not carried out too early in the process. And once you have your SWOT, review it every 90 days as part of your 90 day re-forecast – a lot can change in 90 days!
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