A good way to get the ball rolling where strategy is concerned is by engaging the commonly used S.W.O.T. Analysis. According to the Mind Tools’ article, SWOT Analysis is a “useful technique for understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses, and for identifying both the Opportunities open to you and the Threats you face”. It distinguishes between strengths and weaknesses as pertaining to those often internal to your organisation, while “opportunities and threats generally relate to external factors”.
Questions around your strengths require that you identify your unique selling point; realise what it is you do well; and interrogate what it is about you that gives you leverage based on internal skills, experience and resources.
It is imperative to look at areas that you could improve so you are continually aware of what you need to be rectifying and improving. This requires that you ask questions about what your competitors are doing; identify any knowledge or skills gaps; reflect on whether you have enough resources to implement your various plans; etc.
While strengths and weaknesses often focus inwards, opportunities and threats have a more outward focus. It’s important to look at the ways in which you can take advantage of external changes around you which can include factors around trends that are working in your favour; socio-economic changes that can improve your resourcing; a beneficiary base that is untapped, etc. Those factors, if identified timeously, can be leveraged in a way that helps benefit your organisation, helping you to plan towards achieving your desired goals.
As with opportunities, threats pertain to changes in your external environment, however, they compromise your effectiveness, preventing you from working at your optimum. These could include rapid technological developments; shifts in legislation; economic downturns, etc. Careful mapping and consideration of negative impacts of the external environment will be crucial to your strategic thinking, as it will allow you to think (in advance) about creative ways to mitigate their effect on your organisation.
A SWOT Analysis therefore requires you to ask questions about what affects you in your internal and external environment. Naming your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths is the starting point; your analysis of these will assist you in articulating your response in a way that keeps your organisation relevant, and will in turn effectively feed into your organisational plans.
For a further look at ways in which to further interrogate your external environment, have a look at our article on the PEST Analysis.
SWOT Analysis on Mind Tools: | Note: templates are available for download at this link.