A Simple Tool To Align Your Team For Growth (FREE Download)
Stagnation is the enemy.
Doing things the way you always have and hoping nothing changes. At best, you feel uneasy and exposed. At worst, you feel left behind and fearful of what the future holds. Neither of these is a pleasant position in which to find yourself.
The opposite of stagnation is progress. Progress generates hope and excitement and energizes organizations. Making progress creates momentum. Successfully solve one problem, and you gain confidence that you can solve another. The future then seems less scary, and your eyes open to new possibilities.
The SWOT analysis.
A simple and effective exercise that organizations of all sizes can employ to pursue progress is the SWOT analysis. For those unfamiliar, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
The purpose of the SWOT analysis is to assess these four essential aspects of your business. What do you currently do well? What can you improve? Where and what are the hidden (or obvious) opportunities to pursue? What can trip you up if not addressed? Our free downloadable SWOT Worksheet provides sample questions for each category to get the analysis flowing.
Before beginning, review the following five ground rules to help maximize the effectiveness of the exercise. Note that rule #1 is foundational to all improvement efforts.
SWOT Analysis Ground Rules.
Be open and honest. Improvement often begins with vulnerability. The ability and willingness to honestly assess where your organization (or yourself) needs to improve is the first step to achieving meaningful change. Acknowledge your current strengths but recognize that maintaining them requires consistent attention and effort.
Be customer-centric. Your customers' priorities must be your company's priorities. Apply all that you know about your ideal customers to identify ways to improve service, meet additional needs, or address lingering problems.
Focus internally and externally. To keep the analysis simple, think of Strengths and Weaknesses as internal organizational factors such as people, processes, or assets. Opportunities and Threats can be considered external factors. These may include your market, competitors, and the overall economy.
Involve many. Often these exercises are limited to C-suite executives and department heads. Be sure to include the perspectives of customer-facing team members to get a clear view of critical aspects of product or service delivery and support.
Ensure confidentiality. Speaking truth to power is often perceived to be risky. Consider keeping initial input confidential among all participants. Also, be sure that participants record their insights independently to avoid groupthink or team power dynamics that can influence feedback.
Upon completing the analysis, look to match strengths to opportunities and work to convert weaknesses into strengths. Address threats that may be within your control, and recognize and discuss threats beyond your control. Be sure to share the results with your team so that everyone can be involved in moving the organization forward.